Are you facing unexpected challenges today? Are you uncertain about the path ahead? Be encouraged. We may be uncertain and even afraid, but God has a good plan for us as we place our trust in Him.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11,13 – NIV
In the past few months, a curious situation has occurred on my front porch. I can’t figure it out.
There are two large black pots that flank my front door. For the past couple of years, those pots have been home for two Hnoki Cypress plants. This slow growing evergreen bush covered in lush foliage offers year round greenery for my front porch and hosts a nice display of white lights at Christmas.
Both pots looked great all winter, each bush sporting thick green foliage. Yet, as I began my spring planting, I noted that the plant to the right of the front door seemed a bit droopy. Offering some extra water and a dose of Miracle-Gro, I hoped the plant would pep up and match its handsome neighbor.
However, with each morning porch visit, I was alarmed by further decline. The plant began dropping needles, and soon, bare branches jutted out precariously. Several green branches remained, but clearly, little by little, the plant was withering away.
Why? Why did one plant flourish and the other fade? Both pots had been filled with the same potting soil. They received the same amount of water, the same amount of light. What went wrong? Why did one plant choose to grow and the other give up?
As I pondered this perplexing plant situation, I was reminded of the dilemma I faced when contemplating the decision to retire. This month marks six years since the date of my early and unplanned retirement from my beloved nursing profession. As I considered this anniversary of sorts, I recalled the heartbreaking angst associated with that difficult choice. My plan had been to work at least another ten years, but the rapid decline of my vision over the course of six months brought the subject to a decision point. I had known that my degenerative retinal disease would eventually force me to stop working, but when my long standing, trusted physician reviewed my test results, I found myself face to face with a decision I had hoped to avoid. I tried hard to put off the inevitable, to hang on for awhile longer, but finally, my doctor insisted it was time, time to reduce the stress, time to retire.
July of 2014 found me faltering, suddenly catapulted into a new season that I had not prepared for. Circumstances beyond my control had launched me into this new phase of my life. I couldn’t control those circumstances, but I quickly realized that I could control how I responded to those circumstances. I could give in to regret and resentment or I could get on with life. I could dwell in the pit of despair or I could search for new opportunities. I could wither away or I could get busy growing.
I got busy. I explored new service opportunities in our church and community. I embraced new passions for writing and gardening. Travel was always a passion, and now, there was more time to explore.
Life is about choices. Will we live battered and bitter over our hard circumstances, or will we accept the hardships of this life and choose to live abundantly despite our challenges? Our circumstances may not change, but we can choose to live beyond them. We can stand on our faith and walk in His light.
By God’s grace, retirement has been an unexpected blessing. What started out as another hardship on this long journey through blindness quickly morphed into a beautiful new season of my life. God had a good plan for me, a plan for good and not for evil, a plan to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
It all comes down to a choice. Two pots, two plants, one choice. The choice is whether to flourish despite the hardships of life or to wither away under the weight of our problems. Which will you choose?
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21 – NIV
O Heavenly Father, thank You for the good plan You have for our lives. Sometimes, the hardships and losses of this life leave us feeling lost and afraid. Still, You are always there, Lord, working all things together for our good. Help us to trust Your bountiful grace even when we cannot see the solutions to our difficult situations. Help us to stand on Your promises and trust in Your good plan.