When Things Don’t Work Out the Way You Planned
By Guest Blogger: Mary Lou Cornish, author and editor
I recently spent time with a cousin who retired last year. As I listened to her talk about the many things that filled her life now – learning to play a new musical instrument, singing with a choir, travelling the world – I thought, “This is the retirement I had planned for myself.” But it was not to be.
An accident changed my life irrevocably some 20 years ago. A car went through a red light and hit me as I crossed an intersection, turning my automobile sideways so that a vehicle coming from the opposite direction slammed into me as well. As the police officer who attended the scene so colourfully put it, I had been “T-boned”.
That event left me with chronic pain and disability. Not only was I not able to keep on working and investing in my retirement funds, I had to use what little money I had set aside to live on and pay the medical expenses not covered by my government health plan.
Today, at age 57, I live on a disability pension. I do as much editing and writing as I am able to do to supplement that small monthly income. I will continue to take on piecemeal jobs for as long as I can. Therefore, I will never actually “retire” – although you could say that the car accident “retired” me years ago.
As a Christian, I struggled with why God had allowed this suffering. Eventually, I realized that, in my youth, I charged ahead with my life, expecting Him to bless me in whatever I chose without ever asking Him what He wanted for me or from me as His follower.
C.S. Lewis said that pain is the megaphone God uses to get our attention. It certainly got mine. At first I was so angry with the Lord that all I could do was spew rage and resentment at Him. But as time passed and I prayed and studied the Bible, I found my relationship with Him deepening, and I thought about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane who, facing the ordeal of the crucifixion, said to God, “Not my will, but yours” (Luke 22:42).
This is what God asks of all of us – to follow Him completely, committing every aspect of our lives to Him. At this point in time, I can honestly say that I would rather be me with my physical and financial limitations, in a loving relationship with the Lord, than be the healthiest, wealthiest person on earth who does not know Jesus at all.
The apostle Paul put it best when he said,
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ . . . . “ -Phil. 3:8, NIV
What Paul was saying is this: Those things that the world calls important – a job, wealth, status, possessions, etc. – are nothing compared to knowing Jesus. He wrote his words from prison, not knowing whether he would be freed or put to death. If he did live, the apostle said he would gladly continue his ministry, serving others as God willed (Phil. 1: 21-13, NIV). There were no thoughts of retirement and the so-called “good life” in his mind!
I write all of this so that those of you who have had your lives take unplanned, unwanted turns do not give up. Truly, what God has given you may well be a blessing in disguise. Would I have spent so much time studying the Bible or getting to know the Lord or using my writing skills in His name if I had remained healthy and had pursued my own fame and fortune? I doubt it. I was simply too self-centered and self-absorbed. But, as Jesus said,
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? -Mark 8:36, NIV
I invite readers to share the surprise twists in your lives. What plans did you have that didn’t develop? How have your dreams been thwarted or changed? Can you see blessings in the trials? What challenges have led you to make new plans that you might not have anticipated at one point in your life?