Saturday, December 31, 2016

Not Plan B

image from
A cheery voice erupted from the TV above me, startling me out of that glassy-eyed daze that descends after sitting in one too many medical waiting rooms. “I decided that if I was going to die,” the doctor’s recorded voice proclaimed, “It was going to be on my terms. I’d die with good health, not from bad. The power of positive thinking enables my body to be healthy and whole—and if you choose, you can too!”

I blinked. Was he serious? But fire-red brochures pasted on the clinic’s doors echoed the sales pitch: Don’t settle for the life that you have today—accepting it is a form of slavery! You’re entitled to something better. Choose the power of the mind. Choose freedom!
Suffering, our culture says, is something to be eluded, rejected, and if it happens to catch you in the gut like a hard-thrown dodge ball, all the onlookers cluck their tongues in surprise. Duck faster next time! So we eat the latest “superfood” and read books on restoring relationships and try the essential oils and put on our seat belts in our great attempt to delay death and sidestep suffering, but when those bedfellows finally ring at our door, we stare in bewildered shock. Wasn’t I positive enough? Didn’t I deserve something else?

The bridge collapse was a problem. But not a surprise.
But in places like Papua New Guinea, suffering is seen as a matter of course. With few conveniences to provide an illusion of control, ugliness and joy stand visible together. Not a person walks through life unmarked—why waste time on surprise? This is the world we live in—one that is dark and fallen and corrupt, and no power of the mind can gild into entitled wholeness that child’s distress, that blood-soaked country ripped by war, that brain tumor, that man hiding for his life from sorcery, that grieving widow.

Choose freedom, he said. As if challenges and illness snuck up in God’s and my blind spot, and because I didn’t swerve fast enough, think positively enough, I now am living in the slavery of a cosmic Plan B.

But I am already free.

For my trust is not in the script that I think my life should follow, but in the Author Himself. And thus, this is no Plan B.

Dear friends, Peter writes in his first letter, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. God’s ultimate aim isn’t our happiness nor is life an obstacle course to navigate unscathed, but perhaps instead it’s a vehicle that He may choose to use to show Christ in our weakness instead of in our escape from it. And for me, that is freedom, for now suddenly instead of trying to follow Him in spite of my weakness, my weakness is part of how I follow Him.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. (2 Cor. 4:8-10)

And that’s a beautiful Plan A.

We follow a scarred Captain
Should we not have scars?
Under his faultless orders
We follow to the wars.
Lest we forget, Lord, when we meet,
Show us Thy hands and feet.

Amy Carmichael