By Josh Ellis
“I’ve had plans They’ve been shattered and broken There’s been things I have hoped in They fell through my hands”
These are some lyrics from an awesome song called ‘Control’ that came up whilst I was out cycling round the beautiful Welsh countryside this morning, and they really hit home with me, particularly reflecting back to this time last year. If you are anything like me, then in January last year, you would have had a bucket load of plans of where to go, who to see, places to go and things to achieve. Personally, I had a chock-a-block calendar full of weekends away from Bath, going to visit friends in London and my brother in Nottingham, and getting up into Ashton Gate a bit more to watch the mighty Bristol City. While I did manage to sneak a couple of those in before Lockdown 1.0, many of these plans have, like the song suggests, been shattered and broken as we were confined into our homes come March. Now, I know for many of you this may sound like your stereotypical student moaning and groaning about small inconveniences, but I’m sure this frustration is one that is shared by many reading this also.
When thinking about plans, there’s one amazing (and a little bit cliché) verse that springs immediately to mind. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “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 a hope and a future”. This message, delivered by Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon, is a great encouragement, that God has plans for us, far greater than our own individual plans for our lives, and way beyond our own short foresight. This is a promise, that while I marvel at it a lot of the time, that has been difficult to trust throughout the past year, as if you’d have told me how far away from my plans the past year has been then quite frankly, I’d have told you that you were deranged. This past year has perhaps been the most challenging of my life, with plenty of low points. The lowest of which coming in July, when Katie and I were driving back from her parents’ house in Suffolk to my parents’ in South Wales. It’s a long old drive and everything was going well, until BANG! Collisions all around and the car goes through the central reservation of the motorway. This is where I firmly felt God’s power and plan for my life, more tangibly than I probably ever have before. Often, I think I’ve been guilty of reading passages like Psalm 91 or Psalm 121 (if you haven’t read them, do, they’re class) without fully believing that God is protecting me from worldly harms, but these passages, and indeed the words of Jeremiah 29:11, rang truer in my ears as Katie and I walked away from that crash with nothing more than a few scratches on our bodies, praise the LORD.
Now, I’m not claiming that the accident is something I see purely as an epiphanic moment of turning to God joyfully when I think back on it, as there are still times even now when it flashes through my head and terrifies me. The point I’m trying to make, is that out of it have come so many blessings: the blessing of life itself, a growth in thankfulness for my amazing family and girlfriend, and a realisation that my plans and skills are not good things to depend on. Upon reflection, I saw God’s plans are so much greater than my own, that through my experiences I’m being led not in my own direction relying on what I think is best for me, but by God’s plans and directions that are far greater than anything I could fathom for myself.
The song ‘Control’ continues with these lines:
“You have plans, To redeem and restore me, You’re behind and before me, O help me to lead.”
Perhaps you’re stuck in really challenging situations due to lockdowns, or experienced grief and pain, or maybe you’re simply frustrated from plans changing and missed opportunities over the last year. Whatever you’re feeling, take heart from this; God is redeeming and restoring you, pointing you in prosperous directions for your good and his glory. And whichever direction he points you in, he is going with you, protecting you always.
Listen to the song here.