Have you heard the phrase or some derivative of it: “We plan, God laughs?” I have used this phrase many a time to explain why something didn’t happen the way I’d planned. Some may use it to avoid planning altogether. I’m almost certain I’ve told it to others when their plans went awry. I’m not going to use this phrase any more. I’ve decided I don’t like it.
This did not happen overnight, a dislike of something I said because I believed it. It happened gradually, a little “huh?” in my head when I read or heard it. When that had happened a few times, I decided to think and pray about it.
My thoughts were this: God would not laugh at us, which this phrase implies. He may laugh with us, but never at us. And certainly not when we make a mistake or feel bad when our plans don’t go our way. When my plans don’t come to fruition, it is often because I did not include God in the planning in the first place, have ignored the signs the plan was not a good one, or I am being protected from a huge mistake or failure.
I’m sure each of us has examples of those reasons. I know I do. This dislike of this phrase asks me to consider, though: Why do my plans fail?
There are multiple possibilities. The first is whether I talk to God about what the plan should be or instead I make a plan and then ask about it. When I do the latter, it is often because I am swayed into thinking something is a good idea by others or that it will be so helpful to so many. I don’t ask God to bless plans that are harmful, only the best ones. The trouble is, I get caught up in the excitement and I fail to notice God pointing out why I shouldn’t be doing this great thing that will help and make people happy.
Sometimes plans fail because life happens. A new baby or grandbaby, sickness, unexpected car or house trouble, job layoffs – there are many things which fall into this category and we can’t ignore them. The hope is that when things settle down, we get back to our plan — or we may realize that we can’t follow through.
When our plans do not include God from the beginning, it might feel like our failures are Him laughing at us. For me, the key is to start with God and then move. When we plan with God, He may gift us with more than we expected. I’ve had that happen many times too. But I don’t think He laughs about that either. I picture Him, smiling indulgently, nodding His head and saying, “See what good I have for you, more than you can imagine. Stay close, my daughter, and stay close.”
The picture in the center is of a statue of Catherine of Siena, who wanted to live in her very small room in her parents’ house and pray. Instead she worked tirelessly to bring Jesus to others, spoke to popes, and became not only a saint, but a Doctor of the Church. Talk about a change of plans!
Copyright 2019 Deanna Bartalini