When Things Don't Go As Planned: An Advent Reflection

"When things don't go as planned" by Kelly Guest (CatholicMom.com)

By Bento Coelho da Silveira (MatrizNet) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Life has a way of turning out different than we plan. As a matter of fact, if you want to give God a good laugh, tell him what you are going to do.

Do not think that this means that God is a plan-spoiler. On the contrary, He is a plan expander. The big dreams that we have for ourselves are nothing compared to what God has in mind for us. If we let Him have control of our lives, we need not fear or fret. He’s got this. And He promises to do great things for and with us.

Consider Mary. A mere teen, engaged to be married, she could not begin to imagine the plans God had in mind for her! While she longed for the Messiah, she never thought she would be His Mother.

When the angel Gabriel announced that God had chosen her to bear the “son of the Most High,” she didn’t put God on a timeline, add stipulations, or question His way of doing things. I mean, if it were me, I may have asked Him to wait until I was actually married. What harm could waiting a couple of months be, especially considering the harm that could come from being found pregnant before marriage! Mary, however, was not afraid of God’s plan; she trusted Him. Thus, God blessed her among all women.

This seemingly ordinary girl from Nazareth became the Mother of God. Mary enjoys that special relationship between a mother and her child with God Himself. Imagine!

Consider Joseph, a carpenter barely making ends meet, despite his admirable work ethic. He never thought the girl he chose to marry, the one for whom he was working so hard in order to provide a good life, would become pregnant with a child not his own. Yet, that Child was revealed to him to be conceived by the Holy Spirit. His world was turned upside-down. Yet, Joseph believed and obeyed.

Thus, the lowly carpenter who made things from wood held in his hands the Creator of the world. By fleeing into Egypt, Joseph saved the Savior of the world. He taught the omnipotent God how to pray. Mind-blowing!

The census. I am sure Mary and Joseph did not plan on traveling to Bethlehem, especially in Mary’s ninth month of pregnancy. I have been on some bumpy, country dirt roads while nine months pregnant, and it is not comfortable, to say the least! Yet, in obedience, they went. Mary and Joseph understood that God works through civil authority. They also knew their Scripture: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Micah 5:2). So, they made the long, uncomfortable, unplanned journey, trusting that God would see them through.

By the time they got there, Mary was in labor. Joseph could find no room for them in any of the inns. The streets were crowded, busy, and loud. Joseph needed to find some place for Mary to rest. They relied on God’s providence to move the heart of an innkeeper and were eventually led to a stable. Not long after, Mary gave birth to her Son. God provided in what probably seemed to Joseph the nick of time. And maybe a stable wasn’t what Joseph had in mind; yet, in hindsight, it did provide more privacy and quiet than an overcrowded inn would have. Once again, God knew best. The Bread of Life came down from Heaven to Bethlehem, the “House of Bread.” The Good Shepherd was born in a stable.

Moreover, when the birth announcement went out (via angels), the stable provided easy access for the lowly shepherds to see the new-born Savior. “And this will be a sign for you: you will find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). This clue enabled the shepherds to know exactly where to find Christ the Lord; after all, there surely would have been more than one manger in all of Bethlehem. How did they know where to go? You see, these shepherds themselves wrapped newborn sacrificial lambs in swaddling clothes in order to keep them clean and pure. To the manger that fed those lambs they went, to adore the Lamb of God.

This is a plan only God could put together. A story that more than 2000 years later would still be told in awe and wonder. A scene that instills peace and joy. A season that causes the whole world to celebrate. A birth that would change the world.

So if your plans fall through, if the timing doesn’t seem to be right, if there is some surprise that comes up, or some unforeseen task that needs to be untaken, if you need to move on to something or somewhere else, if nothing seem right, if you need a clue to know what to do next … remember the story of the Nativity. Remember that God has a plan bigger than yours. Trust Him. The story He has in mind for you is a good one.

Read our other Advent 2017 articles.

Copyright 2017 Kelly Guest


About Author

God has given Kelly lots of wonderful opportunities to follow Him. She was a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia in Nashville, an education coordinator for a Catholic Charities' program for pregnant teens, a middle school teacher, a director of religious education and is now a youth minister. Her most challenging and rewarding calling, though, is wife and mother of ten children. What she has learned, she blogs at CatholicMom.com.


  1. Thank you Kelly, your post is very timely and encouraging.
    We need to be reminded daily to surrender our plans to God’s
    perfect will: even when, especially when things don’t seem to make sense.

  2. Kelly,
    I needed this reminder this morning as my “plans” hit snags that seemed insurmountable. Thank you for the post that seemed to be written especially for me. I will pray for trust in His plan.

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