As I write this, Isaac has been downgraded to a tropical storm and is headed toward Mississippi and Arkansas. If you pay any attention to these storms, you come to the realization (sooner or later) that unpredictability is one of their central features. For all of our tracking and technology, our models and projections, we still don’t really know what’s going to happen. As a result, we prepare for all kinds of possibilities and then when the storm hits we adapt our plans. And while we’re undoubtedly better informed than we used to be, I don’t anticipate a time coming when this mystery will be removed.
Paul had a great desire to go to Rome and had been planning to do so for some time (Romans 1:11ff, 15:23ff). Knowing what we do about him, it’s not hard to imagine he had lined up his funding, recruited workers, and taken care of other logistical tasks—no problems there. His challenge was that events didn’t work out as he had anticipated. In fact, circumstances took a sharp turn and while he still went to Rome, it was as a prisoner rather than a free man. The books of Acts ends with him awaiting his trial.
As we continue to pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done, it’s natural that like Paul (and the storm trackers), we try to anticipate how God is going to work things out. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as we recognize our plans are subject to change. In the kingdom, adaptability is as important of a virtue as planning.
One thing that can help us to remain flexible is to remember that though events might catch us off guard, they don’t surprise God. He is not running around a step behind, trying to figure out what to do or what will happen next. The throne is occupied. He is in control. And He offers His peace to us. While in his prison cell in Rome, Paul wrote these powerful words:
The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7)
His peace prepares us for sunshine or storms. Each is certain to come and on occasion they will arrive when we least suspect them. We will be forced to work without plans but we never have to be without peace.