God Has No “Plan B“
by Carol Lee
It’s perplexing, isn’t it, this sudden upheaval of life and strange and scrambled routines and, for many, great sadness and suffering? Things were going well, for the most part, with a good trajectory. What happened? Does God not love us? What happened to the Promise Box verse, “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper and not to harm you“? Did we not pray about the plans we had made or strategized wisely? Didn’t we feel confident that our plans were “of the Lord“? Is this world-wide catastrophe now the Lord’s “Plan B” for us–instead of His “Plan A“? What should we think?
Well, we should think about Joseph in the Old Testament. In his dreams, Joseph was given an exalted position. Dreams (and visions) in the Old Testament were a significant means of communication from God and their interpretation belonged to the Lord. So, Joseph’s TWO dreams of similar content were a great assurance that good things were coming for him. And yet, Joseph experienced 13 years of pits and dungeons and mistreatment before any inkling of greatness. He was every bit as exalted as foretold in his dreams, BUT it’s his response to the pits and dungeons and mistreatment that I love the most and that informs our response: “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the survival of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
No Plan B’s–only Plan A in God’s economy!
Think about Jesus. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He came to do God’s will perfectly, yet he experienced suffering, shame and death. “Though he was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail him to a cross and kill him.” (Acts 2:23) The point is, THIS was God’s Plan A for Jesus, not the Plan B. Jesus cried out in prayer to His Father, “Now my soul is troubled. What should I say — Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)
Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension–were NOT God’s Plan B. They were His Plan A!
Whatever evil, devastation, suffering, disappointment, frustration and delay this monsterish COVID-19 (or any other painful trial) has brought us, God is NOT sitting enthroned in heaven with knee-knocking, nail-biting fear and disarray, trying to come up with a way to “fix it“. He is carrying out His Plan A, whether or not we can see clearly enough to praise Him right now for the good He is working. As I am writing, Jacob and I have been wrestling over some of God’s Plan A for us. BUT! the Lord is good and faithful–and so is His Plan A, no matter what it appears to be from our limited perspective.
“We are not able to understand everything God does in our lives, because we cannot see from his perspective (Isaiah 55:8). We do not know what he is trying to accomplish or what mercies he is pouring out for us on this new path. Still, we can know that nothing in his plan will ultimately harm us, and everything in his plan will ultimately be better for us (Romans 8:28).
As each step unfolds, we are called to trust that God knows what he is doing and that he is taking us exactly where he wants us to be (Proverbs 3:5–6). Therefore, we have the choice of either trusting in our own understanding by continuing to try and force our own plans to work, or we can choose to trust God and ask that our desires be transformed into his desires. By his grace, we are empowered to forgo what we once wanted in order to say “Yes” to what he is asking of us now.“
William Cowper was a gifted poet and hymn writer who lived in the 1700’s. His counsel, which was birthed out of his own dark struggles with depression, is a mooring for us today:
” God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform;
he plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill
he treasures up his bright designs, and works his sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
but trust him for his grace; behind a frowning providence
he hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding ev’ry hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.”
As I mentioned in my last newsletter, “Pause, Reflect, Reset,” Jacob and I had what we thought was a carefully, prayerfully made Plan A. We thought that a full 2020 calendar of ministry was what the Lord wanted. God clearly said, “No.” He had His Plan A for which we are so grateful now. This is our 7th year of living full time in Uganda and Jacob’s 13th year since he starting ministering in this Uganda/South Sudan region. The year, 2020 would have been the busiest year yet, but God gifted us with a “sabbatical” which has been sorely needed. In these past 7 years we have forged through with great energy (especially Jacob) to accomplish much, with very little respite. However, it has taken a toll from which we both have needed recovery. We are grateful for this Plan A of the omniscient Lord who knows what we have need of even before we ask.(Matthew 6:8)
Recently, I was reading verses 30-31 of Mark 6: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” Jesus is definitely calling Jacob and me to “come away by ourselves to a remote place and rest a while” and it proving to be refreshment and healing. We are connecting with each other like never before and we are refreshing ourselves in the Lord. We don’t rejoice in what, by appearance, is great suffering, but we do rejoice in the gift we have received in the midst of the suffering.
Most of OUR Plan A activities were cancelled but we are doing what we can within the scope of the restrictions placed upon the country of Uganda. I love what Jacob recently posted on FaceBook:
“God’s call upon us in any given situation he has ordained is to “respond” and not simply “react”. No matter one’s “take” on Coronavirus, it has changed people’s lives. For us at Reaching Africa’s Unreached we have had to push back the many leadership trainings we had scheduled for the year. The short term teams coming to assist are not able to come. Even going out for evangelism and discipleship has been disrupted. Do we respond or react?
We have chosen to respond by investing our current “extra” hours to be examples to community on how farming can not only supply the needs for families but the needs of the community when crisis comes. While there are crisis times when food must be given to alleviate immediate suffering, this need is mitigated when people are producing more food than they can eat. Relief is vital in crisis, but we have to think beyond crisis to rehabilitation and development so that relief is not the rule but the exception.“
Some of our plans were cancelled. Others, just postponed–such as our goal to get the $185,000 for 20,000 ESV Global Study Bibles by the Crossway deadline for printing. So far, we have $40,000 dedicated to the Bibles and that will be held in a separate account until such a time as we have collected the full amount. We are hoping that we can still have this amazing deal to get the 20,000 Bibles from the USA to Uganda for $9.25 per Bible (printing and shipping included)!! If you have the burden, please give towards getting these Study Bibles here. The plan is to put them into the hands of Ugandan, South Sudan, and The Republic of (North) Sudan church leaders hands. Over the years Jacob has been given, by God’s grace, the connections to be able to this happen.
With the current state of the pandemic of COVID-19 and its trajectory, mostly in other areas of the world, but also in Uganda, we have decided to cancel and not schedule (or reschedule) any short term team visits until after our March 2021 visit to the USA. A big part of this decision is affected by the perception of threat in our surrounding communities from foreigners visiting from countries where the Coronavirus has been widespread and deadly in its impact. RAU has worked hard to build trust within the community and to be received by them. Even if COVID-19 is contained and eliminated within Uganda, the pandemic is still raging and expected to be a threat in other countries for, likely, the rest of 2020. Therefore, we want to mitigate distrust and ill will so that, when the fire of COVID-19 has died down, we have the good will of the people that we love here and their trust that we have their interests at heart. This is painful for us because of the love and the relationship we have developed and hold for the short term ministry teams that have partnered with us in walking out 2 Timothy 2:2.
Biblical and agricultural leadership trainings before Covid-19 days.
COVID-19 has been an eye-opening, wake-up call for the church regarding long-term mission and short term ministry. A quote by Darren Carlson was posted by Jacob on his Facebook page which speaks volumes: “Short-term missions is a $2 Billion industry. And right now it’s at $0.” This is not to diminish the blessing of short term ministry, but to bring long term missions back into full view and priority. Jacob wrote extensively about this issue in a previous post. If you missed it or would like to read it, you may find his post entitled “Musings on the Corona-19 and Short Term Missions” here.
Currently, we are in lockdown on RAU campus. Jacob has not left it since our arrival here. The lockdown is likely to continue until June or maybe even longer–it has been rumored that it may continue for the rest of this year. If restrictions are lifted to where Jacob is allowed to leave the RAU campus, he is ready to pursue one-on-one discipleship in the Metu Mountains, Obongi and Yumbe as well as evangelism in remote areas. Until then, Jacob has committed himself to thinking through and working on a RAU curriculum (theological, pastoral, apologetics, agricultural, financial saving /investing/business etc.) for leadership training which would be especially geared for our Ugandan and South Sudanese/Sudanese brothers. We are committed to walking out 2 Timothy 2:2 vision for the long term. A huge goal would be to have a pastoral training program which is approved by the Ugandan government. Jacob is going to enlist the help of some qualified men to assist him with that process. Having an RAU curriculum would allow training to continue without impediment or restriction and to happen in small groups remotely or in larger, more organized settings such as we have had for the last 7 years here on the RAU campus.
Earlier 2 Timothy 2:2 Training’s
During this time of watching and waiting, we hope that your commitment to pray and partner with us financially will continue so that we are in a position to “hit the ground running” when restrictions are lifted.
Though the WHOLE WORLD has experienced an upheaval and the future and our plans seems uncertain, Jacob and I are awestruck by our growing knowledge that the Lord is seated on His throne, unchanging, in charge, powerful, good, loving and holy. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we] have been fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12). We are experiencing a peace not defined by external circumstances but, in the midst of devastating circumstances, a peace informed by our steadfast hope in WHO GOD IS!!
Our prayer for all of us is that, no matter how deep the struggle, we will be convinced that “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) and that God has no Plan B’s (or, as Jacob does, Plan B through Zed)– only Plan A–AND IT IS GOOD!
Carol (Jacob) Lee
The greatest evil is having the gospel and not doing everything within our power to get it to those who do not have it!
When at least 35% of the world, “the unoccupied fields”, have no access to the gospel, we (believers) must all do all we can to reach them. We who are saved owe the gospel to every lost person, most especially the 2.4 billion who will not hear unless someone breaks into their “unoccupied field” with no thought of their own life!
Sowing seeds of love and kindness should not be separated from preaching the gospel of sovereign grace but completely intertwined with it!
I am sure that none of us will say when in heaven that we prayed too much, we sacrificed too much, proclaimed the gospel too much, and were too passionate to get the gospel to those who have little to no access to this gospel of grace. Let us together press on to make it our ambition to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named!
Our goal in our gospel witness is to take our eyes off the “risk” and place them on the cause for the risk. When God compels us like this he often will not tell us the risks…after all there are no risks for the all-knowing, all-powerful God. So let us be AMBITIOUS (Romans 15:20) to see that ALL are reached with the gospel of grace (Romans 1:16) in ALL places…there are no closed doors to the gospel, just some which are more difficult to go through!