Many are the plans in a human heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:12 TNIV).
Adam Sutton had plans. He intended to ask his girlfriend, Erika Brussee, to marry him, and he planned to do it in a way she would remember for the rest of her life.
There's no doubt she'll remember it. But Adam's plans didn't exactly work out as he intended.
The nineteen year old from Rome, Georgia, told Erika that they were going out on a date. Their date was to the town's airport, where the couple got onto a small chartered plane. Adam's plan was to have family members hold up a sign reading, "Will you marry me?" He would then open the box containing the engagement ring he intended to offer to Erika. Definitely memorable.
It started to go bad almost immediately.
First off, the sign was partially obscured and Erika only saw the word "marry" as the low-flying plane flew slowly past it. That was the second problem, the "low" and "slow." Too low and too slow. The plane stalled, and nosed into the tarmac from which it had just taken off. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt in the crash, though the pilot was knocked unconscious and Adam had to pull him to safety. Adam and Erika ended what was supposed to be their engagement flight in an ambulance.
Adam was finally able to propose to Erika in the ambulance. After all that, thankfully, she said, "Yes!" This despite the fact that the ring box was empty when Adam opened it. The ring was apparently lost in the crash.
Adam Sutton had plans. Most of us do. We make plans because, well, what else would we do? We have hopes, aspirations, goals, and so we make plans. Most of us chart some sort of a course through life; it changes, of course, evolves. We modify it as our priorities change, or as obstacles make some of our plans unworkable. "Many are the plans in the human heart."
Think about some of the plans you've made. Career plans. Family plans. Plans for education, for retirement. Investment plans. Some of them have probably panned out, right? Gone pretty much as you intended? Some others probably haven't. Maybe you haven't found the career you want yet, or gone as far in your chosen field as you had hoped to have gone by this point in your life. Maybe your retirement plans haven't worked out as you wanted. Hopefully, your plans haven't crashed as dramatically as Adam Sutton's, but if you're like most of us, not everything you've planned has gone just like you intended.
Sometimes that's just because there's no way to see every possibility, plan for every eventuality. Sometimes our plans don't pan out simply because circumstances change, or maybe because they weren't realistic to begin with — my childhood dreams of playing Major League baseball fall into that category!
Other times, our plans fail for other reasons, reasons that we can't easily explain. We struggle to understand, we ask why, we suffer through disappointment, frustration, anger, or depression. Maybe, as time passes, we learn to live with the disappointment and move on to other plans. But not always. There are times when the failure of our plans can have permanent and sometimes debilitating consequences.
"Many are the plans in a human heart," says the Proverb, "but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." On its face, that isn't remarkably comforting, is it? Sounds like a dismissal of human plans, a trivialization of our aspirations and hopes. It almost sounds cynical, like we shouldn't even bother to make plans. Why bother? After all, how often do those plans that clutter and crowd our hearts come about as we envision them?
That's one way to read it, I suppose, but there's a better alternative. The Proverb doesn't say that we should stop making plans. It doesn't intend to discourage our dreams and hopes, and intentions, but to put them in perspective. While our plans often don't work out as we had intended, God's always do. The plans God conceives in his heart always come about exactly as he conceives of them, because for him the conception and the working out are one in the same. What he envisions in his heart comes to pass. "My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please," God promises. "What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do" (Isaiah 46:10-11 TNIV).
More important than the many plans that sometimes seem to fill our hearts near to bursting are the never-failing plans of God. In the end, when all the plans that meant so much to us will be a memory, if that, it will be what he has intended and put into effect that matters.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will ... When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14)
You know, sometimes I'm convinced that our plans don't work out as we envision them simply because God knows better than we do. I think sometimes the inexplicable failure of our plans is due simply to the grace of God – he stands in the way when what we plan isn't good for us, or would in the end lead us away from being a part of his plans for us. I know, we prefer to think of grace as permissive. But there are times when the most loving thing God can do is to prevent us from having what we've convinced ourselves that we need.
So the next time you find your plans headed for the tarmac, I pray that you'll be reminded of the God whose plans never fail, and of the plans he has for you. Oh, it might well still hurt. But maybe, mixed up with that hurt, you'll be able to find reason for hope and even joy.
Plan on it.
May he grant your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans. (Psalm 20:4 NLT, 1st Ed.)