Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Best-Laid Plans

by C.J. Chase

Most of you probably know I write novels for Love Inspired Historicals. If you’ve ever read an LIH, you may have noticed a Bible passage at the beginning of the book, just past the title page.

LIH requires its authors to include a verse that encapsulates the theme of the book. Since my current in-progress work deals with a character who feels abandoned by God, I chose the following verse:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29: 11)

However, yesterday, my character seemed fixated on another verse:

Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. (Psalm 37:3)

So you see, I had planned to use a verse about God’s plans—only to have those plans thwarted. Ironic, huh? Reminds me of the quote, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

As an author, I put my characters in all sorts of difficult situations. Sometimes the character doesn’t deal well with the circumstances. Sometimes the character makes a better choice. Each time the character makes a decision, I show how the character changes and grows because of the wisdom gained from life’s challenges.

We can all chuckle at the example of my plans changing. However, the real test of our faith comes when God's plan takes us through dark, difficult places we would have never chosen on our own.

Consider the story of Joseph, a young man sold into slavery by his own brothers. He trusted God and did good, maintaining his integrity in the face of temptation. But even then, God’s plan included more trials—years in an Egyptian prison—before he finally saw the full scope of God’s awesome providence for him and his family.

Photographers sometimes play with camera lenses, zooming in so closely we see only one small section of a larger object.

Only when the photographer pulls back can we see the full picture.

Tweedledee the chicken prefers my porch to the coop with the other hens.

Life is often like that too-close picture. We see only the problem before us without seeing the larger picture of God’s plan.

Years ago, Emily Perl Kingsley wrote an essay where she compared having a disabled child with planning a trip to Italy—only to discover the plane has landed in Holland instead. 

The author's son in full regalia
in Holland, Michigan
My own journey to Holland began nearly 15 years ago in Fairfax, Virginia, hospital. Looking back on those pain-filled, shadowy days still fills me with that surreal feeling even a decade and a half later. And yet, when I view the full panorama of my life, I see how God prepared me for that timeand how He used that experience to mold me into the person I am today. A better person, more patient and understanding than I was before.

Have you traveled through dark places where you couldn’t decipher God’s plans for your life? Paul wrote that what we see is indistinct, like a foggy mirror, but someday we will see clearly. Like Joseph, we will be able to look back and realize the pain and heartache were part of God’s larger plan to create something good.

I might still end up using the original verse for my overall theme, but I’m, ahem, not planning on it at this point. I guess I’ll just have to “trust God” on this one to direct me.

Fortunately for my book (which is about 5/6 complete), the two verses aren’t really so different. Do you trust God? Enough to let Him make the plans?

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be out in early 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at 


  1. First of all...adorable photo of your son!

    I definitely had some dark times, in length and depth that I sure hope I don't have to repeat. While they taught me a lot, I'm hoping the continuing lessons don't need more than a few pokes and prods to keep me on the path. I will say that I have learned to trust deeply in the plan of God. And when my prayers turn to the "I want"s, they seem to become "I want to submit to what Your plan is Lord, for I know they are better than mine"

    You know we are all looking forward to that next book! hooray!

  2. My thought as I was reading this was it's important to understand that God is not throwing pain and heartache at us. He is a loving father who wants the best for us. I think pain and heartache come from two sources. 1) The devil who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy. 2) Our perceptions.

    Often we have our own plans and expectations of how things will go. (Going to Italy) We have strong opinions about what will be best for us. When God takes us another (often better in the long run, i.e. Holland) route, it feels like a trial. We struggle and suffer until we work through it and learn to see from a new perspective.

  3. Deb -- We think he's adorable too. Well, 90% of the time...

    Oh, that next book. I was working away today, then realized I was getting ahead of myself. So, I have a lot of words written for the next scene or two.

  4. Your story about the verse is funny! Our plans are nothing compared to God's because he can see into the future.
    Right now I'm trying to figure out which college route to take, or if I will even go to college. And I have constantly had to just ask God to help me not think about it, or worry about it. And it's been hard giving the pen of my life over to God, so that he can lead me. Plans are interesting things aren't they?

  5. Sometimes, CJ, I have issues that I still have a hard time turning over completely to God. Especially if it involves my son. But when I do manage to turn it over - I'm overwhelmed with peace. And then I have to wonder - what took me so long? Great post, CJ. And I agree about the cute kid!

  6. Dina, I wish the ether hadn't swallowed my earlier message, but I don't see it.

    Once I became a parent, I better understood God's relationship to us. There are times it would be easier for me to do something for my kids, but I know it's better for them in the long run if they struggle to work it out on their own.

  7. Faye, you are making me feel old! We're talking college options with our oldest son (17) right now.

    My best friend used to pray, "Lord, please make your will obvious enough even I can't miss it."

  8. Suzie, giving God our children definitely falls in the realm of difficult.

    Hey, I've got great plans for my kids, if they'd just do what I tell them!


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