When God throws a wrench in your plans...

A while ago a friend told me a story about a terrible commute he had one day coming home from work. On this particular afternoon it was very important for him to be home on time because he had made important plans for the evening. Things, however, did not go according to plan.  Because of a road construction, his normal 45 minute commute home from work took two hours!  I don’t know about you, but if this happened to me I would have been extremely frustrated. The funny thing was that my friend was not. He explained that he trusted that God had a reason for throwing a wrench in his plans. He said that because of the longer commute he was able to have a very good conversation with a co-worker he carpooled with, which would not have happened otherwise.  We have all probably had such an experience when our plans get drastically altered. This can be a very challenging situation.

If we want a remarkable story of someone who had their plans drastically altered, we need not look further than poor Joseph in the Gospel of today. St. Joseph is an example of someone who had their life literally turned upside down. For a moment, try to put yourself in his shoes.  Imagine this. Things in his life have been incredible. His business as a carpenter in Nazareth has never been so great. Most exciting of all, he has recently been engaged! He could not be happier. He and his fiancĂ©e, Mary, have been busy making plans for the future. He feels like you are on top of the world. One day, however, he receives news that brings your world crashing down on itself: Mary is expecting a child and he are not the father. Imagine how crushed St. Joseph must have felt. The plans for the rest of his life seem ruined. What will others think and say about him? About Mary?  At first he has to assume that Mary has broken the engagement and he decides to Mary quietly so that she is not publicly shamed. Just when Joseph thinks things cannot get any stranger he has an unbelievable dream. In this dream, an angel tells him to change his plans again! The angel says that the child Mary is carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that the child will be someone incredible. More changes, more uncertainties! How would you react if this happened to you? What would you think and do? St. Joseph is a remarkable story of someone who had their plans in life drastically altered.

We have all experienced how difficult it can be when our life is changed suddenly. Everyone knows what it feels like when you make plans or have certain expectations for the future and then something happens that alters everything.  You probably would not need to try very hard to think of some examples in your own life. Maybe you are someone close has experienced trouble at work. Perhaps you were certain that you would receive a promotion, made arrangements for your new work situation only to find that you were passed over. Worse even would be the case of being laid off unexpectedly. This can turn your life upside down. Or maybe you are a student and had plans to enter a special program and then unexpectedly failed a course that meant you were no longer eligible for entry. Now you might have to look at different options. Among the most drastic of examples, we can consider the situation where you or a family member suddenly falls seriously ill. Such an event can change your life in the blink of an eye. When our lives change suddenly like this we can feel an array of strong emotions: sadness, confusion, anger and discouragement. It is very natural to wonder why God would allow these things to happen. Accepting the situation can seem impossible at times. We all know how difficult an experience it is when our life is changed suddenly.

From the example of St. Joseph we learn that trusting in God is an effective response in such circumstances. In the Gospel of today we see that in the face of such a dramatic change in his life, Joseph was able to trust that God was in charge. Such an action must not have been easy for St. Joseph. Trust like that is hard for all of us. As the following story illustrates, such trust really takes a leap of faith. One night, a house caught fire and a small boy was forced to flee to the roof of the house. The boy’s father stood on the ground below with his arms outstretched and yelled to his son, “jump, I will catch you!” The father knew that his son must jump in order to survive. When he looked down, however, all the boy could see was smoke, fire and blackness. Quite understandably, he was too terrified to leave the roof. The man yelled again to his son, “jump, I will catch you!” But the boy protested, “daddy, I can’t see you!”  To this the father replied, “But I can see you, and that’s all that matters.” When faced with unexpected changes in life, we can find ourselves in the position of the little boy. Trusting that God, our Father, is there with us can be terrifying. It is hard to believe that He is in control, because he can seem so hidden. But He does see us and He will save us. Taking the leap to trust that God is in charge is an effective and powerful way to respond when our life is changed suddenly.

When we are able to trust in this way, we allow God to work wonders. This kind of trust has an incredible power to transform our lives and the lives of others. We can see this so clearly in the life of St. Joseph. After he had his dream, he made the decision to trust God which set into motion an incredible chain of events. He welcomed Mary into his home and became the foster father of Jesus the Saviour of the world. Joseph went on to play a unique and important role in the history of salvation.  Looking back at the example of my friend and his commute we can see what a difference trust made. He trusted that there was a reason to allow his plans to get ruined. Instead of becoming frustrated he was able to have an important conversation with a co-worker. When we trust in God He will work powerfully in our life and the life of others.

Perhaps you have heard this before… How do you make God laugh? Tell him about your plans. Unexpected changes are part of life. Because of this, it is so important that we follow the example of St. Joseph and trust that God is ultimately in control. Today we should ask ourselves an important question: has something unexpected happened to me in my life that I find difficult to accept? In this Mass we can ask God for the grace to trust that God is in control. When we do this, God will act. Trust allows Jesus and His peace and joy to more fully work in our lives and the lives of those around us.