When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned: Explaining “God’s Plan”

Written by Dave Carl, Family Ministry Pastor at Stonebriar Community Church


As a species, we humans are an optimistic group. We build for the future with vigor. When something goes terribly wrong, we usually brush ourselves off and rebuild because we tend to believe things will be better going forward. Occasionally, we experience a setback that we cannot brush off, a tragedy that we as individuals cannot seem to recover from. There is fear and heartbreak. There may be depression and an impending sense of doom that threatens to rob us of the optimism that would help us recover. A job loss, deteriorating health – these are things that can bring us to the end of ourselves. For kids, the list may look more like getting cut from the team, a friend sharing your confidences with someone else, failure in class, or being treated harshly by a teacher. How can we as parents guide our kids through heartbreak, and how on earth do we assist them through loss without turning away from God in rage for His unfair treatment of us?

A Bad Beginning

Since the question is not WILL there be great loss in my life but WHEN, we ought to be preparing for hard times now. If we start out a foot race facing the wrong direction, everything about the contest will be more frustrating, painful, and difficult. This is also true if we begin a crisis believing things about life and God that are not true. We will be in genuine peril if we enter into a crisis convinced that any of the following are true.

  1. If I am really good, only good things will come my way.
    1. Or work hard/prepare
  2. Bad things only happen to those who deserve it.
  3. God has promised to keep bad things away from me.
  4. If I just have enough faith, everything will go my way.
  5. God will never give me more than I can handle.

None of these are true, but many of us grasp on to them like a life raft. These false beliefs give us some comfort, but they also leave us vulnerable to unnecessary disaster. Believing bad stuff will not happen to ME is like buying a nice house at the base of volcano. It feels like a bargain today, but… Unfortunately, these are rather commonly taught in church. These sayings are useful short-term tools in controlling the kids, but they are lies from the pit of Hell. First of all, bad things DO happen to good people. The Bible is chocked full of good people who get murdered, prophets who get executed, Christians who get persecuted and even stoned to death for their faith, etc. Secondly, this kind of thinking will absolutely backfire when, say, Mom gets cancer. The logical conclusion is that either Mom or someone around the dinner table has been bad and they are the cause of this ordeal. The mere expectation that loss and disappointment should NEVER come to me is a terribly unbiblical and misinformed bit of theology. Of course we will experience tragedy and struggle. Scripture promises it.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  James 1:2,3

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”  I Peter 4:12

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

And on it goes. It would be very foolish to tell someone; “If you really behave yourself, it will never storm again in Texas”.

Of course it will storm in Texas. Probably later this week – and when the hail starts to fall, the false expectation of constant sunny skies will itself create frustration, depression, fear, and confusion. It would be kinder and smarter to tell your kids that trials and tragedies WILL come and that we have hope that, even in the midst of trials, we have a God who will care for us and carry us through. People commonly mature in hard times; we certainly focus on God more, and we may even reevaluate ourselves in a crisis. Struggle is a very common tool in the hands of our good God. If we have learned to receive both the good and the bad from God, we can mature and benefit from it. If, however, we are too busy throwing a temper tantrum because we are outraged by the perceived injustice, we will only suffer and not grow at all. Telling your kids tragedies and loss will never come might feel like a strategy to keep your kids from fearing the future, but in reality it is a terrible disservice that will backfire and probably crush them later.

Difficulties will come to your kids. Grades will unexpectedly dip low this semester. Your child will not get any playtime on the field, kids will be mean at school, etc. One plan of attack would be to rush in and fix it all. That would be a mistake. No growth and no maturing will occur. A second plan would be to walk through it with your kid. Talk about the injustice of a coach playing talented guys with DWI’s instead of the boys who follow the rules and work hard. There will be many more injustices in the future.

If I survive a level 3 disappointment with hope in a good God and His plan for me, I have grown. Later, when I experience a level 5 disappointment, I will be able to extrapolate from the previous level 3 ordeal and make it through the second one with less stress and fewer difficulties. This is the very nature of training. If I ran a half mile every day for the last three weeks, I would be ready to run a mile tomorrow without collapsing. It’s how we gain confidence, strength, and endurance. These characteristics are critically important, and they can ONLY be attained by suffering well through trials, difficulties, and loss.

God never promised that we will not struggle or experience loss. He did promise that in the struggle He will mature me, alter me, and free me from fear of the future (anxiety) as I learn to trust in Him. Not rescuing your children from hurt, loss, and disappointment could well be the best gift you could give them for their future.

Dave Carl is the Family Ministry Pastor at Stonebriar Community Church and is responsible for the ministry focusing on children birth through high school graduation and the parents who love them. With a ministry philosophy based on Luke 10:27, his primary focus is to give parents the skills to raise kids who truly love Jesus and want to serve others. Dave has a passion for ministering to families in crisis in our community. He has spent several years pouring into fathers and husbands and helping them learn that they need community, were designed to guard and protect, and that they really can be the spiritual leaders of their family.

Dave and his wife of 30 plus years, Cathy, have two adult children and one in high school and recently became grandparents for the first time.  They are completely in love with this new member of their family. Dave is an avid woodworker and loves to write. He sees all stories in the form of pictures, and he would love to connect with you!




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