When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned: Surrendering our Hopes and Dreams to God

by Tiffany Dickerson

Our culture tells us from a young age we need to have a life plan filled with goals and dreams, and we need to make them happen by the time we are thirty to be considered successful. But what happens when you reach thirty and nothing in your life has gone as planned? The beautiful dream board you created or the checklist you keep in your desk might have one or two items checked off. Everything else stares back at you like a flashing neon sign of failure. Inevitably, you wonder why life is so off course and what do you do to get back on track. 

The first thing we have to ask ourselves is how involved was the Lord when this list of hopes and dreams were made? Was this His list or a list crafted by the cultural norms we follow every day? So often, we plan our life around what the world deems important and not what God has ordained. We plan for the six-figure job, a career we love, spouse, 2.5 kids, house, pet, and a 401K. None of these things are inherently wrong, but without Jesus as the author of our life, nothing on that list will ever bring fulfillment. This does not mean you never make plans or have dreams or goals. Instead, take your hopes and dreams to your Savior with palms open and trust when He changes them, perfects them, or delays them. 

Scripture is filled with verses that teach us how to live our lives on mission and with purpose for Christ. It isn’t about the earthly plans we make but about the people we are called to be as we live those plans out. God’s desire for our lives is to exhibit Him to the world. If you don’t get that promotion, you can still glorify God. If you wonder where Mr. or Mrs. Right is, you can still glorify God in your waiting. When infertility, loss of a loved one, or an empty bank account derails your plans, you can still glorify God. Jesus used Scripture to combat Satan, rebuke the Pharisees, and teach the disciples. Scripture has the power to mold your hopes and dreams to accomplish God’s plan. In the Kingdom of God, no plan of His is thwarted because God is the author and perfecter of life. First Thessalonians 5:24 reminds us, “He who calls you is faithful; he will do it.”   

If your life seems off course, go back to the Word. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, use Scripture just as Jesus did: to fight, rebuke, and teach yourself what it means to surrender everything to Christ. The passages below are wonderful to memorize and take to heart as you navigate our success-driven society. Let your success be driven by a heart filled with Christ. If we hold our earthly plans loosely and trust in God’s purpose and mission, that list of unfilled dreams is no longer necessary. Be on mission for the Lord, grow in holiness, and remember God’s plans are always better. 

  • “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19–20
  • “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
  • “For this is God’s will, your sanctification.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3 
  • “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:1–3
  • “And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14–18
  • “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration.  “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8–9
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