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PUTTING PLAN B INTO ACTIONWHEN GOD DOESN'T SHOW UP THE WAY YOU THOUGHT HE WOULD
By PETE WILSON
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Pete Wilson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSESSION 1
EVERYONE NEEDS HEALING
Watch DVD session 1.
AFTER THE VIDEO
Shattered dreams. Maybe yours are different from the ones of the lady in our DVD session; her perfectly framed family life didn't turn out the way she expected. But odds are you've experienced at least one shattered dream of your own, if not a number of them. When we think of shattered dreams, we don't have to look far to find examples: failed marriages, desired marriage that never happened, infertility, a disappointing career. Maybe you've been through a traumatic event in your life, or maybe your life just isn't turning out the way you hoped. Some of us have experienced catastrophic events and some of us have not, but regardless, pain, brokenness, and disappointment have affected each of us in some way. Whatever your shattered dream is, the pain of it probably stings a little more each time you see others living your dream. They may seem to have the perfect marriage, perfect kids, or perfect job. But, in reality, each one of those people has also suffered shattered dreams. It's not just you. You are not alone. Everyone needs healing. Everyone.
When our deepest dreams and desires seem to die, we're tempted to cry out to God in pain; we feel he is distant and uninvolved as we struggle to deal with sorrow, loss, and doubt. We may feel we have no control over what has happened or is happening to us, and it can lead us to wonder if anyone is in control at all. But what we can learn, and hopefully will learn, throughout our time together, is broken dreams can be a source of healing and a pathway to eventual growth. In the midst of our Plan B community, we can see God at work in our individual lives and experience God's help when we share with those who care. Together we will begin to understand the connection between crisis and transformation.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
After viewing the session 1 video, discuss these questions with your group.
1. Share a favorite childhood/teenage memory. Maybe you had a great vacation, received an award, or had a really special time with friends or loved ones. What made this one of your favorite memories?
2. What dreams or hopes have you carried with you over the years?
Meeting your dream spouse?
Having the perfect marriage and/or children?
Achieving the ideal job or career position?
Other treasured dreams and hopes?
3. What dreams have you given up on?
4. Does it ever seem the world is passing you by? Describe the moments when you have felt passed over or lacking. Has your focus been on your own lack or on someone else's possession of your desires?
5. In your most difficult moments, does it seem true that everyone needs healing? Why or why not?
6. Have you ever experienced being angry at God or deeply disappointed by him? It may have been during a time when you were suffering, sick, dealing with the loss of a loved one, or depressed. How did you feel God let you down?
7. Is there someone in your world you associate with real discouragement? Why? Do you recognize any of that person's characteristics in your own life? Why or why not?
8. Until you can clearly name your loss or shattered dream, you cannot expect to find release or healing. We've learned the first step toward healing is to put a name on that experience or feeling. So with your loss or shattered dream in your mind and heart, consider these questions:
How will you clearly state the loss or shattered dream?
What were your missed expectations?
Why do you think this dream shattered or you suffered this loss?
How much time has passed since you first felt this loss? Does being separated from the pain for longer periods of time help to blunt the feelings and sense of loss?
Do you feel that God didn't answer your prayers?
Do you feel that some good has come from your loss? If so, describe the good you have experienced.
9. We jumped right into the deep end with this session, so you have earned a bit of a breather. Take a moment to consider what we have shared with each other tonight, and then share with the group something that has touched you or helped you in a particular way, and why.
10. Share with the group a specific prayer request relating to or triggered by what you've shared and learned together.
Lord, I live in a broken world full of broken people. But I know that in you I will find the whole and complete healing I need. Help me to name my shattered dreams so I can experience the help and healing you have for me. I desperately need your healing in my Plan B moments. And I thank you for the reality that you show up in unexpected ways and provide as I could never have imagined. Please go with me and the rest of my group throughout this week. Help each of us identify the loss and healing we will encounter in ourselves and others each day. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.
DAY BY DAY
In our session 1 discussion, we faced the reality that everyone needs healing. Reading the Psalms is kind of like entering into the hearts and minds of the writers as they share their innermost thoughts and feelings. They cry out to God in joy and praise, but also in confusion and despair. Even David, a man after God's own heart, experienced moments when he felt God was nowhere to be found.
Psalm 22:1-2: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? / You seem far from saving me, / far away from my groans. / My God, I call to you during the day, / but you do not answer. / I call at night; / I am not silent.
Psalm 22:24: [God] does not ignore those in trouble. / He doesn't hide from them / but listens when they call out to him.
Psalm 22:30-31: The people in the future will serve him; / they will always be told about the Lord. / They will tell that he does what is right. / People who are not yet born / will hear what God has done.
Even David had moments when he felt God was distant and removed from his pain. And David wasn't the only one who felt this seeming separation from God. The first few lines of this psalm were uttered by Jesus himself during his agonizing moments on the cross. Jesus felt the pain of separation and cried out to the Father asking why he felt so far away. But the psalm doesn't end with Jesus' question. Instead, a little later in the psalm, we find that David was able to encourage his soul as he remembered the truth about God.
Even though David experienced times of doubt, pain, and insecurity in his walk with God, he still found the faith to believe that, regardless of his feelings and fears, God was listening, not hiding. God was present and involved, not distant and detached. David's heartfelt psalm that began with such confusion and pain actually ends with a positive look toward the future.
Many of us can identify with David. We find ourselves in situations that bewilder us, and we feel as if God has abandoned us. But just as we identify with David in his pain and confusion, can we also identify with him in his trust in God despite the circumstances? Can we learn to experience hope for the future in the midst of our present pain? By following the powerful pattern we see in David's psalm, we can begin to see ourselves, God, and our Plan B from a different perspective. Maybe, just maybe, we too can validate the pain of our cur- rent situation while still being able to see a positive future.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
* When was the last time you felt your cries to God went unheard and unanswered? Do you feel that way right now?
* In what ways can you find encouragement in knowing that Christ can identify with your pain and confusion?
* Why is it important to look toward the future as David did in Psalm 22?
* What positive element about your future can you identify right now?
Psalm 69:1-3: God, save me, / because the water has risen to my neck. / I'm sinking down into the mud, / and there is nothing to stand on. / I am in deep water, / and the flood covers me. / I am tired from calling for help; / my throat is sore. / My eyes are tired from waiting / for God to help me.
Psalm 69:13-17: But I pray to you, Lord, for favor. / God, because of your great love, answer me. / You are truly able to save. / Pull me from the mud, / and do not let me sink. / Save me from those who hate me / and from the deep water. / Do not let the fl ood drown me / or the deep water swallow me / or the grave close its mouth over me. / Lord, answer me because your love is so good. / Because of your great kindness, turn to me. / Do not hide from me, your servant. / I am in trouble. Hurry to help me!
In Psalm 69, we find David in a situation that should sound familiar to many of us. David felt overwhelmed, as though he were drowning. His throat was sore from crying out and his eyes were weary from searching for answers. David was not sugarcoating his circumstances; he was exhausted, confused, and in need of help. He didn't put on a happy face and try to hide it, but he also didn't thrash around in the floodwaters until they consumed him. Instead, he reached out to God in the midst of his overwhelming reality.
David again did his best to believe that God was bigger than his emotions. It was that belief that caused David to cry out to God in his vulnerability and beg God to save him—and quickly. We can do that too. We don't have to pretend everything is okay. We can cry out to God in our vulnerability; we can beg him to save us. Even when we don't understand, we can look beyond our circumstances just enough to say, "I am in trouble. Hurry to help me!"
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
* Can you relate to David's feeling of drowning in his circumstances? What circumstances have threatened (or are threatening) to drown you?
* Are you surprised at David's honesty toward God? Why or why not?
* How can having the freedom to call out to God honestly, as David did, change the way you deal with life when your Plan A doesn't work out?
Psalm 31:9–12: Lord, have mercy, because I am in misery. / My eyes are weak from so much crying, / and my whole being is tired from grief. / My life is ending in sadness, / and my years are spent in crying. / My troubles are using up my strength, / and my bones are getting weaker. / Because of all my troubles, my enemies hate me, / and even my neighbors look down on me. / When my friends see me, / they are afraid and run. / I am like a piece of a broken pot. I am forgotten as if I were dead. Psalm 31:21–22: Praise the Lord. / His love to me was wonderful / when my city was attacked. / In my distress, I said, / "God cannot see me!" / But you heard my prayer / when I cried out to you for help.
Psalm 31:24: All you who put your hope in the Lord / be strong and brave.
This psalm may represent the most tired and truly depressed moment we've experienced with David so far. He had cried so much his eyes ached; his body was filled with grief; he was afraid that not only would he die but he would spend his last moments in tears. He felt weak in every possible way; and on top of all that, he felt that everyone else in the world either hated, looked down on, feared, or had simply forgotten him. Real pain. Real sadness. Real life. David was filled with more questions than answers. But as we've seen in David's other psalms, this shattered moment was not the end.
Looking back, David remembered God had never failed to come to his aid whenever he cried out, even when it didn't seem probable or even possible. When David recalled God's faithfulness in the past, he experienced renewed hope for the future, even in the face of the most depressing and seemingly hopeless circumstance.
David didn't trust in himself to discover hope for the future. Rather, he turned to what he knew to be true about God. He looked at God's faithfulness and not just his own circumstances. This new perspective gave him the strength he needed, and David encouraged us to do the same.
There is freedom in the realization that we simply can't depend on our own strength. Instead, we can rely on the strength and faithfulness of God. We can recall his steadfast love throughout our lives, focus on his never-changing character, and hold on tightly to the promises that are ours in him, even in the midst of the most challenging situation.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
* Have you ever reached a point of brokenness when you felt out of strength, out of tears, and alone in the world? How did you get there?
* How does changing your focus from the reality of your situation to the reality of God's faithfulness help you find strength and hope for the future?
Psalm 13:1–4: How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever? / How long will you hide from me? / How long must I worry / and feel sad in my heart all day? / How long will my enemy win over me? / Lord, look at me. / Answer me, my God; / tell me, or I will die. / Otherwise my enemy will say, "I have won!" / Those against me will rejoice that I've been defeated.
Psalm 13:5–6: I trust in your love. / My heart is happy because you saved me. / I sing to the Lord / because he has taken care of me.
Isn't it true that the more we read the Psalms, the clearer it is that Plan B situations are all too common? In this psalm, once again David was worried and sad. His mind was completely preoccupied with all of his troubles. He was dealing with enemies and defeat and just wanted God to look at him. He knew God was his only hope—not only to survive enemy attacks but even just to live his true life. But as always, David was ready to embrace Plan B in the midst of his reality and need for healing.
The idea of singing to God in the midst of our Plan B may not seem very realistic. But when we begin to see the love of God, it is overwhelming and life changing. In the midst of shattered dreams and broken lives, we can still trust in that love. And that trust can be the very thing that will flip our perspective, even to the point of rejoicing. I'm not suggesting that trust is a magical cure that can turn our circumstances into sunshine and roses. But the new light that trust can shed on things can reveal a strength and hope we had forgotten was there.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
* Can you identify with the constant worry and sadness that David expressed in this psalm? In what way?
* Do you find it encouraging that one of the most famous people in the Bible had times when he felt he would die if God didn't answer him? If so, in what way? If not, why not?
* How do you think David was able to find his trust in God's love? What steps can you take to move toward this kind of trust?
Psalm 142:1–3: I cry out to the Lord; / I pray to the Lord for mercy. / I pour out my problems to him; / I tell him my troubles. / When I am afraid, / you, Lord, know the way out.
In session 1, we discussed how we need to name and face our shattered dreams and loss in order to move beyond them. We do that by being honest with God about what we're facing and by sharing it with people who care. David cried out to God and prayed for mercy. But he didn't stop there. He poured out his whole heart to God. He faced and named his loss. He told God his troubles, in spite of his fear. David didn't make light of his situation or pretend that his brokenness didn't hurt. David felt pain, loss, confusion, and despair, just like we do. David faced more than one Plan B in his life. Some of these situations were brought on by his own actions and some by the actions of others. David knew the reality that he needed healing, and he also knew the reality that God is the Healer, even when nothing seems to make sense.
Let's determine to face up to our Plan B situations, to name them, and to realize that our lives are in his hands and we can trust his plan, even when it seems crazy.
Realizing that we're not alone in our need for healing can be such a source of encouragement. Your small group is a community who understands your pain. You can share each other's pain, even when it's hard. God can and will use each of you to strengthen one another.
Excerpted from PUTTING PLAN B INTO ACTION by PETE WILSON Copyright © 2011 by Pete Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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