There is a plan… even if it’s not yours


 “I will only find peace when I surrender.”


Today’s first reading from Ecclesiastes probably sounds familiar, whether you’ve heard it at a funeral or from The Byrds.

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build…

It’s a mixed bag; it is somehow encouraging and cold at the same time. Of the fourteen pairs, we want only the better half. We want to be born but not to die. We want to plant, heal, build, laugh, and dance. Who desires those other things? Can’t we avoid those? And shouldn’t our obedience to a loving God merit for us that we avoid them?

But that’s not the way life works. There is rending, not just sewing. There is weeping and silence and war.

How do we grapple with that? How do we come to peace with the idea that these terrible things in life are not only unavoidable but also often unexplainable?

Ecclesiastes reminds us that these things are going to be present in all our lives. While we don’t know what the proper time for each is, God does. It is not that God created a giant puzzle for us to discern, and now He’s laughing up in heaven watching us try to figure it out.  It’s not that God is purposely hiding things from us because He wants us to suffer or be confused or anxious. Rather, it is a reason to trust. For “we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

There will be laughing, but also weeping. And perhaps we’ll find ourselves in the weeping stage of life much longer than we desire. We can still rest in the faith and trust that everything is in His hands.

We can only see things one at a time. Generally, we are staring at individual events of life. It is as if we are looking at the back of a beautiful tapestry. All we can do is concentrate on the separate threads, which are either completely tangled up or downright disconnected from each other. God, on the other hand, sees the other side of the tapestry –and the individual threads become one beautiful image.

God knows the end of the story. We are stuck in the middle. If there is weeping, God will eventually dry the tears. If there is suffering, God will eventually make us laugh. We don’t know when or how. But God will right the wrongs … in His time.

It’s hard for us to accept that. We want to control, grasp, and steer the ship. But there is a time for everything. And it’s not our time. It’s God’s.

Perhaps that means we need to sit with the tears, the death, the uprooting, the scattering, and the silence a bit longer. Perhaps that is best for us right now.

The hard message of Ecclesiastes is that not only are these things present in life, but ultimately some of these things will actually be good for us. That’s the mystery of suffering, the age-old “problem of evil,” that has kept so many from belief in a loving God. How can all of this happen in the world – happen to me – if God is good? And how can suffering and evil be transformed into goodness?

This passage from Ecclesiastes find its fulfilment in the Cross, when the killing brought healing, the tearing down brought building up. The scattering and death of the cornerstone brought the gathering of the nations, the war against the Evil One brought peace.

Ultimately, I have to admit that I don’t know the plan of God, nor do I know His timing. But I do know that He is a loving Father. I can trust that there is an appointed time. He knows the plan. And I will only find peace when I surrender.

How can I surrender today?


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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