The Plan

In times of vulnerability there is nothing more comforting than to be told there is a plan. I remember so well the first few days following the discovery of my daughter Colette’s brain tumor. Within twenty-four hours of first medical contact, we had fallen from “This may be bad acid reflux…” to “some kind of seizure…” to a cyst on the brain to finally a large, life-threatening tumor. It felt as if we were being led deeper and deeper into the darkness. There in the blackness, how welcome it was to hear the calm, clear directions of those wiser than us. How beautiful to be told there was a plan. There was a path forward. The medical team offered no guarantee, but they offered us a plan. We grasped at the plan and clung to it as a talisman against all evil.

What’s in a Plan

The plan became everything to me. It was the goal. It was the hope. Colette would have the surgery. She would go through six rounds of chemotherapy. She would have three bone marrow transplants. She would have radiation. We would follow the plan. She would live. I would survive.

And so, without realizing what I was doing, I prayed to God but hoped in the plan. Like a lowly citizen taking comfort within mighty castle walls, I loved to run my hands over the details of the plan. Surely, God would use these things – this chemo, these surgeries, this radiation — surely, He will use these things to destroy the evil that is destroying her. Surely the walls of the castle were thick enough. Surely the battlements secure.

To Hope in the Plan

Little did I realize my subtle idolatry. Little did I recognize the quiet misplacement of my hope. Little do we all. For there is truly a very thin line between utilizing a treatment plan and placing one’s hope in it. It is a very difficult thing to spend your days striving for therapy goals without making the tasks your ultimate goal. Very few know how to be poured out and spent for their child’s healing and progress all while steadying their heart to the rhythm of “Thy Will be done in this… and this… and this…” I certainly did not.

What About Unplanned Detours?

I first woke to my misplaced hope when we hit our first delay in the treatment plan. We had set off early in the morning for Colette’s routine lab work prior to her hospital admission and the initiation of the third round of chemotherapy. We returned home several hours later. No admission. Round three on hold. Colette’s blood counts weren’t high enough to begin another round of chemo. It was just after Christmas, and I remember sitting by my kitchen window with Colette sleeping next to me in her carrier. All the bags we had packed for the hospital were in a pile surrounding us.

I felt sick. Defeated. Afraid. Fighting tears, I saw with clarity what I had not seen up to that point. I saw for the first time that my hope had been in the plan. My hope for healing, for wholeness, for peace, for life was in the plan. I needed to see every item ticked off the list. I needed every treatment on time, every drop of chemo pushed, every day of radiation completed. No one had told me this. No doctor had suggested that a perfectly executed plan would create a perfect outcome, and yet I had made it my hope. It was to be my savior, my deliverer. As I sat there, I felt the security of my castle walls give way.

Misplaced Hope

This is typically how we come to recognize subtle idolatry. We find our idols when our hearts give way – when they have failed us. We realize we’ve made an idol out of a physician when that physician leaves the practice, and we can’t sleep for worry about how this will affect our child’s future. We realize we’ve made an idol out of a particular therapy or program when the sessions are cut or our child is replaced, and we rage and fear.

When we begin to see anyone or anything as the source of hope or healing for our child, we have created an idol. When we begin to see the instruments that God uses for our child’s good as the source of good themselves, we have created an idol. When our hopes and dreams for the future rise and fall on anything other than God, we have created an idol. You see idolatry, though an antiquated term, is still very much alive and very much a threat to loving parents desperate for security.

Seeking Solutions in the Plan

On that winter day, I began to see and to fight the subtle sin of idolatry in my battle for Colette. Again and again, my hope would have to be shifted from the plan, from the things created, to the God Who both planned and created. As the treatment plan continued to deviate and therapies alter, I continued to use my soul as an indicator of Who or what I was trusting in. When plans were changed and my soul let out a wail of despair I knew my hope had shifted from God to the plan; when plans changed yet my spirit remained calm, I knew my hope was rightly fixed on God.

You see, the plan, the treatments, the therapies, the medications, the doctors are not the problem.They are the gifts. The problem is always our hearts and the direction our hearts are turning for hope. When I knelt before the plan, straining and striving to follow and keep it, it had become my god, my castle walls, my deliver. It was my hope, and oh, what a feeble hope it turned out to be.

In the end, the treatment plan failed me. It was a castle wall made of sand. All the comfort, the assurance it once offered me in the end came to nothing for the plan had no power to deliver. No plan ever does. No idol ever does.

Seeking God’s Plan

But my God, I learned, would not fail. He had a plan all His own – a plan involving great love in the midst of great pain. He became to me the strong tower that never waivered, the comfort, the assurance, the hope that held. He held even as the darkness deepened. He held even when life was gone. He delivered. All I feared came, but what I dreaded the fear would bring did not. My daughter, though far from me, is every day drawing nearer. She is well. She is whole. She is delivered. She is joy. I, though wounded, am whole. I am well. I am at peace. I am delivered. I have, still in my soul, joy. He delivered. He gave to me what no idol could ever give. He gave security. He gave assurances. He gave me thick walls to lean my troubled soul upon. And He, even now, whispers daily the promise of sorrow put right – a plan that is still to come. All will be well.

Placing Your Hope in His Love

You see, when He warns His children, “Flee idolatry!” He speaks not in petulant jealousy. He speaks in earnest love. Abandoned castles that offer no security. Desert hopes that have no power to deliver. Turn from all dreams, all promises, all plans that cannot uphold.

My friends, He bids you tenderly, placing your hope in His love alone. Entrust your dreams to Him. Place in His hands the care of your sweet child. Know that He has both the power and love to uphold you both. He will be your rock of defense, your high tower, your refuge and your deliverer. Set your hope on Him.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.”
Proverbs 18:10

If you are seeking support through prayer, please visit our Prayers for You page. We invite you to allow us to pray for you… for your heartache, for your family, for your future or whatever is pressing down on your soul today.