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What to do When Things Don’t Go to Plan

What to do When Things Don’t Go to Plan

Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but things don’t always go to plan. We wish they did. We think they should. But sometimes, they don’t.

So, what should you do, when things don’t go to plan?


1.  “Failure” is a Biblical Concept

Somewhere along the line, we got to thinking that success means that we’re in God’s will, and failure means that, well … we’ve failed God. And our definition of success, all too often, is that we’re successful when things are going according to plan. Our plan.

But look at these two Scriptures about the ministry plans of the Apostle Paul:

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. (Acts 16:6)

For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did again and again – but Satan blocked our way. (1 Thess 2:18)

So one time he wants to go to Asia, but the Holy Spirit changes his plans. Another time he wants to go to Thessalonica, but this time Satan thwarts his plans. Things didn’t always go to plan for Paul either.

In fact, consider Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Job … any number of the Prophets … the disciples … the list goes on. Time and time again, we see that things didn’t go to plan.

So at what point did we lose the idea that things not going to plan, that the circuitous route, is in fact an unmistakable biblical reality and truth? At what point did our plan become the yardstick for success or failure, above and beyond God’s plan?


2. God’s Plan Rocks

Whilst you and I would prefer to travel from A to B by the shortest possible route (preferably business or first class) God’s sovereign plan more often than not involves challenges, trials, failures and disappointments along the way. That’s why our salvation only came by Jesus travelling through Gethsemane and Calvary. Think about it. Hanging there on the Cross, Jesus looked like the biggest failure, the biggest loser in all of history … from a human standpoint.

Yet right there in the middle of that “failure”, He won the greatest victory of all time!

Worldly success is great – we all want to succeed at what we do. But that sort of success is not necessarily the prime indicator that we are indeed, in the will of God. Ask Joseph. Ask Job. Ask Jesus.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Prov 16:9)

In other words, it’s great to plan. We should plan. But the final execution amidst circumstances that are all too often beyond our control, those are in the Lord’s hands. And sometimes He has quite different plans to ours. What seems like failure to us, is not necessarily failure to Him. And it doesn’t always have to make sense:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my your ways my ways” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9)


3.  A Case Study

CW WebsiteFour years ago, we here at Christianityworks set about building a new website – our old one had been going since 2004, it was time for a major refresh. We engaged some Christian developers who quite simply failed – after three and a half years – to deliver a working solution.

I’m not well acquainted with failure I have to tell you and I was gutted. We’d “wasted” all that time and some money for nothing (or so it seemed). It tore the stuffing out of me because my business mind told me that the opportunity cost to the ministry was massive.

But then a generous supporter, who by the way had given some funds to the first, “failed” project, stepped forward to underwrite our second crack at it.

He is a “successful” businessman who, like those biblical figures I mentioned earlier has been through his tests, trials and “failures” over the years. Over coffee he said something to me that I will never forget: Things don’t always go the way you’d planned.

It’s obvious. I know we know it. And yet, right then, I needed to hear it. (As Nicky Gumble says, a moment of encouragement during a failure, is worth more than an hour of praise after success). 

Friday week ago, the new website went live – by God’s grace and thanks to the brilliant work of our new developers, Brown Box. It’s better than anything we could ever have dreamed up four years earlier. And … here’s the really important bit.

Four years ago, mobile access to websites simply wasn’t an issue. Remember, iPhones were small and slow, the first iPad wasn’t launched until April 2010 and Androids hadn’t been thought of.  Whereas today, over half our web access comes from smartphones and tablets – a number that’s growing daily.

And so the fist site that we had started to build way back then wasn’t based on “responsive design” technology which these days automatically scales the site for mobile devices, whereas the site we launched the week before last … is.

It turns out that God had a plan after all. And He taught us a few lessons about success and failure along the way. Remember things don’t always go the way you’d planned. 




  1. This is a timely blog, it is a big eye opener as i am a planner of how i want things to go my way, i have learnt’ that the end result is not up to me. thank you!

  2. Thanks Berni for blogging again. You ask questions that are highly relevant to our existence and walk with God , and yet no else does. The best part is your biblical and personal experience based answers that address the issue so well. You are truly God’s man for this day and age. Please blog as time permits.

  3. Thanks Berni. The best is yet to be! It may seem a little cliche but God’s timing is perfect. Its just that we try to make it happen or plan for it. For us that are naturally perfectionistic and don’t like failure and like to plan things out God has much to teach us about failure and dependency on Him totally. Faith requires us surrendering our wills to Him and taking small steps when prompted by the Holy Spirit without being able to see too far in front. Psalm 119.105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. When we relinquish all to Him the result in the long run will be blessing from God but in his timing and not ours and not always as we expected.
    Keep planning as I believe it is still important to plan but relinquish all to him in prayer daily and the prompting of His Holy Spirit as I am sure happens.
    God bless the ministry of Christianityworks for I believe it is God breathed into a desperate and needy world.

  4. From someone who is used to failure… Don’t stress too much, it gets better. The important thing is to fail fast, so you can move on to other projects which may be successful.

    • Josh – you’re right – better to fail quickly than slowly! 🙂 I’ll try to remember that. The first attempt at our new website was a very, very slow failure indeed. It was like death by a thousand cuts.

  5. Thanks Berni. I spent 4 years slogging away at a Social Work Degree full time, amassing a fortune in student debt – I studied Social Work for God and to help God’s children. Imagine my initial shock and horror when without real experience I could only get employment in a Disability Employment Office – which is looked down upon by the Social Work Fraternity and Profession. Over the last 4 years of adjusting to this career path and vocation and laden with debt – I suddenly realized why God put me here. The employment offices which deal with the mentally ill, the severely marginalized, the severely disabled and vulnerable – need Social Workers – not unqualified people without awareness, lived experience or empathy and who solely want employment vacancies to fill quotas and KPI’s. I realized through the guidance of Jesus that the Social Work Fraternity and attitude to Disability Employment had it wrong. I hadn’t failed at all. And God is never wrong about the path he leads us into. Your Blog only helped me qualify that our perspective of failure is tainted. For God there are no failures in life when trying to do your best to serve him!! I’m nearly out of debt now, over my pervasive sense of failure, eating properly thanks to you, losing weight like no tomorrow – and best of all, satisfied, happy and moving in God’s will.

    • What a GREAT insight – our perspective of failure is tainted!. Praise the Lord that you followed Him into the place where He has called you to be! 🙂

  6. Good to have you blogging again Berni. This blog is so relevant for all professional and business people especially those with MBAs. With all the brains behind the planning of the banking world we had the Global Financial Crisis. With all the planning of the top qualified executives we have massive corporate failures. The MBA curriculum should include a spiritual component in addition to the ethic component.

    • Nick

      now there’s an interesting thought – a spiritual component to an MBA!! One of the key reasons that so many things have gone wrong, is because markets and businesses are driven by fear and greed.


  7. What I have discovered lately….if I am confronted with plans that present confusion or an unsettling feeling that can turn things upside down or upside up??? I find by praying seriously and honestly about it first is quite remarkable. The changes to my outcomes is noticed by how ‘Our God’ works in mysterious ways….Thanks for your prayers Bernie, my brother’s wife was granted her visa to Australia when all hope was just about lost. The timing was right after all.

  8. I love when God steps in and makes our plans His plans.Sometimes that means he has to change our plans, and we don’t always understand why until much later. But when His plans are completed, we stand back gobsmacked at how things “just worked out.” What a great God we have! Love the new website, Berni!

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