Suffering: Plan A or Plan B?

Nancy Guthrie, a well-known author, knows suffering, death, and anguish. She and her husband experienced the death of two of their children, both at six months of age but three years apart. She has written serveral books addressing the topic from various perspectives. If you haven’t read some of them, you will be rewarded if you do. Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow are excellent for an introduction to Nancy, her family, and suffering/pain.

As part of my reflective reading each day, I have started reading a book that she edited in 2009, Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purposes and Provision in Suffering. She selected 25 writers throughout Christian history who tackle suffering. The authors range from Joni Earickson Tada to R. C. Sproul, from John Newton to Martin Luther, from St. Augustine to Corrie ten Boom.

Today I read what Joni had written about “God’s Plan A.” In the midst of trials and suffering, we sometimes think that accidents like hers catch God unawares and so he has to come up with a Plan B, because Plan A was just ruined. Not so, says Joni.

But I have to remember that the core of God’s plan is to rescue me from sin, even up to my dying breath. My pain and discomfort are not his ultimate focus. He cares about these things, but they are merely symptoms of the real problem. God cares most, not about making my life happy, healthy, and free of trouble, but about teaching me to hate my transgressions and to keep me growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. God lets me continue to feel sin’s sting through suffering while I’m heading for heaven, constantly reminding me of what I am being delivered from, exposing sin for the poison it is.

(God’s Perspective on Suffering, p. 34)

Powerful words that leave us no wiggle room to “adjust” God’s plan so that we can be “happy.” Joni then concludes:

One day God will close the curtain on evil and, with it, all suffering and sorrow. Until then, I’ll keep remembering something else Steve Estes [mentor and friend] told me as he rested his hand on my wheelchair: “God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” I can smile knowing that God is accomplishing what he loves in my life—Christ in me, the hope of glory. And this is no Plan B for my life, but his good and loving Plan A.

(God’s Perspective on Suffering, p. 34)

Am I rejoicing in God’s Plan A? Or have I been living in a dream world thinking that “if only…” which becomes “my Plan A and it better be God’s Plan B, because look at what happened to God’s Plan A”?

Reflective reading? Yes! Exposing reading? Absolutely! Christ-directed reading? Again absolutely!


Guthrie, Nancy. Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering : 25 Classic and Contemporary Readings on the Problem of Pain. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2010.

Guthrie, Nancy. Hearing Jesus Speak Into Your Sorrow. Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2009.

Guthrie, Nancy. Holding on to Hope: A Pathway Through Suffering to the Heart of God. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2002.

Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian

2 thoughts on “Suffering: Plan A or Plan B?”

  1. “God cares most, not about making my life happy, healthy, and free of trouble, but about teaching me to hate my transgressions and to keep me growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. ”

    yes, a hard and scary lesson. A scary lesson.. when what you fear most is that suffering and trial… and then you realize your fears need adjusting too, just like your love.

    he is a consuming fire.
    But He is good.


    1. Thanks, Emily. As I wrote this post, of course, my own experiences bear on it, but I thought of you, too, and several others. Indeed, it seems that hind sight gives us a better perspective. But suffering also challenges me to examine my (I can’t speak for anyone else) fears so that I might live by faith, not by fear. “Am I living in light of fear or faith?” Sometimes I don’t want to answer that because of what I might spill out from my heart.


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