A change of plans

This is the view from an airplane.
This is the view from an airplane.

Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

Having retired at Christmas from my work in Belfast, my husband and I along with my sister and her husband decided to book a holiday, flying from Dublin Airport on the 2nd March.

Living on a busy farm, retirement is very different from ‘normal’ and very soon my days were filled with lots of things to do, so I was looking forward to having a break.

As our holiday approached we began to hear about the ‘Beast from the East’ and ‘Storm Emma’, so we decided to spend the night before our flight close to the airport. As we drove out of the yard our son was placing heaters in the milking parlour to prevent the pipes from freezing and his wife, who was having a ‘snow day’ from school, was ferrying buckets of water to young stock whose water had already frozen.

We arrived safely at the hotel and then - yes, you guessed it - our flight was cancelled, so instead of jetting off to Miami the next day we made the journey back home. The break from the farm was very short - we definitely had a change to our plans!

I started to think of people in the Bible who had a change made to their plans. Saul, for example, a zealous Jew and Roman citizen was determined to kill as many Christians as possible following the crucifixion of Jesus.

We read in Acts chapter 9:3-6, “As he [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ He replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” He obeyed Jesus’ commands, became a believer and his life was transformed. He was subsequently known as the Apostle Paul.

I am often challenged by Job’s reaction to how his life plans were completely changed. When he lost his family, workers, livestock, crops and even his health he still kept his faith and continued to worship God. “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship...In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:20, 22).

The disappointment of losing a holiday is of little significance, but as we journey through life we can face a range of upsetting circumstances. When difficulties arise, we don’t always have clear explanations for the reasons why we suffer. However, we are promised in the Bible that God will be with us through every challenge.

He hasn’t promised to take away our problems, but He has promised to give us Himself and shape us into His image. In Psalm 23 verse 4 we read these comforting words, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Just as Jesus appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road and brought Job through horrendous times, He is asking us all to examine our priorities in life, to surrender our lives to Him and trust Him in every situation - even when our plans change.

Charlotte Stevenson farms with her husband, Jim and son, James, near Kilkeel in County Down. She is a member of Mourne Presbyterian.

Last Christmas Charlotte retired, having worked at the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Assembly Buildings in Belfast for a number of years.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at khanna@presbyterianireland.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.