It’s baseball season. Or at least it should be baseball season. Since COVID-19 arrived, we’ve seen the unraveling of professional sports, church gatherings, live concerts, and events. Plans have shifted, leaders have pivoted strategies, and the future still seems foggy.
I mention baseball because a phrase is often used when plans don’t go our way: “Life has thrown you a curveball.” This phrase has never seemed more appropriate than it does right now.
Several years ago when I was serving on a church staff, I remember my student pastor often telling us, “Life may throw us a curveball. We just have to learn how to hit them when they come our way.”
As a leader, maybe you feel this way in our current context. Your past plans were quickly erased, your current plans seem to change daily, and your future plans are one big question mark. How can you plan when it seems you can’t plan? How can you lead when it feels like people are throwing wild pitches in your direction and you’re swinging aimlessly, hoping that something will connect and move you forward?
Whenever I’m faced with various circumstances, I often consider the narratives of
Scripture. Learning from our biblical heroes, I often seek answers from both their successes and their failures. While considering how to plan in these uncertain times, I’ve been reminded of Joseph’s life and what we can glean from Genesis 37–50. In many ways, Joseph had a lot of curveballs thrown his way, but as he faced each one, we see God’s sovereign hand and Joseph’s leadership in the midst of a difficult and unknown future for his family, for Egypt, and for the surrounding countries.
In light of planning when we can’t plan, what can we glean from Joseph’s leadership? Here are a few thoughts for consideration:
First, trust that the Lord is with you and He has not forgotten you. One of my life verses is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight” (CSB). These words were penned long after Joseph’s life, but in Genesis 39 we are reminded that the Lord was with Joseph. He was not forgotten—both in the good times and in the bad. I’m sure Joseph didn’t understand why he was sold into slavery or thrown in prison after being falsely accused by Potipher’s wife, but even when Joseph couldn’t see God’s plan, God was near.
Sometimes trusting the Lord with your plans is waiting on Him. Waiting is a consistent theme throughout Scripture, and Joseph had his share of waiting. Are you in a season of waiting in the midst of not being able to plan? Even though waiting is difficult, God’s activity hasn’t ceased. He is still actively working even when we can’t see what’s ahead. Will you trust Him each day and submit your plans to Him?
Second, make the best plans you can with the information you have. Consider the people you shepherd or lead. Joseph was given insight from the dreams of Pharaoh that there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Genesis 41 describes Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams. He told Pharaoh, “The reason the dream was
given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon” (v. 32, NIV). Joseph made plans based on what God had instructed. He helped fortify the crops during the seven years of plenty, and when famine struck, he was prepared.
God probably won’t give you dreams of the future, but He has given you a roadmap in Scripture. Seek wisdom each day as you lean into the Lord and in His Word. Seek wise counsel from other leaders. Be a leader who continues to learn and make the best plans you can with the information you have each day.
Third, be flexible with your plans. Over the past three months, I have been faced with adjustments in my plans and forced to consider new strategies. Each day has brought new challenges, and I have had to make difficult decisions in short periods of time. I’ve had to hold plans loosely because I know they can change—again. While much of my work includes teaching at events and traveling, I have pivoted those plans to figuring out how to record myself on video, how to plan a digital event in a short amount of time, and how to connect with leaders through the screen of my laptop.
Would I rather be at a live event? Absolutely. But in some ways, I have been pushed to be flexible and to initiate new forms of leadership in a short amount of time. My former plans to make changes were almost instantly called into action. As I continue to think about the future and how to plan for the coming year, I’m also keenly aware that I must be flexible and consider all the possible options. As leadership guru Carey Nieuwhof recently said, “Crisis is the cradle of innovation.”1 As a leader, learn how to be flexible and consider how the unknown has helped you be more innovative and creative.
Finally, trust that God will work all things together to accomplish His purposes. I’m sure there were moments in Joseph’s life when he questioned how good could come out of terrible circumstances. I’m sure when he planned to store food for the people of Egypt, he had no idea that he would be saving his own family and the nation of Israel. Yet God used both the planned and the unexpected circumstances of Joseph’s life for His purposes. One of the most beautiful verses in Genesis 50 is verse 20, when Joseph told his brothers, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people” (CSB).
God can use our plans—or the plans we are struggling to make—for His good and for His glory. Paul reminded us in Philippians 1:6: “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (CSB). As you seek the Lord in your future plans, trust in Him and start swinging at the curveballs that come your way. You can learn how to hit them.
Kelly D. King is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for Lifeway Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide for Leading Women in the Local Church. You can hear Kelly at Lifeway’s You Lead events that are held in several cities around the country or listen to her co-host the Marked Podcast with Elizabeth Hyndman.
Carey Nieuwhof, “4 Ways to Quickly (And Unintentionally) Stop Your Innovation Curve and Miss the Future,” CareyNieuwhof.com, 2020, accessed June 8, 2020, https://careynieuwhof.com/4-ways-to-quickly-and-unintentionally-stop-your-innovation-curve-and-miss-the-future/.