By Donna Hughey

Believers sometimes think if they are obedient to God and follow his will then their life will have a positive outcome and they’ll be successful. And although the definition of success varies widely among individuals, it can mean anything from a great job with a lot of money to finding the perfect spouse.

Of course we all know the basic life rule: good decisions lead to good outcomes and bad decisions lead to bad outcomes. And if we follow God’s will, then the outcome will be positive.

But at times, a bad outcome can come from a good decision. God does not guarantee our success just because we follow his will or because we make the correct decision.

To understand this better, let’s examine a popular verse believers sometimes hang on to while making choices or even while suffering:

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 TLB).

We often read this verse and apply it to whatever we’re facing. We might say to ourselves, “God has a plan that’s so good for me that soon, very soon, I will prosper.” But this is not at all what God was promising the Israelites in this verse.

Let’s look at the context of the verse: The Israelites were in exile because of disobedience. They cried out to God and wanted to go home. They wanted their suffering to end. But God’s plan was for them to stay and to help prosper the nation that enslaved them (Jeremiah 29:7). In fact, God tells them they will spend an additional seventy years in exile (Jeremiah 29:10).

But it didn’t end there. God continues and says that he knows the plans he has for them, and they are good, future plans. He reminds them that even though they suffer, he has not forgotten them, but they will not see immediate results concerning their exile.

Just like the Israelites, many believers today want to know the plans God has for them and they want immediate results. But Jeremiah reminds us that sometimes our present situation — even an unpleasant one — can actually be a part of God’s plan that will help us in the long run.

We need to keep in mind that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not his ways (Isaiah 55:8) and because of this, his plans may not necessarily line up with our own.

Take the apostle Paul for instance. He suffered even though he followed God’s will. Also the apostle John — he was exiled according to God’s will. And let’s not forget about Jesus — it was God’s will that he be crucified. All these examples prove that unpleasant situations are sometimes a part of God’s plan — a plan where good can and will prosper even when we don’t understand how.

But thinking our obedience to God guarantees a perfect life is a mistake. In fact, Scripture teaches the direct opposite (Matthew 10:22; John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12).

So the bottom line is this: unpleasant situations are sometimes a part of God’s plan, even when we can’t see or understand the end result.

Therefore, while we may not lead an easy life here on earth, don’t forget God’s future promise to all his followers — the guarantee that one day we will stand in his presence for all eternity surrounded by pure love, joy and happiness (John 3:16; 1 John 5:13).

And that’s the best plan of all.

Donna Hughey is an award-winning Christian author and columnist. She lives in Crescent City.