Our Plan or God's Plan?

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Elijah and Elisha, Guidance, Obedience, Perseverance, Putting God First

Being able to plan, to lay out the steps necessary to achieve a goal, is essential for success. We plan vacations, education, budgets, career paths, holiday gatherings, daily activities, and on and on. And it’s absolutely vital! But what happens if we get caught up in planning—if we outline every little detail, leaving no wiggle room and become wedded to those plans? What happens if our plans don’t go as planned? How do we respond? Do we become rigid and inflexible? If so, will we miss some incredible opportunities—opportunities for growth, for business, for connection, for love, for healing?

The story of Naaman in the Old Testament is a story of a man who had to give up his human plan to listen to God’s plan. And we can do the same thing. We’re not alone if we have a rough time when our plans are disturbed. But we don’t have to stress or let it ruin our joy or our lives. We can be flexible. We can be open. It’s possible. Naaman is proof.

Naaman, the commander of the Aramean/Syrian army, knew how to plan. He knew how to win. So his king valued him highly. As the story goes, Naaman had a skin disease, leprosy in many Bible translations. His wife’s servant girl suggested that he go see the prophet in Samaria who could heal him. Now this girl had been captured during one of Naaman’s raids of Israel. Why would she want her mistress’s husband, the man who was responsible for her slavery, to be healed? Did she have great love? Did she see something more in Naaman?

Naaman had planned out his entire trip. He went to the king of Israel with gold, silver, new clothes, and a letter from his king asking the king of Israel to heal him. Well, Naaman’s meeting with the king of Israel didn’t go as planned. The king was offended, angry, so distraught that he tore his clothes, and worried that the Syrians were trying to start a fight because he certainly couldn’t heal Naaman. When Elisha heard what happened, he told the king of Israel to send Naaman to him for healing.

Again, Naaman’s plans were turned upside down when he reached Elisha, who sent a servant out to talk to him. Naaman cried: “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!.... I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me!" (2 Kings 5:11 NLT). Naaman had outlined in his head how Elisha was going to heal him. Dipping in the Jordan River was definitely not part of his plan, although that is what Elisha told him to do. Inconceivable! Naaman had made plans even for others.

But God had different plans for Naaman, and Elisha knew that. So did Naaman’s servant officer, who confronted his master, the military commanding officer of Syria/Aram. The servant asked why “he would not do this simple task of washing in the Jordan River, for wouldn’t he have done something great if Elisha had asked?” Wow! That’s courage. Did the servant, like the Israeli girl, have an insight into Naaman’s character? Or did they trust God? Or both?

And so Naaman, proud warrior, opened himself up to a different plan, one he had not created. He took the risk. Rather than being the one who came up with strategies, who directed others, who gave orders, he allowed himself to be teachable, to be directed. He humbled himself as he obeyed, went down to the river and washed. And he got his healing—his skin came clean. Then he went back to Elisha, with whom he talked face-to-face, and praised God. That’s one of the best parts of this experience. Instead of figuring out a way to show how great he was, or to justify his initial reaction of anger, or to say he knew this all along, Naaman gave credit to God. And he expressed overwhelming gratitude.

Naaman’s willingness to let his plans be altered, to stop human outlining, to allow others to guide him changed his life forever. This was not easy for him to do. He initially put up a fight. Perhaps he had believed his whole life that he needed to be the one in control. Perhaps the skin disease was an outward manifestation of anger, irritation, hubris. No matter how long he had clung to his plans and his pride, no matter how difficult and horrible the disease was, Naaman let it all go. He surrendered to God’s word, as spoken by the prophet. And God’s healing power touched his life.

Maybe the Israeli servant girl and his own servant saw that deep beneath his diseased skin and his controlling, egotistical manner, Naaman really was receptive to the light of God. Maybe Naaman was tired of having to be right and in control all the time. That’s a lot of pressure to put on oneself. Maybe he just needed someone else’s help to free him from all that pressure. What is obvious is that he wanted a healing; he wanted freedom more than he wanted to be right. And so he found humility, which led to healing. What a gift for Naaman.

And what a gift for us to have this story. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve tried to control things, how dependent we are on outlining, how great our plans are, or how rigid we may have become, we too can humble ourselves before God and be open to God’s plan for us. It’s certainly better than our own. It’s infinite … and it’s all good.