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When Your First Options Hit a Dead End

Few things are as frustrating as hitting a dead end on some endeavor. This is especially true when you are well-intentioned and desirous of God’s will.

Yet this happens all the time. I don’t want to break your idealistic Christian bubble, but dead ends are sometimes part of God’s plan. Among other benefits, they teach us a lot about our character, as we either keep trusting the Lord or try to take matters into our own hands.

Abraham and Sarah hit a dead end in having a baby, and they ended up devising an ill-fated plan of their own (Genesis 16).

Samuel hit a dead end when trying to figure out which of Jesse’s sons should be the next king, but fortunately he waited long enough to discover David, the youngest of the sons (1 Samuel 16).

But I’m particularly struck by what happened when the apostle Paul hit a dead end during his quest to take the gospel to unreached areas.

When they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:6-10).

I don’t want you to miss how wild this brief story is. First of all, notice that the Holy Spirit forbade them to preach the gospel in Asia! The same Holy Spirit who energizes us to be Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) sometimes blocks our pathway in doing so. Why? Surely the people in Asia needed to hear about Jesus.

But sometimes God brings a dead end to our plans because there’s a better option.

Paul and his team proceeded to Plan B: preaching in Bithynia. However, the Spirit did not permit that well-meaning venture either.

“What’s going on here?!” Paul must have wondered. “I’m just trying to be faithful in fulfilling the Great Commission, but God keeps blocking my path.”

Exasperated, Paul didn’t seem to immediately have any Plan C in mind. So he went to sleep—a picture of entering into God’s rest. (Side note: When the Lord wants to do something really GREAT in our lives, He sometimes puts us to sleep so we won’t get in the way. See Genesis 2:18-23, Genesis 15:12-21.)

Plan C thankfully came to Paul from that place of rest and trust. He saw a vision of a man in Macedonia, pleading for him to come and share the gospel. Instead of just coming up with his own plans, this time Paul concluded that “the Lord had called us.”

You see, Plan A and Plan B could have been considered GOOD things, but Plan C was a GOD thing. There’s quite a difference!

Acts 16 goes on to describe how a powerful church was planted in Philippi when Paul followed God’s leading to enter Macedonia. I’m sure his initial frustration in hitting dead ends was replaced by great thankfulness when He saw the Lord’s amazing purposes unfold.

God’s plans are good plans, my friend. But sometimes you have to wait for Plan C.

Be patient. Keep praying. Keep listening. And you may also want to take a good nap.

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