The God of Detours

By Kristi Bothur © 2011

"I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. Luke 1:38

Photo by M. Reed Butterfield
If you are reading this, you are probably in the ranks of those who have experienced a detour in life. At some point, your plans have been derailed – by sickness, loss, financial struggles, relationship issues, whatever – and now you are on a different path than you originally imagined. You may be trying to get back to the road you started on, or you may have found out that one detour led to another, and to another, and now you are so far off your original path that you wonder if you will ever be back to normal.

I wonder if Mary felt like that after hearing the angel's announcement. Her plans for her life were probably quite simple – and yet quite familiar to most of us. Marry a nice man (and she was well on her way with this, since she was already betrothed and planning a wedding). Have a houseful of kids. Settle down in the village where she grew up, surrounded by family and friends. Grow old with her husband, surrounded by children and grandchildren.

Simple. Perfect. Plan A.

But after the angel left, where was she? Pregnant out of wedlock, with village tongues just waiting to wag. A husband-to-be planning to abandon her.

And later – giving birth miles and miles from home. In exile in a different country as they fled the threat of a tyrannical king. Very likely enduring the death of her husband before Jesus began his ministry. Dealing with jealousy among her children. And eventually living out her days far from Nazareth – in Ephesus under the watchful care not of her own children, but of the apostle John.

Complicated. Messy. Plan B.

Okay, she didn't know most of this the moment the angel departed. But she must have had a glimmer that life as she knew it, life as she planned it, would never be the same again. But what was her response? "I am the Lord's servant."

Submission. Acceptance. Trust.

I think of her response whenever I have felt like my plans have been derailed. My plans were simple, similar to Mary's. Marry a nice man, have a houseful of kids by the time I was thirty. I never planned to be single through my twenties, even though I did eventually meet the man of my dreams. I certainly never planned to deal with infertility, or to experience multiple pregnancy losses, or to be diagnosed with a cancer-like tumor.  Those were not my plans. And when my plans were replaced by a different reality, it was hard to understand God's role in my life. My plans had not been evil or selfish. Surely they must have been God's plans, too. Which meant his plans were also derailed, right?

Wrong. If God is sovereign and in control, then can any of His plans be thwarted? Not according to Scripture (Job 42:2). And while it is true that God‘s original creation did not include suffering and sickness and death, and that these things will be wiped away in the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 21:4), in this interim sin-stricken world of trouble and sorrow, God is still in control. Nothing comes our way that He is not aware of and did not allow and cannot redeem for His glory. We may not be able to fathom how the plans of a loving Father can include emotional and physical pain…and yet, this was true for His own Son. And the pain He endured on the cross culminated in the glory of the resurrection and salvation for all who put their trust in Him.

When you look at the nativity scenes this December, imagine all that was going on in the hearts of Mary and Joseph, whose plans had been turned upside down. They could not imagine at the time of Jesus’ birth all that their willing submission to God’s plans, and their trust in His love, would bring about.

Neither can we.

So will we trust anyway? When life takes a detour, will we stick with God and follow him, believing that no matter what our circumstances are, He still loves us and really is working all things together for our good and His glory? Can we have eyes that see beyond this world and believe that on heaven’s side of eternity everything will be clear?

This is my prayer for you this Christmas season – that you will know the “tidings of comfort and joy” not because life is perfect, but because you know Immanuel, who is “God with us” in all of life, even (or especially!) on the detours.

Merry Christmas!

Father, my life is not turning out the way I planned, and it makes me angry, and sad, and scared. Help me to trust you and to move forward as you lead. Help me not to look back in regret for what never was, but to look ahead as I follow the path I am now on and allow you to guide my steps. Amen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristi Bothur is a pastor's wife, teacher, and mother of four - one on earth and three in heaven.  She has a heart for other women who have experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or in early infancy, and she has a passion for sharing the truth of God's word in a way that makes sense in everyday life.  She and her husband are the founders of "Naomi's Circle", a ministry for parents of babies in heaven (  You are welcome to contact her at  Kristi lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband and daughter.

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