• Debbie Salter Goodwin

When Everything Goes Wrong


I started my day as usual with a cup of coffee and devotional reading. I went to my desk to begin my writing day. Then everything went south. I couldn't find my notes with all my ideas for the writing project I had planned. I pulled every file it where they could be and left the stacks on my desk. I scavenged through the spiral notebook I keep as my creative brain dump. Tore out pages I needed to file elsewhere and added to the litter on my desk. By the time I finished looking, I had wasted more than an hour and left a mess that would take thirty minutes to clean up. Already my day felt like I failure. Nothing creative would happen here today!


When everything goes wrong it feels like nothing goes right. When our small plans explode into a million pieces, it is difficult to consider that God’s big plan is good. That is, unless we remember that we are never in as much control as we think.


Sarai hadn’t learned that. She used control as her safety net. Yet, everything she tried to control only created more pain and dysfunction.


Sarai wanted a child but her body wasn't cooperating with her timeline. Her plan was to bring Abram’s heir into the world through a surrogate, the maid she inherited as a gift from the Egyptian Pharoah. It checked off all the legal requirements for an heir and sounded like a good plan until it wasn’t. She hadn’t counted on Hagar’s control plays to counter her own.


Hagar became pregnant and took advantage of her elevated status. Sarai thought she could control her by mistreating her, but Sarai forgot that Hagar had more currency in the game. Hagar would bring Abram’s heir into the world.


Even then, Sarai tried to use the I-was-here-first card with Abram. But Abram wouldn’t get involved. “Do with her whatever you think best.” And Sarai did. She made life so unbearable for Hagar that Hagar ran away.


Sarai was back at the beginning with no child and even less security.


The lesson I can’t get away from in this story is how subtly control turns sour as soon as it becomes more self-protecting than others-protecting. God’s provisions dry up when we do that. What could have been is not, at least for the immediate future..We are left to live the consequences of our own controlling choices.

But there is hope. With God there is always hope. It’s called redemption. However, it doesn’t follow on the heels of control. It comes with confession through surrender.


Sarai wasn’t there yet. But in a strange turn, Hagar is. In her life-threatening, dehydrated desert; God showed up. Maybe we should remember that God’s hand reaches out to those we wound when we use control God never intended we use.


So where is God when everything goes wrong? Right where He has always been, working on a plan to make everything right. It usually doesn’t come as quickly as we want. But if we let Him, God will grow our waiting faith and open our eyes to the small new-morning mercies God always sends.


This came true for me the morning following my lost notes. I decided to look again, but this time without an axious, panicked push. And there they were, hidden behind a page I

missed. Definitely a new morning mercy!

We can depend on God’s answers, but we can't manipulate how He brings them or when. Look for God’s small gifts as signs that something bigger is on the way.


In the same way He didn’t leave Hagar in a desert of her own making or Sarai in the consequences of her choices, He won’t abandon us when our best plans miserably self-destruct.








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