• Debbie Salter Goodwin

Who Needs a Back-up Plan?


I needed a back-up plan in 2003. Lisa had been transported by ambulance from Centralia, Washington to a Seattle hospital better prepared to address her complications. We were days before our move to a new pastoral assignment in Portland, Oregon. In Seattle I was 2 hours from the house I needed to finish packing and 4 hours from the house I was to move into the next week. I needed some back-up plans! At least I thought I did!


Are back-up plans an excuse for control or a sign of good planning?


It depends on motivation, doesn’t it? It depends on whether it comes from a need to self-protect out of fear or the wisdom of planning ahead in ways to protect others from unnecessary struggles. Wisdom seeks the best for others. Control usually seeks the best for yourself. That’s the problem.

Again, Sarai’s story helps us learn lessons we don’t have to learn for ourselves.

She survived Egypt, her husband’s scheme that went badly, and Pharaoh’s anger. Does she ever contemplate that Someone other than Abram was watching over her? It doesn’t look like it.


Back home in the tent, shaking dust out of her sandals, and wishing for the beauty creams from Egypt to soften the effects of the sun; Sarai built her world around what she didn’t have. At the top of that list, she didn’t have a baby. More importantly, she hadn't produced an heir. And she’ wasn't getting any younger!


That’s when Sarai took matters into her own hands. It was her idea that the Egyptian slave, gift from Pharoah, should become a surrogate for the child God promised Abram. It was supposed to keep her in control. Instead of protecting her place as number-one wife, Sarai’s back-up plan put her in jeopardy. (Genesis 16)


That’s the nature of back-up plans. We aren’t in control of how they turn out! Besides, when we use them to exert our will on someone else; they become more defensive weapon than strategic wisdom. This is especially true when we don’t let God review our back-up plans and the reasons for them.


Surrender is the missing piece in control. We can make as many back-up plans as we want as long as God has the right to use them or refuse them without any argument from us. When our plan has to be right, it probably isn't.

I learned that with the multiple back-up plans I made trying to manage my move by long distance. Finally, I realized, God wasn’t going to use any of my back-up plans. He didn’t need them. Neither did I. The plan He set in motion more perfectly connected to everything I needed. Wonderful women stepped up to help me, most I did not know. It was a bonding experience I could not have orchestrated. Only God could have made it happen.


Sarai didn’t know God could do that. Not yet. Instead she learned that a baby didn't solve her problems. Her back-up plan produced the baby, but reduced her control and the part God wanted her to have in His plan.


The good news is that God didn’t give up on Sarai and He doesn’t give up on us. He encourages us to plan with wisdom but not out of trying to control anyone else but ourselves. We miss God’s best plans when we use control any other way.


Where do you need more control? Ask God if you need more of His control first!

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