Hallmark Theology

I didn’t have a lot of time. I ran into the supermarket. In and out, you know. I just needed milk.

And eggs… And bread. And cheese, and ketchup, and panko crumbs, and butternut squash soup, and peanut butter cookies, and ooh my favorite chips were on sale…  You know how it goes.  So now I was racing down the aisle that leads to the self check-out station, because when you’ve blown the little time you didn’t have nothing seems more expeditious than fumbling with UPC symbols that refuse to be scanned. It was as I was pushing my cart a little too fast down that aisle, the greeting card and cutesie-gift aisle, that a book caught my eye. The title, God Always has a Plan B.

You know I couldn’t just walk away from it. I picked it up and turned to the title page to find the publisher. ‘Well, that’s what happens when you get your theology from Hallmark,’ I thought to myself. Although at this point I could almost relate to the title, as my Plan A of running in and out of the supermarket had totally gone out the window. I turned to the back and read “Frustrated? Confused? Disappointed? Don’t Worry — God has a Plan B just for you!”  The back goes on to say, “It’s all about the Bible’s promise that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him.’ (Romans 8:28)” (Their lowercase de-emphasis, not mine.)

Full disclosure, I have not read this book. I was not about to blow $9.95 on the gospel according to Hallmark. I think there may be some good, comforting content in this book, which says it contains scriptures and parables, and quotes from famous Christians (but that’s another can of worms). My problem is with framing God’s will in terms of “Plan B.” I hear that so much, especially from the mouths of Christians. 

And thank goodness we have Romans 8:28 handy to throw out there at people’s faces! Or its popular paraphrase, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” What kind of loving father sticks his child in a room, shuts the door and sits back to watch the child crawl out a window? Romans 8:28 is one of those over-abused Bible verses. In its proper context, Paul is speaking about our sanctification, and the comfort we should all have in knowing that even though our renewed spirit is at war with our decaying flesh, NOTHING is beyond God’s control.  If anything, the verse emphatically argues against any notion of a “Plan B.” (For a detailed exposition on this, check out our study in the Book of Romans, Lesson 8B).

It’s not about God closing a door. It may be that sometimes we try to walk through the wrong door in rebellion. Our Father will use our missteps to help us find the door He intended for us. Other times He will have us walk through a door that leads to a room full of pain. But often those are the rooms where we grow closer to Him “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for THOU art with me” right? That is how He works everything for good, to accomplish His overall purpose, to grow us in faith, for our sanctification, so that we know that even though our flesh is of the world, His Spirit in us is ever growing stronger and the work He began in us is being perfected.

If we profess to believe God is sovereign over ALL, then we cannot also hold the view of His ever having a “Plan B.” God’s plan is always “Plan A.” Whether you knew that or not is a completely different issue.  But assuming a Plan B reduces God to some kind of life coach on the sidelines. When you try something and it doesn’t work you go to your coach so He can rework your strategy and (cross your fingers!) hope for a good outcome. Errr… no.

The next time your “Plan A” fails, recognize the loving hand of God guiding you to HIS Plan A. And when a well-meaning soul trying to comfort you says, “You know, when God closes a door He opens a window,” kindly turn to them tell and them that it’s more like you tried to go through the wrong door and God is saying, “I love you, dopey, but that’s the closet.”