Meditation 7: When God’s Plan is Unclear

A Meditation Novena in the Footsteps of St. Thérèse

written by Fr. Todd Arsenault, LC

Meditation 7:
When God’s Plan is Unclear

In his autobiography “Boat Priest, Fr. Chan Dinh of the Legionaries of Christ tells his story of escape, survival, and vocation that began at 8 years old when he with some siblings escaped Vietnam on a small boat with 20 people. His mother had arranged it all in secret with his older brother who owned the boat. His mother escaped only later. Life was difficult under Communist rule and his mother wanted the children to have a better life though there were many risks involved. Chan and his brother closest to him in age went at night with relatives who were also escaping and took canoes out to the boat operated by his older brother. Even at 8 years old, he realized the danger and the uncertainty, and the fear of getting caught or dying at sea was with them all. As he reflected on it later, God was in charge but his plan wasn’t so clear. He had to trust in his brother to hopefully pilot them to safety (3 days at sea in terrible conditions and getting looted by pirates when they landed in Thailand). Not everything is blueprinted to perfection! In fact, in this life nothing is! God desires us to truly trust in his Providence and wait on him. After many months in refugee camps (Thailand and the Philippines) his family all made it to the USA sponsored by other siblings already there. Thus, all his siblings were reunited with his mother too.

How often in life, maybe not in as dramatic a fashion, do we find God’s will unclear for us. It seems hidden from our eyes but Our Lord doesn’t play tricks on us. He calls us to have faith in his goodness, mercy, and providence. He invites us to surrender our wills to him and let him lead us, equipping us in the proper moment with his grace and the necessary strength. We want control over all our circumstances, and the Lord is asking us to relinquish it and let him lead us. Doing so frees us immensely!

St. Thérèse of Lisieux writing about her special vocation within the Carmel in Chapter 9 writes in a way that I believe shows not only the simplicity of her faith and her total openness with the Lord, but also her total confidence to receive from him all that she asks. Though things aren’t immediately obvious to her, she persevered in prayer and readily received what Christ so affectionately desired to give to her. She writes: “O my Jesus! What is your answer to all my follies? Is there a soul more little, more powerless than mine? Nevertheless, even because of my weakness, it has pleased you, O Lord, to grant my little childish desires and you desire, today, to grant other desires that are greater than the universe.”

Scripture passage for reflection: Matthew 2:13-23


Joseph upon receiving the message from the angel took Mary and Jesus. They left everything behind and began their escape to Egypt, which wasn’t a short journey. Joseph and Mary needed to trust in the Providence of God to protect them from being stopped by the Romans and attacked by robbers, and to help them find the necessary water and food along the way. It was dangerous but necessary. How does this Gospel resonate within when I think about it? 

St. Thérèse speaks to God with great confidence, childlike faith, and total abandonment. What way do I speak to the Lord? Do I share in any of her dispositions? How can I grow in my trust and childlike faith?

So often in life, much will be hidden from my eyes and revealed only in the last moment. How can I foster an attitude of readiness, faith, trust, and serenity in the face of uncertainty like Mary and Joseph or Fr. Chan faced? What might be holding me back? Bring these things to God in prayer. 

Colloquy:  Lord, I get scared sometimes and don’t really understand your plan for me. I sincerely want to understand because I believe you have lovingly traced it out for me to discover and embrace with greater clarity, confidence, and love. I surrender my will to you and I ask you to unveil the eyes of my heart to see with faith and trust in all the little signs you give me that are visible only to the pure of heart and poor in spirit! Amen.

Note:  If you are interested in a copy of Fr Chan Dinh’s autobiography in either English or Portuguese, please contact Fr. Chan directly at He is asking only for a donation that goes to support the Legionary of Christ-directed multi-diocesan Major Seminary Mater Ecclesiae in Brazil where he carries out his ministry.

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