In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. (Prov. 16:9)

“THE BEST LAID SCHEMES of mice and men often go awry.” This line from Robert Burns’s poem reminds us that we don’t always foresee how circumstances can disrupt our carefully laid plans. Lost in the modern usage of the saying, though, is the poem’s deeply despairing tone.

While plowing his field on a cold December day, with winter fast approaching, Burns uncovered and destroyed the winter nest of a field mouse. He apologized to the frantic mouse, trying to assure the tiny creature that it had been an accident. Nevertheless, the little mouse’s winter abode and preparations had come to ruin, and the time of preparation was past. The mouse was exposed to the harsh world and vulnerable to ruin. Synonymous with the sadness Burns felt in his own life, the deeply moving poem exposed his own plans gone awry and his dread-filled fear of the future.

We are tempted to despair in the midst of fearful times. But for the Christian, faith tells us that though times seem desperate and our failed plans may appear to have left us in ruin, there is a mysterious sense that God’s hand is in even this, our darkest hour. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Take any regrets, failures, and fears to the Lord in prayer today.

Bill Beck lives in the Black Hills with his wife, daughter, and dog. He and his wife have two grown sons.