About four months ago my good friend Sarah was offered her dream job with a reputable company. Not only would she be raking in a larger paycheck, but she would be doing something she absolutely loved, all the while putting her college degree to work for the first time since graduation. She called me one night to talk about the decision to leave her job at the time for this new position.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity,” she said, her voice bubbling over with excitement. “But in all honesty, I’m scared to try something new. I’ve been working the same job for six years, and I’m so comfortable doing it. I can’t imagine having to start completely from scratch.” She went on to tell me that she had prayed about it and felt that, despite her fears, God was leading her to step out into the unknown, trusting that He would guide her every step of the way.
Two months later, she called me from her new office to check in. “Matt, I am so glad I decided to take a risk and leave my old job for this one. I’ll admit the change has been a little stressful, but I am slowly getting more and more accustomed to my new responsibilities, and I just love the people here! God has truly blessed me!”
Two months later, Sarah’s boss called her into his office to tell her that the company was being forced to do away with her position. I could hear the disillusionment in her voice when she called to break the news. “I just don’t understand. How could this happen? I thought God was leading me to step out in faith and that He was blessing me with this new job. I’m so confused and angry. I know I should talk to God about it, but I don’t even know what to say.”
Ask around, and I’ll bet you’ll have a hard time finding just one person who hasn’t been smacked in the face by one of life’s seemingly vicious blows. Just when we think we’re about to ride victoriously off into the sunset, along comes that seemingly cruel gust of wind called change, knocking us swiftly off of our horse and onto our backs, leaving us unable even to catch a single breath. Oftentimes it feels like God is playing some sort of malicious joke on us, changing the rules of the game as soon as we start to catch on. In the moment, change can feel like a thousand-pound weight that’s just been laid on our shoulders or as if life is an evil character standing in the corner, snickering wickedly at our misfortune.
But as befuddled and bewildered as sudden change can often make us feel, if we open up the Bible, we see its presence at every turn.
• Consider Abraham. After being gifted by God with a son, he is told to take the boy up onto a mountain and murder him.
• After catching a glimpse of his supposed future filled with blessing and promise, Joseph is tossed mercilessly into a filthy well and subsequently sold into slavery by his own brothers.
• And let’s not forget Moses, who, after being promised the noble task of freeing God’s people from Israel, is sent out into the desert to wander for the next 40 years!
At some point in each of these stories, I imagine these characters must have looked up toward heaven and thought, This is so not what I signed up for.
Someone once said, “If you want to make God laugh, start making plans.” While that may be a little extreme, it does point to the fact that we, as a collective culture, seem to think that we know what’s best for our individual lives. Even as young children, we are encouraged to begin plotting out our journey through life when asked questions like, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”
As college students, we are presented with the daunting and often dreaded task of choosing a major, all the while feeling as if the weight of that decision will somehow set in stone the exact nature of our future existence.
In His letter to us, God writes, “For I know the plans I have for you … plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). And in Isaiah 55:8 we read, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” In every one of life’s sharp detours, we can find comfort in the fact that God, not us, is the one holding the road map that He has designed specifically for our individual journeys. When the winds of change rush in and appear to blow us this way and that, we can rest assured that God is never caught off guard but rather is working and weaving every single experience for good into the fabric of our lives (Romans 8:28).
You might be asking, “So if God is the one in control, why make plans at all?” The secret here is not to put off following our God-given dreams and desires but rather to hold loosely to our own plans, knowing that God is ultimately the one charting the path ahead of us. When we set off in a particular direction and with a specific destination in mind, we can pray that God will give us the grace to respond humbly and patiently to every bump, hurdle, or mountain we encounter, knowing full well that those obstacles were set there with purpose by a God who oftentimes is focused much more on the journey than the destination.
In God’s timing, Joseph eventually witnessed the realization of his dreams; Abraham got to release his son, and Moses saw clearly the sovereign hand of God in the lives of those he led victoriously out of Egypt. So next time you feel like life is tossing you a seriously nasty curveball, take a moment to breathe deeply and to remind yourself of the One who holds the outcome of this game securely in the palm of His hand.