I’ve had several conversations with friends recently that have revolved around finding direction. Friends who are looking for discernment around some big life decisions: moving to a new city; getting married; switching career paths; going back to school and trying to decide what they want to study; a new mom looking for a job…
Do you fall into any of these categories?
I’m surrounded by other really motivated and passionate people, and I love that. There’s nothing more encouraging than being around friends and colleagues who want their lives to mean something. I, for one, am certainly not trying to waste time while I’m here. I think a lot about my passions and desires for a meaningful career. In this season of life, I’ve had more clarity around these things than I ever have before, and I can’t attribute that to anyone else but the Lord. It didn’t happen overnight — I’ve spent a few years searching for direction, and praying that the job experience I’m getting now and the passions I have will one day intersect at a meaningful career that I love.
Which is totally a normal thing to pray for, right?
As a believer, I struggle with finding the balance between using my time, gifts, and passions wisely for God, and heeding His commandment to “not worry about tomorrow.” I’m often guilty of getting so consumed by my own ambitions and self-will. I take whatever passion He’s given me and run with it, creating my own plans. Taking things into my own hands often leads into worrying about the things of “tomorrow”: am I even pursuing the right degree for this? did I choose the right school? how will I make the most of the experiences in front of me? how do I set myself up perfectly for this dream job I’ve constructed? what’s my backup plan?
The list goes on, really. Because if I’m not worrying about these things, how can I be productive? How can I make sure that I don’t miss out on the things I need to do in order to succeed? I mean, I have to worry about these things for the Lord’s will to be done, right!?
I wonder if similar thoughts went through the minds of Abraham and Sarah. After all, God had promised them a child, regardless of the fact that they were old and Sarah was barren. They had hope in this promise, and had the faith that God was going to fulfill it. But it didn’t look quite like they had expected. After trying and trying and trying, Sarah was still not pregnant with their promised heir.
So, what’s a desperate couple to do? They took matters into their own hands. Sarah suggested that Abraham sleep with her female servant named Hagar – a last ditch effort in having this child that God had promised. Hagar conceived, and bore Abraham a son. But it wasn’t the son that God was talking about in the promise.
Years later, God shows up to Abraham again and proclaims the promise… again. Long story short: Sarah gives birth to a son. God proved to be incredibly faithful and fulfilled the promise that He spoke over Abraham many years before. He did it exactly as He said He would. Abraham and Sarah didn’t need to construct another plan to help this time. All they had to do was remain steadfast in faith and obedient to His plan.
If I believe that my passion and ambition are from God, then I have to trust that He is going to guide my every step. I don’t need to superimpose my will into the picture in order to make sure that His will is accomplished in me.
I think of Jesus, who spent three years serving in his earthly ministry. Let’s be honest: homeboy didn’t waste any time while he was here on earth. He had a mission with a clear purpose. He knew what he was here to do, and was determined that His Father’s will would be done on earth. What’s more is that he knew the end result: the cross. Yet he trusted every day, every step, and every plan to his Heavenly Father.
I need to know when to take a step back and regain perspective. Sometimes God gives us a big picture vision and purpose, but this still requires that every day and every plan be surrendered to Him. This does require effort on my part to train my mind and my heart – with the help of the Spirit – to shift my mindset off of myself and onto God.
Take every plan, every passion, and every outcome and surrender it. Examine your heart and ask yourself if this is something that He has placed on your heart, or if it’s something that YOU want to pursue. Find a verse (or a few!) that encourages you in this, and use it as a filter that you run these things through.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t trust my own sense of direction. I’m so prone to going wayward and falling off of cliffs when I do things on my own. I want my direction to be completely from Him, and that means that I have to get out of the way by not leaning on my own understanding, and acknowledging Him in all my ways. (Proverbs 3:5-6) If we can truly learn how to do this, then we can to devote our time, gifts, and passions to Him and pursue the things that God has put on our hearts and trust Him without worrying about how it will all unfold tomorrow.
“This is what the Lord says:
‘Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.’”
- Jeremiah 6:16