This weekend we spent some time in Washington DC on the way to a family event. There is something magical about DC for me and I feel that at sometime in my future life, God’s will is for me to spend another “season” of my life in this city. I don’t know why, its just one of those “gut” feelings.
On the plane on the way up to DC, I finished reading Chapter 6 of Pete Wilson’s new book Plan B: What do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would? It is a great book about what happens when life doesn’t go the way you expected. It calls into question several tightly held Christian expectations.
- Is God only involved in our lives when good things are happening – when our kids, jobs and marriages are all going well?
- Does God willingly give us tough seasons in our lives because he desires to use those experiences to develop our character?
Early in the chapter Pete talks about his response to the question he often gets in church circles: How do I know God’s will for my life?
“When people ask me how they can know God’s will for their lives, I tell them the best first step is to know God. Beyond that, I really don’t have any steps.”
So often we see God’s will for our lives in the terms of what, when and where? What is the perfect job? When do I need to make a big life decision? Where am I supposed to move?
Wilson makes the point that when we focus exclusively on these three things, we miss the most important “W” – why?
Why do I live? Why did God place any of us on this earth? Big Picture: To bring Glory to God.
If I’m thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused of crimes I didn’t commit and thrown into jail for years, am I in God’s Will and can He be working in my life? Ask Joseph. For years, his life wasn’t exactly filled with circumstances that on the outside would make one see God’s hand at work.
“About the only thing that Joseph can control about his life … is why he does what he does. He can live intentionally, choosing to trust God in all his circumstances and allow his life to be used for God’s purposes.”
“When life isn’t turning out the way we had hoped, we almost always default to feeling as if God has abandoned us…when our plans, dreams and desires crumble, our faith tends to take a hit. We instantly feel let down and distant from our heavenly Father.”
“And yet the truth is that God is most powerfully present even when he seems most apparently absent. He’s always working. Even when we can’t see him or feel him, all the circumstantial evidence of our lives will testify to his presence. That is, if we are willing to pay attention.”
As I look back on my life, there are so many times where I have drifted very far away from God; where my will and my desires were the driving factors in my life. In some of those seasons, things were very good for me. My career and my life were going great and I truly believed that I was following God’s will. My heart was full and my needs were satisfied, but it is in those times when I found it often easy to slip away from God. The quality time that I spent with God, my seeking of His will, took back seat because I was so confident that I was already in His will.
But Wilson reminds us that “God’s will is as much about the person we are becoming as it is about where we are going!” In doing so he cites Erwin McManus: “The process of becoming the person God wants us to become usually doesn’t come from success, success, success. Its loss, success, failure, success, heartbreak, success, disappointment, success.”
The last 9 months for me has been a reminder of that. We have moved away from Texas to Florida. I left a successful and personally rewarding career, moved away from many friends who loved me and from an area that was very comfortable. And while our 9 months in Florida has provided me the chance to be home with my girls, I have also experienced loss and sadness. At times I have silently questioned if it was God’s will was for us to move to Florida, then why is there such heartache?
But Wilson continues on: “We think our suffering is a sign that we’re getting something wrong, not evidence that God is at work to teach us and bring us a blessing.”
[As Christians,] we must decide if we are going to put our faith in what God does or in who God is.”
I must decide if I am going to put my faith in what God does or who God is…
So often we think that the endpoint (a job, a child, healing from illness or getting married) is God’s will for our life when often God’s plan for our life is to use the journey to perfect our character.
“In this life many of your questions will simply not have answers. But through it all, God himself will never change. This is why our faith must rest on his identity and not necessarily his activity.”
I truly believe that God has brought our family to Florida for a reason. I see his work in many things since we have been here (like our connections to a new church and new friends). As I reflect back on the other big life changes (moves) I have experienced in my short 40 years, in the end it was not a job or a relationship that was the end goal of God’s work. Those all went away. The big life changes were the means that God used to teach me new things in a new place.
So in the end, I may have a gut feeling about returning to DC for a season of my life, but even if I do, I know it will not be so much about returning to DC as it will be about what God wants to perfect in my life once He gets me there!
NOTE: The quotes cited throughout this blog are from Chapter 6 of “Plan B” by Pete Wilson. Another great resource for this topic is a sermon series by Pastor David Hughes entitled “Get over your BS (Belief System).”