Should I be training for full-time ministry? Or is my mission field speaking for God where I already am?
If I’m thinking about the future: is it ok to have happiness as a criteria: or should I just do what others think?
I feel like I ought to be married. But I’m still single. Should I be looking? Wait for God to provide me with someone? Or focus on something else?
My parents are getting older and want me closer to home. But I’m settled where I am and don’t want to uproot the kids. Should I stay or should I go?
I’m not where I planned to be. The things I hoped for haven’t worked out. How do I know what God’s will is for me?
I wish I had the answers. I don’t. The Lord knows: but He doesn’t always tell us: as least right away. So here’s some things to think about while we wait…
1. Sometimes waiting is part of (or even the whole) answer.
When I was recovering from anorexia, it took a long time to get back my strength. I wanted to get a job and I wanted to get healthy and I wanted to feel like I was useful and busy and normal…but I didn’t have the poop. I howled at God: ‘why is this happening? I don’t know who I am! I don’t know what to do!’ But that was the point: I’d spent my whole life doing. It was only when the plug was pulled and I couldn’t do, that I finally stopped. Instead of talking about grace for others, I started to believe it for myself. Instead of being busy and pretending I was fine, I had to invite others in and accept their help. I learnt more about God and myself in six months than I had in my whole life. And when I started to regain my strength, my identity was built on something more than my CV. Plus, it takes time to work out what you want – so don’t rush it.
2. ‘Mistakes’ can be good.
A friend has recently changed jobs: and though the new one brings challenges, she’s thriving despite the pressure. A year ago, it was a different story. She was exhausted, stressed and felt like a failure. ‘I can’t do it’ she said. ‘I’m just rubbish and I’m wasting my time’. She’s not rubbish and she wasn’t rubbish a year ago either. Nor was she wasting her time. The old job was training for the new. It taught her about her weaknesses and her strengths. It taught her about what she wanted and what she found difficult. Similarly, maybe you’ve trained in a certain area and for different reasons that hasn’t worked out. That’s hard and it takes time to adjust. But your happiness is not tied to one career or one particular path. I trained as a children’s and family’s worker and that’s nothing like what I’m doing now. God is moving us forward, even though we feel we’re standing still.
3. ‘Average’ is great.
You don’t need to be a supermodel to make an impact. You don’t need to be ordained to minister to others. You don’t have to be married to have meaningful relationships. You don’t need a degree to prove you’re smart. You don’t need a family to be a mother to others. You don’t need to gain your parent’s approval to be worthwhile. Resist the urge to compare yourself to others: the friend who heads up every tea rota, the cousin who’s rescuing whales. I was nowhere with the Lord or my marriage when it looked like I was doing great. And when I felt like a failure, that’s when real change was happening. God has different paths for us. It’s ok to be where you are: you’re already loved, accepted and useful. Don’t take my word for it: that’s straight from the top.
4. You’re where you are for a reason.
Might be for a while, meant be temporary. Might be painful, might be lovely. You might be able to see what God is up to; and you might not. But He’s doing something. He has placed us here for a purpose and He calls us to live now and today – not in the past and not in the future. Plus, He sees. What you’re doing, how you’re feeling. Other people might miss it, but the Lord knows every detail of your day and He’s in it. For the minute, while you wait, this is your calling. There might be seven plans instead of just one. Keep praying and waiting for Him. He will answer. Which means that instead of searching out God’s will for our lives, we can get on with living them.
5. You can know Christ wherever you are.
Paul was in prison when he wrote “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Whatever his circumstances they proved to be the context for a deeper knowledge of Jesus – and knowing Jesus is the whole point (Philippians 3:7-11). We think we’d be happy if we had the right circumstances. Perhaps your current frustration is the occasion to learn that Christ is enough.
6. You can serve God’s people wherever you are.
In 1 Corinthians 7 everyone is dissatisfied. Single people want to be married, married people want to be single, slaves want to be free, Jews want to become Gentiles, Gentiles want to become Jews. Nobody is content in the place God has put them. Paul’s advice is “Stay put where God has you” (v17-20). If an opportunity for change comes up, you’re free to take it (v21, 28, 36) but remember “the time is short”(v29). Your real calling is not to a particular circumstance but to service (v29-35). And you can all serve God wherever you are. So plug in where you are – it’s not a mistake and God is using you.