In his heart a man plans His course, but the Lord determines His steps. – Proverbs 16:9 NIV
I hope that you all are doing well. God has been showing me some incredible things about His guidance that I think can be a great encouragement to someone else.
Last week at church, I was sitting in our weekly pre-service Bible study when we were asked, "what is your favorite attribute or characteristic of Jesus?" I don't know how many times I've answered this question, but the answer changes as my relationship with God grows and as my life evolves. In this phase of life, my favorite attributes of His are faithfulness and leadership. Life as a 20-something is extremely uncertain and there are lots of things that can go wrong, but in my own life I have found that it is in these times of uncertainty that God shows Himself to be a faithful leader.
As I saw the summer wrapping up at the end of July with no job prospects in sight after months of aggressive searching and applying, I experienced a feeling that hadn't been present in my life for a while: fear. That feeling had been gone because where faith dwells, fear does not. But when I began to look at my situation with my own carnal eyes instead of faith, I panicked.
I won’t have a job. What will people/my parents/my family think of me? I spent a year teaching for free and now no one will hire me? What if I messed up somewhere? What happened? God, what’s happening?
These thoughts and questions littered my mind as I thought about how disappointed I would be if I didn’t “use my degree” immediately. But how silly of me. I know that God guides me because every time I’ve asked for His guidance, I have seen Him lead me and guide me into the place that I needed to be. It may not have looked like where I needed to be while I was being guided, but later, I could stand back and see how He had used me in that place. Never once did I ever walk alone. And although things didn’t look like what I thought they would, God was definitely working. And this is how I know…
Way back in the spring, I realized that I had gotten everything I went to Atlanta to get. I knew that that season was over and that I didn’t want to be there or at home. So I prayed a lot, begging God to place me in a new environment. So I waited, and when God didn’t open the door I thought He would use to move me, I thought that He was choosing to ignore that prayer and gave up on it completely. Once summer rolled around, I applied everywhere and nothing worked out. Even the interviews that I went on where things looked good or where I was overqualified fell through. I had no idea what God was doing. But in the midst of all the disappointment and constant questions about whether “I had found a job yet” by those around me, I continued to pray and stay in the Word. Then somewhat out of nowhere, I was inspired by God to read the entire book of Acts. I studied it and was completely blown away by what a genuine body of believers could do for God. I became enthralled by the idea of Christian community and very aware of the lack of it in my own life.
A few weeks after that, my mom tells me about a job opening near Philadelphia that I am qualified for that would allow me to live closer to family. I was somewhat reluctant to complete the application, but because my mom suggested it, I did it anyway. Two weeks after that, I arrived in Pennsylvania for my last interview and got the job. Once I started working, I realized how blessed I was. My co-workers are all great, great people and I even have the privilege of working for and with some devoted Christians. Not only do I enjoy what I do, but I have made some real friends while working. Life-long friends. And, God is so good that He is giving me the opportunity to apply to a different job within my company that would allow me to use my degree and do something I am passionate about. Normally, one would have to wait 6 months to switch departments but that is not the case for this position. Only God.
And lastly, a couple weeks ago while at church, I finally caught up with my senior pastor and began to talk with her about how I truly believe that God had prepared a place for me here even before I knew about the job or thought about moving here. I shared with her that I loved what I do, that I love being close to family and even how blessed I was to have been led to this particular church. I told her about how I wanted community with young adults in Atlanta but struggled to find it and how God had practically whispered in my ear a week before during service to show me that He wanted me here at this time for a special purpose and how it moved me to tears. Then I told her about how He lead me to study the entire book of Acts this summer. Her eyes lit up and she told me that God had lead them to study the book of Acts for the entire first year and a half of their church. They were studying Acts while I was asking God to direct my post-graduation plans. This sealed everything for me.
I know that the 20s are not an easy time in life because I am living through them. There is the quarter-life crisis, getting established, expectations, educational decisions, relationships, marriage and children for some, paying back loans for others, a crazy job market and many other daunting things ahead. But God is a faithful guide. Never once will we ever walk alone. Even when things look uncertain, unsure and unstable, God is there clearing a path, preparing the way and ordering steps for us. So if you find yourself in a place that does not look like what you thought it would, just continue to trust Him because He is likely still working on your behalf. And don’t let the opinions of others or fear of man keep you from being where God is trying to place you. Consider God’s opinions above all others. And lastly, remember that salvation is more important to Him than anything else. He is here to guide us into all truth, not all riches, popularity or happiness. Truth. Remember that.
Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. – Proverbs 3:5,6 AMP
This post is a guest post written by my partner for this series Jovontae. To read my post, visit his blog here.
Love and relationships is a topic that can appeal to any and everyone. There are many perspectives and ways of looking at this topic. Going even deeper, one’s worldview also influences the way one looks at love and relationships.
DISCLAIMER: I am a male. I am a virgin. I’ve never been in an official relationship. I am unabashedly christian. I believe that it is difficult, if not incomplete, to discuss and dissect love without God. So, this is the platform which I’ll be basing my stance.
There are a MYRIAD of books in christian culture that discuss this topic. Some are old, some are new. Some are old school, some are hip and trendy. Some from written from a male’s perspective, other from women. You get the idea right? From laypeople, ordained ministers to Doctors, there are hundreds of view to gather information on this topic from. There is but one book that I’ll be discussing: Passion and Purity. Mention this book in most christian circles and you’re guaranteed to elicit some response. It’s that famous.
Passion and Purity is a book written by speaker and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot. The book is half expository half auto-biography. In addition to giving insight and advice from a biblical perspective, she also recalls the process of courting and eventually marrying her college sweetheart Jim Elliot, to flesh out the things she’s explaining.
Some say the book is archaic, that it is too outdated for today’s progressive world. While I understand, I believe this book can be just as effective to a reader as when it first came out. She has a way of speaking to matters of the heart very accurately and bringing scripture to the picture. It’s a rare ability. Another complaint is that it’s just for women. I actually laugh at this postulation. While it is written by a woman, who’s describing her experience, and using stories of women who write to her, I still believe that men can, and should, read this. The example of her ex-husband Jim alone is worth reading about. I’ll be briefly explaining the first chapter.
The first chapter sets up the tone of the book. You learn about Elisabeth in college years. She describes her looks in a very quaint manner. My partner on this Blog series, Brittany, says this is key. Women are expected to care tremendously about their looks. You’ll see that, while she does mention her looks (“like most girls, I wished I were pretty, but it seemed futile to tamper much with what I had been given…) the emphasis is placed on her character and her dynamic relationship with God; which in of itself is counter-cultural. From there she describes the current state of society (“We have Sex and the Single Girl now. We have freedom. We can, in fact, ‘have it all and not get hooked.’ Women can be predators if they want to, as well as men.”). She touches on societal pressures on men: (“Men aren’t men unless they’ve proved it by seducing as many women as possible – or as many men, for we now may choose according to our ‘sexual preference’.”). To be honest my favorite quote from this chapter: “In forfeiting the sanctity by casual, nondiscriminatory ‘making out’ and ‘sleeping around,’ we forfeit something we cannot do well without. There is dullness, monotony, sheer boredom in all of life when virginity and purity are no longer protected and prized. By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.”
The last statement is a bold one. We live in a pretty hedonistic, do-as-thou-pleases society. We should never judge another on the things they decide to enjoy. Sex is good! Why not right? That’s the thing about pleasure: it is always fleeting. We’re always going to and fro to the next big thing, but it will always elude us. She says that “There is dullness, monotony, sheer boredom in all of life when virginity and purity are no longer protected and prized” I can’t tell you how many “oh, that’s interesting” looks I’ve gotten whenever I mention I’m a virgin. It’s cool (to an extent) for girls to be chaste, but men are validated by their sexual prowess. Since I have none, either I’m gay, scared, or medically impaired. Neither is true. I love God. I realize that some things in life have to be sacred in order to truly enjoy them. Unpopular? Yes. Necessary? I think so. Man has a natural fascination with Mystery. If we eliminate that and make plain what is sacred, all we have left is morbidity and boring, sanitized living. Pleasure and things like that exist to lift up higher to the One from which they come from. (see Anna Stesia by Prince)
Once we see this, we are well on our way to finding the fulfillment these lonely hearts yearn for.
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” – Titus 2:3-5
It’s me and I’m writing a blog post at 2:21am. EEK! Crazy girl, you may say, but when inspiration hits, I write.
(Caution: This blog post is more so written for the ladies but men can learn from it as well, as well as the suggested resources at the bottom of the page)
So, I was having a conversation with one of my Christian brothers about courtship this evening. Our conversation shifted towards being intentional about building great character and personal discipline before pursuing romantic relationships, and it made me wonder how many other people our age actually think this way.
What I’ve noticed lately is a trend of single Christians in their 20s who are so excited about what marriage has to offer, but who are not intentional in preparing for it. Let me paint a picture for you.
Lindsey is a 25-year old young woman in decent shape who decides that she wants to run a marathon in 6 months. So Lindsey goes out and buys new running shoes, short and tops. She buys healthy food so that she can eat clean. She even gets the Nike running app on her phone so that she can track her results. After all that, Lindsey only trains a few times during the first 5 months but runs every other day in the month leading up to the race. She eats whatever she feels like eating for the first 5 months and then when she’s a month out, she decides to start eating well. She barely even looks at the app on her phone until one month before the race. When she gets to the marathon to run, she is dressed well and looks well-prepared for what’s in front of her, but guess what? Lindsey doesn’t make it past the 5th mile. Why? Because she wasn’t intentional about preparing to get where she wanted to go.
Many of us are like Lindsey. We talk a good game, but when it comes to training for what we want, we don’t do it. We want to be married, but we don’t want to work on the attitudes and character flaws that we have now that could be potentially detrimental to a marriage. We also don’t spend our time learning about what marriage is really about, why it exists and how God created it to work.
I’m very blessed with a community of intentional women. In addition to phenomenal single sisters who challenge me to be deliberate in preparing myself for the future, I’m blessed to have a group that I call my “Titus 2” women. They are my married big sisters and they disciple/mentor me so that I can one day join their ranks as a phenomenal, Godly wife. These women are very honest about what it takes. They have made it clear to me that marriage is not all about cuddle sessions, constant sex and always having someone to watch movies with. All of those elements have their place, but marriage is so much bigger than that. It’s about a covenant made before God that will reflect the love that He has for His people to the world. Marriage is a ministry. Although I knew this (in theory) before, learning the lessons that marriage has taught them has made it real to me. These women are challenging me on everything from how I spend my time and energy, how I manage my money, how I take care of my body, how I submit to authority and how I regard others in my decision making to how I spend time with God and how diligent I am in praying for others. They leave no area untouched because they want me to be as equipped as possible to enter into marriage if the Lord so graces me.
Not only do I have these women, but I have a sincere desire to learn everything that I can myself, and to improve my character. Since last summer, I have read countless books, articles, blog posts, I’ve listened to sermon series, speakers and everything that I could get my hands on to prepare myself for what I want in the future. I don’t believe that I can teach myself everything. I believe that there are many lessons that I can only learn from marriage, but how unwise would it be for me to go into it blindly without at least having tried to glean wisdom and insight from the experiences of others?
Being intentional is the difference between knowing where you want to be and getting where you want to be.
When it comes character, how many of us are aware of the character flaws that we posses and are working to improve them? I have seen people boast about their character flaws as if they were okay and then go on with life. We don’t become better people by boasting about our issues; we become better by acknowledging them and consciously working to correct them. Another huge part of this is asking God to reveal the areas of our character that need to be fixed. I’ve prayed this prayer and God has shown me things I didn’t expect to see, but I thanked Him because then and only then could they be worked on. One of my favorite pastors, Dr. C. Wesley Knight recently said, “What you never confront, you will never conquer.” Don’t laugh your issues off. Be upfront about the fact that they exist and ask God for help correcting them. You don’t want those to cause issues for you (or your relationships) later when you could work on them today.
What you never confront, you will never conquer. – Dr. C. Wesley Knight
So ladies, here are some great questions to consider before considering marriage:
Am I faithful to God daily by consistently spending time with Him?
Am I willing to serve even though I may not feel like it?
Do my words build up or do they destroy? Can I be a source of encouragement?
Am I ruled by my emotions and feelings?
Am I lazy?
Am I disciplined?
Am I taking every opportunity to learn from the Godly wives around me?
Am I able to submit to authority? Am I able to submit to God and my parents now?
Am I intentional about how I handle my finances? Am I preparing myself to make wise financial decisions for a family?
Do I take every matter to God in prayer?
Do I have Christian character? Am I preparing myself to instill Christian character in my children?
Do I know how to take care of myself? Would I be able to take care of the basic needs of my family?
Have I tamed my tongue or am I quick to lash out when angry? Do I have a pleasant attitude?
Am I considerate of others?
Why do I want to be married? Is it for my own validation, the need to feel loved or the desire to belong? Are any of my reasons selfish or self-seeking?
Am I preparing myself to be a great helper to a man of God?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, you’re a lot like me. I don’t know anyone, single or married, who can say that they have checked all of these areas off their list. But the key is to be asking yourself these questions regularly so that you know you aren’t being idle and so that you are living an intentional life. Let’s not be Lindsey. Let’s start training now for where we want to go.
I have some reading and listening suggestions as well.
Captivating by John & Stasi Eldridge
Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot
“Boy Meets Girl” sermon series by Louie Giglio (check the Sermon Series resource page)
Everything on the Singleness, Courtship and Marriage resource page. Yup. Everything. It’s all great.
And let me say this.
I didn’t write this post because I’m obsessed with marriage. I’m not. I LOVE singleness. I’m living life like it’s golden right now. I am, however, obsessed with glorifying God in every area of my life. And to me that means preparing to do everything well so that others can see Him when they see me. I think that if Christians were as intentional about preparing for marriage as we were about talking about it, there would be more of them that actually fulfill God’s intended purpose for creating it. But that’s another post for another day.
Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on this. Comment below!
I confide altogether in the all-powerful God, in my Saviour; I trust that He will listen to your ardent prayers, that He will infuse His prudence and His wisdom into my mouth, in order that I may resist them; and that He will accord me His Holy Spirit to fortify me in His truth, so that I may face with courage, temptations, prison, and, if necessary, a cruel death. Jesus Christ suffered for His well-beloved; and therefore ought we to be astonished that He has left us His example, in order that we may ourselves endure with patience all things for our own salvation? He is God, and we are His creatures; He is the Lord, and we are His servants; He is Master of the world, and we are contemptible mortals—yet He suffered! Why, then, should we not suffer also, particularly when suffering is for us a purification? Therefore, beloved, if my death ought to contribute to His glory, pray that it may come quickly, and that He may enable me to support all my calamities with constancy.
An excerpt of the letter the martyred Reformer John Huss wrote to his friends in Prague before he was burned at the stake in 1415. Read more about him here.
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21 NKJV