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
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. -Hebrews 13:5 KJV
I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. -Philippians 4:11-13 Message
I hope that you’re all doing well. I wanted to write because yesterday while talking to my best friend Jeida (many of my blog ideas come from conversations with her), I realized that I am truly happy with my life. I realized that I don’t feel any voids, holes or discontentment although there are many things in my life that can be better.
Let’s face it. At some point, all of us realize that our life is not what we thought it would be 5 years ago. I am 22 years old but when I was 17, I had life all figured out. I knew that by 22, I would be a college graduate, working as a nurse, married to my high school sweetheart and living the high life. I mean I had school planned out, wedding dates and children’s names. That’s before I realized that I didn’t get to plan my life myself. Also, before I realized that God’s plans are greater than mine and definitely before I read Proverbs 16:9 which says, “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live.” As of now, I’m not yet a college graduate. I haven’t started my career, but when I do I will be making less money than I ever wanted to. I have no awesome guy friends I’d like to marry, no boyfriend, no prospects and no wedding dates in mind. I have no awesome fancy apartment or car. All of these things sound like the makings of a sad situation but to be completely honest with you, I am completely filled with joy.
What I have come to understand is that my life is not where I thought it would be even 6 months ago, but there is no better place than where I am and that is simply because of Jesus. I don’t have all the things I thought I’d have, but God is working in my life. Doors are opening for me and I see Him leading me along the way. This place can only be described as total dependence, devotion and surrender to Jesus. Not just this, but I am also completely in love with the man and I am pursuing Him like He’s the last man I’ll ever know. I am chasing Him, burning for Him and giving myself to Him. Right now, there is nothing I want more in this life than to please my Jesus. Nothing. No status, job, title, relationship, money, anything. I am completely in love with where we are and with how He is molding me into a woman that He wants me to be.
I am so thankful because I haven’t always been this way. If you read some of my previous blog posts, you know that this is a new thing for me. But it is so amazing that I never want to go back to just being a “church attendee who tries to do things right.” The level of intimacy, love, peace and joy that I have in this relationship is the best thing I’ve ever experienced. Things are so amazing that I am literally rolling out of bed at 6am to have prayer and worship. I NEVER did that before without a struggle. It was hard because I wasn’t excited to do it. Right now, I am elated to get to spend time with this amazing man that I love before my day gets started. It’s a joy!
But enough of my happy talk. Here are some things that I have done/tips to help you get to the point where Jesus is your all and you are completely content in Him. Ready? Let’s go!
1. Spend time with Him and read about His promises
I spend ample amounts of time in prayer every single day. I am also in the process of reading the entire Old Testament and reading several books. There’s no way around this. Many times, we want the benefits of a relationship with God without putting in the work. Pursue Him simply to get to know Him and see how He works in your life and gives you peace. Also, memorize scriptures and promises that He has made. When I have feelings of discontentment despite knowing I’m right where I should be, I have several verses and sayings that remind me that’s God’s got everything under control. I’ll share a few:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” -Proverbs 3:5, 6 NIV
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28 NIV
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV
2. Count your blessings and answered prayers
When I start to feel that my life isn’t working out right, I begin to count my blessings and my answered prayers. When I realize that I can’t count them all, it usually helps me to understand that I am blessed beyond measure. It is in those moments that my strength, faith and joy are renewed.
3. Remember that God is working everything out for your good and for His glory
When we live for Christ and we know that we are doing what He would have us to do, we can always remind ourselves that Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I love this promise, and the short way that I say this is “God is working everything out for my good and for His glory.” How amazing is that? What an amazing promise! Basically, all we have to do is stay obedient, faithful and focused on God and what He has for us to do and everything will work out for us. This doesn’t mean that we sit around and not take care of our business, do our homework or go to work. It means that God is always on our side making things work for us as long as we love Him and are committed to our purpose.
4. Don’t allow negativity, complaining or bad emotions to fester
Often times, it’s hard for us to be content with our lives and our portion because we are negative and we complain a lot. We point out what God is doing for others, compare our lives to theirs and want what they have. This creates bad feelings which make us depressed and sad. Then we get “stuck in our feelings” as many people would say. We have to fight off negativity all the time. When I feel myself getting ready to complain, I pray. I thank God for my life and where I am right now. I thank Him for this season of transition, growth and change that is making me more like Him. I thank Him for every blessing and trial alike. Shelley Giglio, an amazing woman of God tweeted something so simple yet profound one day when I was online. It simply said “sometimes you have to contend for faith.” On the daily basis, I contend for peace, joy, faith and other things. But the point is, I don’t just let the devil or life’s circumstances take these things from me. I FIGHT for them. I WILL keep my peace, joy and faith. The best way to make this fight easier is to rid as much negativity from your life as possible.
5. Keep your mind stayed on Jesus
I know many people think that this is just a saying, but it is a state of mind. Throughout the day, I try to keep my mind on my Savior. On the amazing man who gave up everything for me. The one who knew I’d sin against Him but still willingly went to the cross and stayed there. The one who has blessed me when I didn’t deserve it. I think about HIs love, grace, compassion and care for me and it makes it a lot easier for me to be thankful, joyful and happy about life everyday. My life isn’t perfect and many situations I deal with are not optimal situations, but I have found that keeping Jesus on the brain helps me to see the beauty in life and not just focus on the bad.
Learning to be content no matter what is amazing. It is something that can only come from God changing us and taking away our anxiety and replacing it with His peace. Try these things and see how your begin to view life differently.