If you ever want to see the sovereignty of God on display in your life, proclaim to Him that “one thing” that you would never ever do – under any circumstances… no matter what.
It has been six months since my last post. Those six months have felt like three lifetimes in reality. Long story short, September and October of 2019 were a gauntlet of challenges and “closed doors” in our household. Things we were once moving toward with utter assurance were now suddenly crumbling down around us. We had to abandon a home build unexpectedly because of construction issues beyond our control. We received some painfully honest advice from Ashley’s Lyme doctor about what might be slowing her lack of progress toward remission that left us shaken about our future in Eastern North Carolina. I had to leave a job I loved after only eight months – not just a job I loved, but also a group of people I truly loved working with. We had to move out of our little rental condo due to concerns about how the environment there might be adversely affecting Ashley’s health.
In my pride and sense of self-entitlement, I became angry with God. Hadn’t we already sacrificed enough? We had already sold a house we loved. We had already sold or given away most of our “stuff” that we used to place so much value on. I had already left a good job and gone through some very unpleasant circumstances on the way out. Why was God not happy with that? How could He possibly want MORE from us?
It is always easier for me to become angry with God – to “buy the lies” of my enemy that God is playing some sort of game with my life – than to reflect and pray on what God is doing in my circumstances. As I looked deeper and prayed more intentionally for God to reveal what is really going on, He revealed to me how often I tend to fall back into an “Old Testament perspective” of sacrifice. If I give you a sheep, God, then you wipe out my sin and disobedience. Only today, instead of sheep or cattle, we tend to offer up our “stuff.” We offer up to God things like television, phone, social media, possessions – things that bring us comfort or a sense of identity.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself during the last six months, I could have spent that time searching myself for the true reason that I felt so entitled to a sort of preferential treatment for my obedience. I was reminded of the verse in 1 Samuel 16:7,
“The Lord does not look at the things people [the world] looks at. People [the world] look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
My problem is that I expect God to reward my past obedience with fewer struggles in my future. God revealed to me that I have been treating our sacrifices over the past year as a “one and done” trade-offs toward future fulfillment. It was transactional. I know better. God is honored by obedience that comes from the heart – not out of a sense of obligation or an expectation of some return on sacrificial investment.
The preceding sixty days of trials and tribulations with houses, jobs, and illness had brought us to our breaking point. We felt God moving us out of our current situation, but had little to no clarity on what was next. All we knew to do was to trust God and take a step. The first step was packing up. The second step was hitting the road. The third step was taking some time to be still and listen. I would be dishonest if I said that, at the end of our respite, we were disappointed that we hadn’t come out on the other side to a burning bush or some sort of writing in the sky. All we had was silence – and time to pray and talk things over with God and the Holy Spirit moving within us.
And then, after a few weeks – completely unanticipated – God spoke. He didn’t speak audibly, but He spoke through a conversation we had with our mentors from our home church back in North Carolina. During the course of our conversation, we were explaining to them that God had laid it on our hearts *NOT* to move to a place we expected, a place like Colorado or New Mexico. Initially, those were the places we both felt that we would surely move to. After all, both locales seemed to have positive impacts on Ashley’s Lyme symptoms, which was a primary factor for us. During our time there, however, God had not given us a sense that either of these were the place for us. Upon hearing our decision, our mentors simply asked what other options were in front of us. The only option seemingly left to us at the time was to return home to Oklahoma, a place we had previously proclaimed we would only move back to “over our dead bodies.” God heard that declaration, and I believe He laughed.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.” -Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)
In the subsequent days that followed, God reminded us through prayer and quiet time that both of us had unaddressed issues and hurts that we had honestly been running from for the past 15+ years since we left Oklahoma in our rearview mirror. Neither one of us had really ever looked back – never even wanted to. It was easier to be far away.
…and God laughed.
Needless to say, here we are in Oklahoma. God continues to shape our story. There have been so many amazing instances of God’s provision and guiding hand since we returned home a few months ago, but those are for another day.
In the meantime, I want to ask you a couple of questions:
What might God be calling you toward? What might He be calling you away from? Are there people/places/things you have closed the door to in your life that God may be nudging you to re-open and reconsider?
If He is, I want to be the first to encourage you that moving toward those things – not away from them – is always for your good. “For 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
In Him, HB