I’m writing this post without knowing specifically where I want it to go. I have a thought in my mind, and I’m going to try to verbalize it. This might be dangerous, but here we go!
The last few months have been pretty crazy in my life, and a lot of big things have happened. I got married in July, which was one of the most wonderful memorable days in my life, but immediately following that day, I was struck with the realization that I was now responsible for another human person. My decisions no longer affected just me, and I needed to work harder than ever to provide for my new human responsibility. Now, I love being married, it’s absolutely wonderful in pretty much every way, but it costs a lot of money. Providing for a family (even a small one) can be very expensive, and I am not a rich man. Sometimes I struggle with myself, because I want to treat Kate like the Queen of the Universe … but I can’t. I often find myself doubting God’s provision for us, and even though I know it’s wrong, I dream of what I would do if God gave us $100 million. I trick myself by saying “it’s just a dream”, when in reality it is often much more than that. It is a silent sense of resentment that God has not given me what I think I need.
When I graduated from college (2 months before my wedding), I got a job working for a quick-service restaurant in town. It didn’t pay as well as I wanted, but it was still more per hour than I had ever made up to that point. I worked for them for three weeks and than the Lord showed me through some difficult circumstances that it was not what He wanted for me. With my tail tucked, I quit my job and contacted the workplace I had left three weeks earlier. They readily welcomed me back and even made me a Supervisor! The pay was less than what I was making at the restaurant, but it was still more than they had been paying me prior to my graduation. Money was going to super-tight for us, even with both of us working full-time, but we felt would could scrape by on it.
Well, not too long after I started back with them, I was contacted about applying for a full-time salaried staff-position with the University I had graduated from. The pay was hard to argue with! I thought “Yes! This must be what God had for me all along!” I eagerly filled out the application, put my best foot forward for the interview, and anxiously awaited to hear that I was getting the job. I think you know where this is going. After several weeks of hearing nothing, I contacted the hiring manager only to find out that the position had been filled two weeks early. Needless to say, I was bitterly disappointed and wondering what God was doing. After being rejected for another position with the University, I resigned myself to the fact that the job I was in must be where God wanted me to stay. It was an enjoyable job, I had some of the best co-workers, and it paid just enough for us to scrape by. I worked the job for the remainder of the summer, and for the first full semester of my Master’s program at the University. Well, as you can imagine, Christmas break came, things shut down for the Holidays, and I was stuck with no work for almost a month. We had barely scraped by up to this point, and with no work for a month, there was no way we were going to make it through the Holidays. (This would a good time to mention that I had lined up some temporary work right before the semester ended, but it fell through at the last minute).
I am ashamed to admit that I am terrible at trusting God! I am a DIY kind of guy, and I like to be in control of what’s happening at any given moment. With no job, and no way to make it through the Holidays, I began to look for temporary work, as well as a part-time job for the following semester to supplement our income and help pay off the debt we were no doubt going to incur during the Holidays. I searched for jobs and filled out applications for over a week and still had nothing. I was desperate and resorted to looking for odd jobs just to make a few bucks. I felt like a worthless bum that had no right being married, because I was clearly failing at the provision part of my vows!
I know this story is kind of dragging on, but bear with me! I look back on this story and I ashamed at how little faith I had in God’s provision and direction in our lives.
My brother is a very successful Buyer’s Agent for one of the top real-estate agencies in the Upstate! He is very good at what he does, and he has a lot of connections. (If anyone is looking to buy a house, or even thinking about it; let me know! I will connect you with him.) When he found out that I was out of work, he started working his connections and found me a temporary job working for a contractor business owned by a guy that grew up in my church. His sister and I are the same age, and I’ve known his family since I was born, though I didn’t know him super well. I started work the very next day, and I absolutely loved it! There was so much variety to the work, I was learning all kinds of things that I could use to fix up my home, and the guys I was working with were great!
I worked about a week and a half when I learned the owner was looking to hire another person full-time. I spoke to him about it, and he hired me full-time on the spot! I was so happy about getting the job, and then it got even better. The owner is paying me almost the exact same amount as the first University job was, he is talking about giving me a raise within the next few months to a year, and he is also talking about incorporating a system where he pays gas for his workers’ commutes to and from work! All-in-all, this job is better than any of the jobs I have had, or applied for, up to this point in my life, and God literally dropped it in my lap! God has reminded me once again that He is in control of my life, and I need to trust Him fully. I also think it’s interesting that I wasn’t even in control of this job in terms of finding it. My big brother found it for me. That’s pretty humbling for a DIY kind of guy.
I am very pleased right now, because my story has led me exactly where I was wanting to go. You see, there are often times in our lives when things don’t make any sense, and we have no idea where God is leading us. We have a feeling of being perpetually in the dark, and we often find ourselves begging for God’s illumination concerning His plan for us. We often spend our lives praying for daylight!
Our lives are very much like a puzzle (very original, I know). As finite humans, we tend to get hung up focusing on the individual pieces of the puzzle of our lives, and it can be really confusing and annoying trying to get all the pieces to fit together properly. Imagine how frustrating it would be if you were given a Zip-lock bag filled with puzzle pieces and no cover picture. You begin to put the puzzle together, but each individual piece doesn’t look much like anything, and quite frankly, a lot of the pieces look the same. You are trying to put your puzzle together, but you don’t know what it should look like, you don’t know if there are any pieces missing, you don’t know if there are pieces from other puzzles in the bag, and the whole thing makes no sense. After a while, you become utterly exasperated and you say “I quit! This puzzle makes no sense!” If you’re like me, you are getting anxious just at the thought of putting together a puzzle without the picture. Imagine how much easier it would be if you had the picture, though. You could compare the colors on the pieces to the picture and figure out approximately where they go, you could see if colors appear in multiple places on the puzzle, you could see wear colors and shapes meet up, and all sorts of other crucial information about the puzzle you are assembling.
As cliche as it is, our lives are just like puzzles, but God is the only one who has the completed picture. If we try to put our puzzle together by ourselves, we are going to get discouraged and give up every time. However, if we let God direct us in assembling our puzzle, the whole process will go much smoother. We may not understand why one piece connects to another, and it not be readily apparent what the puzzle is, but if we trust God to help us put together our puzzle, we will eventually “see the big picture” every time.
There are so many examples in Scripture of people who have experienced what I’m talking about. Their reactions when they finally figure it out is always heartwarming, but I think my favorite one is Nebuchadnezzar’s. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar is writing to the world to testify of everything that God had done for him. Nebuchadnezzar was the most prestigious man in the world at that time, and he knew it. He had a nasty habit of taking credit for everything he had (Dan. 4:30), and God decided to teach him a lesson. In order to humble him, God made Nebuchadnezzar go crazy and live like an animal until he realized that God is the one that had made Nebuchadnezzar who he was, and it was God who had given Nebuchadnezzar everything he had, and it was God who was in control.
Nebuchadnezzar no doubt struggled with his new lot in life, and I’m sure he would have rather just been struck dead as a prestigious king, than to have been made to live like an animal. It took him seven years, but Nebuchadnezzar finally figured out what God was doing, and he expresses the whole experience beautifully. In Daniel 4 :35-36 (NASB), Nebuchadnezzar writes, “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'”
Another great example is the Apostle Paul. God had allowed Satan to buffet Paul with some unnamed “thorn in the flesh”, and Paul asked God on three different occasion to remove it, but God chose not to do it. God’s response to Paul and Paul’s subsequent response to God makes for one of my favorite verses in the Bible. II Cor. 12:9,10 (NASB) says, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for [my] power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Even though Paul didn’t understand why these things were happening to him, He fully understood who his God is, and he trusted him. Later on in his ministry, Paul states the things that happened to him happened so that God could further the Gospel through Paul. Paul got the big picture, and saw that God had a plan through it all just as he thought!
Things happen in our lives, and we often don’t know why they are happening. We are tempted to doubt God’s control in our lives, or think that He doesn’t care anymore. When those moments come, we need to patiently wait on God, trusting that He is in control, He knows what is happening, and He has a plan to work it all out for the best. In the end, when we see the big picture, we will know that God is a good God, and that He is trustworthy. Many before us have come to this realization, and someday we will too!
Here are some various verses and songs for your meditation:
(Rom 8:28,31 NASB) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose … What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
(Jer 29:11 NASB) ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
(Psa 37:23-24 NASB) The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.
(Psa 139:5-6, 17-18 NASB) You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. … How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.