I’ve never been one to journal much. A few months ago, my wife bought me a journal. I had been wanting to begin writing in cursive again, so I thought, “Hey, this is a good opportunity to track things that I’m praying for.” I know, a very holy reason to begin to practice a discipline that has greatly benefited many brothers and sisters throughout history.
Recently, I went back through my prayer journal and found myself reflecting back on my prayers from over 6 years ago. During that time, I was asking for God to guide me as I began to consider moving out of my career as a banker, uprooting my family from Georgia and moving to Wake Forest to attend seminary. If you were able to take a quick skim through my prayer journal you would find a common trend; I was constantly asking God for guidance and direction.
God, where do you want me to serve you?
God, what do I do when I get there?
God, how are you going to provide for us?
God, when will you give me clarity?
God, am I enough for this task?
God, can you use even me?
A Plea For Direction
If you look at these questions, they are asking for God’s guidance and direction. I guess I have a pattern for wanting to know what’s next. I just want to know that I’m doing the right thing at the right time, and in the right way. I mean, is that too much to ask? (I’m only slightly kidding.)
Maybe you are like me. Maybe you have found yourself praying similar prayers for a long time. Maybe you have grown exhausted by the question, “What do you want to do when you graduate?” Maybe you are about to graduate and you are thinking, “What next!?”
My Current Situation
In March, for the first time in a very long time, I had what I thought was clarity. God had pointed us in the direction of Charleston, SC. He had opened the door for us to serve on a team in a church replant. He had sent a buyer for our home in Wake Forest. I had even set a date in June to make the move.
I couldn’t believe it! All of these prayers that I had poured out to God were being answered. It was like I was getting on an airplane with bags packed, ready to go, seated in first class with confidence that anything that remained yet unknown would be answered while I was in the air.
Then, COVID-19. Imagine that same airplane; bags are packed and plans are made. Everything is set, except for the takeoff time and date. To seemingly have so many things clarified only to be driven back to uncertainty is a difficult pill to swallow. This can drive you to despair.
“When will the church be able to vote?” “Will we be able to find funding?” “How are we going to find a place to live?” Is it smart to move in a time like this?” “Will our home close?” The questions began to fly through my mind faster than I could process. It forced me to ask, “God, what do I do?”
Given all of that, I have been encouraged in a few ways during this season of transition and uncertainty.
Confidence In God’s Provision
As things began to slow down for our move, I had a period where I was discouraged. I then remembered a passage for Numbers 11. In this passage, God is responding to the grumblings of the people of Israel. The people had grown tired of manna; they wanted meat to eat.
God tells Moses he is going to give the people what they want. Moses, being a practical guy, looks around, does a quick headcount, runs some figures in Microsoft Excel and decides that it’s going to take the entire herd of animals in order to gather enough meat for the people.
God hears Moses’ question and says, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true or not” (Num. 11:23). I am struck by how matter of fact God is in his response. God essentially says, “Is there anything that I can’t do? Watch this!”
I’m also reminded of 1 Peter 5 where we read, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:10).
Oh, how our hearts should sing at this wonderful promise! The God of all grace! He, himself, by his power and his might, will take care of us! Notice though, it is “after you have suffered a little while.” His provision does not mean things will be easy, but we can be confident that there is rest at the end for those who are weary.
In this same passage, God calls us to cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6). How could God ask this if he had any doubt in his ability to provide?
The Importance Of Remembering
It’s one thing to know that God is able to provide. However, it’s an entirely different thing to be in a tumultuous season of life and to live in faith. How do we begin to put head knowledge into practice? How do we connect the dots between stated belief and actual action?
It’s easy to lose sight of the larger picture when we zero in on a specific moment in time. When we have a narrow perspective, we often fail to see the ways that God has provided for us in the past. I think this is why God so often tells the people of Israel to remember all that he has done to provide for them in their past.
I often look back to some of the most trying times in my life and rejoice. Not because those seasons have passed, but because of what I learned by walking through those seasons. I believe Spurgeon is known to have said, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages.” If I could say it better, I would, but I can’t.
In remembering God’s past provision, I have found personal evidence that God’s hand is not shortened. God is capable of sustaining us through difficulty. Seasons of uncertainty and challenge have often drawn me closer to the Lord in prayer and dependence. God has never grown tired of hearing my requests and I am often led to worship as I lift my requests up to him and reflect on the ways that he has provided in the past.
So now it’s time to land the plane. For so many, this is a time where hope seems to be a foreign concept. Fear reigns supreme in many of the narratives of our day. May it not be so for children of God.
My friends, his hand is not shortened! Your Father in Heaven has not been caught off guard. My friends, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news (Rom. 10:15). In a time of fear, may we not be driven to despair. Instead, let us love our neighbors well. Let us herald the reason for the hope that we have in Jesus.
What about those questions I asked in the beginning? God knows the answers. He will reveal them in due time. During this season, I pray that “the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26).