It is truly a gift to feel confirmed and fully utilized in the circumstances and roles in which we find ourselves today. It is challenging, but bearable, to be in a hardship with a clear purpose and a definitive timeframe.
But what do we do when our life plans take an unexpected, unrequested detour? How should we respond when clearly-directed paths are interrupted with seemingly counterproductive stall outs? To what can we cling when we find ourselves on a wilderness journey with no end in sight?
Stories of God’s Faithfulness
We can cling to the word, which is filled with testimonies of God’s faithfulness in the lives of those who found themselves in the same situations. We read about men and women who came to see that what seemed random was ordained, what seemed unnecessary was crucial, and what seemed indefinite was perfectly appointed in time.
Joseph learned to seek and believe God’s interpretation of dreams in his youth before being sold to traders and thrown into prison on a false accusation — so that God might use him to interpret the dreams of a cupbearer, a baker, and Pharaoh himself, who would later set Joseph over all the land of Egypt. From his position of authority, he saved his people and his own family from famine (Genesis 37–45).
The Israelites were brought out of slavery in Egypt by the Lord’s mighty hand, only to wander in the wilderness forty years — so that God might humble them, test them, and provide for them with daily manna. Through this God taught the nation of Israel that idol worship and evil bring death, but obedience to God brings life and peace (Deuteronomy 8:2–4).
Ruth lost her husband, but practiced faithfulness to her elderly mother-in-law Naomi. Though Naomi had nothing to offer her (Ruth 1:16–18), Ruth followed her back to a foreign land that she had never known — so that she might commit in the faithfulness of marriage to her elderly kinsman redeemer and thus be grafted into the lineage of Jesus.
David spent years in the field shepherding, meditating, and learning to use a slingshot. All the while God was preparing him to defeat the enemy giant Goliath, to rise to kingship as a shepherd of God’s flock, and to use his music to teach us about the true Good Shepherd he came to know and love on the hillsides (Psalm 23; 121).
The Wise Men studied astronomy in the east – so that they might be able to identify the star of the King of the Jews when it rose, and to follow it to Bethlehem to worship the Messiah himself (Matthew 2:1–12).
Jesus was sent out into the wilderness immediately following his baptism to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13) — so that he might resist and defeat the enemy with the word of God. Through this he established his ministry and set an example for his followers of one who was tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Peter, Andrew, James, and John spent their early careers as fishermen — so that they might truly understand what it means to be fishers of men (Matthew 4:18–22).
And the followers of Jesus watched their Teacher — their Lord, their Messiah, their hope — lay down his life, seemingly defeated — so that he might rise again and conquer death forever. He conquered when evil seemed to be prevailing.
Trust God to Write Your Ending
The story, as we see it, is never truly over.
Could it be that your career is instilling in you the leadership ability, presentation skills, or financial stewardship desperately needed by your ministry or church?
Could it be that this season of loneliness is driving you to seek satisfaction in Christ alone?
Could it be that your abundance of free time is allowing you to store up more truths about God that will feed you in famines of availability, when solitude is harder to find?
Could it be that living among this people group is immersing you in the culture and customs you need to understand before being sent to another nation abroad?
Could it be that each day at home with your children is opening your eyes to childlike faith and the fatherly love of God, equipping you to encourage and mentor other parents on raising children in spirit and in truth?
Could it be that the painful trial you are undergoing is teaching you to pray and draw near to God as never before, and that when the unsaved in your life go through it next, they will look to you for an explanation of how you made it through with comfort, peace, and hope?
Could it be that the relationships you are forming while in this hospital bed, in these classes, or serving under this leader will be the very ones God uses to sow the seeds of his gospel into open and receptive hearts through your words and love?
And if so, wouldn’t it all be infinitely worth it?
Don’t Resent the Training Ground
Don’t resent God’s training ground. It is here in your current circumstances — with the responsibilities he has entrusted to you, in the location he has placed you, alongside the people to whom he has assigned you — that you will find the good works he has prepared in advance for you (Ephesians 2:10). And that is always where the calling begins — for today, and for all that he is preparing in you for the days to come.
He sees you. He has not forgotten you. And you can trust him.
So, serve wholeheartedly today. Make the most of every opportunity. Run the race marked out for you with patient faith and persevering hope, setting your heart on the promise that he is working all things — all suffering, all waiting, all confusion, all reroutes, all journeys in the wilderness — for the good of us who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). And he himself will fulfill that purpose in us, that he might receive all the glory when he does.