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Unexpected Pathways and Unchanging Purpose

Unexpected Pathways and Unchanging Purpose

I live directly beside a college campus. In 2018 the school began the laborious process of tearing down the building across the street from my house. They surrounded it with construction fencing, and for the next year, my days at home were accompanied by jackhammers and the beeps of large machinery as the building came down. But that wasn’t the end. Mountains of materials were delivered as a large, shiny, elaborate classroom structure was erected.

About two years into this process, COVID-19 hit. Though so close to completion, this building project sat suspended in the Great COVID Pause before its final touches could be completed. Now, at last, over three years after this process began, the building is open and students go in and out each day as the school does its best to carry on through a pandemic. As the next-door neighbor, three years felt like a really long time to be in a state of construction.

Why am I telling you this? Not-so-subtle analogies for your life and mine abound in this story. We have all encountered impatience in waiting. We may have had doubts and seen God come through and answer prayer. We have experienced renewed hope only to watch circumstances and expectations change.

But what if, in the midst of the delays, doubts and curveballs, we feel like we have lost our original calling? Or what if it doesn’t seem to make sense anymore? What if the goals you made for life are dependent on something that isn’t happening fast enough, like obtaining a degree, getting married or living in a certain place? What if your hope is fading because your circumstances are entirely different than you anticipated? And what if all of this is causing you to doubt God’s plan for you?

There are a lot of “what ifs.” Before we move on, I’m going to stop us right here and speak some truth into our lives.

  • We are beautifully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14)
  • God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours, and His plans to use us may not match our own. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
  • God will always be our very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
  • The Holy Spirit is present to guide, intercede for and help us. (Romans 8:26-27)

I could fill pages with the truth and hope we find in Scripture. In times when the “what ifs” abound, God’s Word overflows with promises that together assure us that His plan for us is not broken just because our vision of His purpose for us hasn’t come about.
We are all tasked with loving God and loving others well, and that will play out differently for each of us—and possibly nothing like we thought it would when we first sensed His tug on our hearts to serve Him. And, though it might seem counterintuitive at first, a seeming shift in calling can be a good thing as it’s a sign that it’s God and not us charting our path.
Perhaps the greatest surprise in my life is that nothing has gone quite as I imagined it would. What is amazing about that is that when I look back on the last couple decades, I’m struck not with how well I’ve done but by how gracious God has been to me. I cannot take credit for 99.9% of the good things in my life. If God’s plan for my life were left up to me, I doubt I could say that.
Regardless of how closely your life is playing out according to your plan, God’s goodness still abounds; and because of it, we are able to lean into uncertainty. Because of His kindness, we are able to participate in His great story. Because of His faithfulness, we can trust in His sovereignty even though we aren’t always privy to the big picture of how our lives will turn out.
Though there may be hardship or confusion along the way, I’m thrilled that we can trust in a God who has our best interests in mind. We have nothing to fear as He shapes our lives for the unchanging purposes of our good and His glory. And, when it seems that our plans have become an ongoing construction site, we can praise Him that our ability to fulfill His purposes for us is not contingent on our expectations or circumstances.

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