*This is part three of the series, “Lessons Learned from a Season of Rest”
I Can Really Trust God. -Honestly, this is a 50/50 statement for me. Fifty percent of me has seen God’s hand guiding my life over the past 35 years. I have seen Him come through and prove Himself time and again. That 50% is extremely confident that I can trust God and His Spirit’s leading. Then… there is the fifty percent of me that He requires to be in faith regarding the future, that part of me often struggles with the things that I have to leave in God’s hands. Don’t get me wrong that part of me is still trusting God, but it is just not as confident as the other part of me that remembers how God has so obviously worked in my life and in the lives of those around me.
I am sure we have all wondered how the children of Israel could have doubted God’s faithfulness in the Exodus after the plagues, after their miraculous release from Egypt, after the parting of the Red Sea and so on; or how the disciples could have ever doubted the words of Jesus after seeing all the miraculous things that He did. I guess I have realized that I am just as human as they were because even though I know I can really trust God, I have to admit and say that I still struggle with doubt. So, I will reflect a bit in this post and remember how God has worked in my life to encourage and remind myself of God’s faithfulness and to encourage others who might read this.
We all doubt God’s direction. Like everyone else I have often wondered, “Lord, what are you getting me into?” I have left very good jobs at His direction, moved my family across the country at His direction, and even given up my ministry -at least ministry as I know it, all at His direction. The fact of the matter is, God has led me to very few places that did not require me to trust Him. I remember when I was 28 years old, I had worked my way up to management at a juvenile detention center. I was hired as a computer technician and over the course of a few years I had gained the respect of my peers and those in authority over me. I was eventually promoted to the “Director of Finance and Support Services,” boy did my young ego love that! I oversaw 18 people and 4 different departments along with managing a budget of well over 4 million dollars. I earned the respect of my executive director and the governing board of the organization which included judges and other influential people in the community. If I would have remained there I could have built quite a career for myself and had a very nice retirement with the state of Louisiana, but God led me to leave for a season of full time ministry. I will never forget the faces and words of some of my peers when they found out that I was resigning, “you worked your way all the way up, and now you are walking away?” A few years later, the church my wife and I were serving as associate pastors was booming. It was (and still is) one of the largest and fastest growing churches in that area. We had helped start the church and had invested six years of our lives in it’s success. Then, God began to speak to us about leaving and planting another church, in another part of the country, 725 miles away from our families and all of our best friends. Very few of our family and friends understood why we wanted to leave such a good situation. We later found out that most of them thought we were missing God’s will for our lives in making such a big move. Again, I saw looks on faces communicating the thought, “what are you thinking???” Therefore, we were not sent off to Indiana with pats on the back and great encouragement. I remember a moment when Amy and I were unloading a UHaul at the UHaul storage facility in Terre Haute. We were taking a piece of her favorite furniture out and it had been scratched. It may sound silly now, but in that moment reality hit us. It was as if we realized and said to ourselves, “We are 725 miles away from our family and friends; it’s just us and God. Boy, I sure hope God knows what He is doing AND I sure hope we are not missing Him on this…” I could share other similar experiences but you should get the point by now. In these instances God required me (us) to trust Him and Him alone.
I can look back at these “tests of faith” now and smile, knowing that He was really with us all along; He really did know what He was doing. But Truths like these are often seen much more clearly in the rear view mirror than when the tests are experienced in real-time. In the end, I believe His goal is to wean us off our trust in people, things, and position and teach us to trust in Him alone. These are truly hard lessons to learn. As this past season of my life comes to a close, He has brought me one step closer to the reality that I can really trust Him. He knows what He is doing.
Over the past two years, I have often been comforted by this whisper from the Holy Spirit I received via email:
SMALL STRAWS IN A SOFT WIND by Marsha
Burns — July 10, 2009:
Beloved, I have gone before you to make crooked
places straight and rough places smooth. It may not
seem like it, but the fact is that it would be virtually
impossible for you to navigate this spiritual terrain
without My help. I am not surprised by the things that
challenge you, nor am I worried that you will not come
through, for I am with you to bring you to new heights.
The path is narrow, and there is no other way to arrive
at this level of spiritual maturity than the way you have
come, says the Lord. Trust Me and keep pressing on.
I have read and re-read those words many times over the past few years; God has used them to get me through some fairly dark times. The phrase that really leaps out to my spirit is, “The path is narrow, and there is no other way to arrive at this level of spiritual maturity than the way you have come, says the Lord. Trust Me and keep pressing on.” It is contrary to the nature of our flesh to trust God; it is so much easier to put our trust in money, or people, or things. Trusting God requires us to truly surrender our lives to Him, to take risks, to remove our hands from the steering wheel, and to constantly sit at His feet quietly listening for His still small voice when the world is racing by with all of it’s very loud voices and distractions. -However, if we refuse to fully trust God, we will never become spiritually mature.
During this season of rest, I took a break from most ministry responsibilities and the “rat race of life.” I focused on hearing and listening to His “still small voice.” I reflected on how God has already worked in my life and then focused on discerning where He is leading me and my family to next. I took my hands off the steering wheel and said, “OK Lord, you drive.” It is simply amazing to see how clear the murky water of daily life can become when I just sit at His feet, enjoy His presence and commune with Him. -And in those moments, I have realized that I can really trust Him. He knows what He is doing. Where He leads, I want to follow.