"Why can't I know God's plan for my life? Doesn't He understand that I want to serve Him? Why don't I have that BIG HAIRY AUDACIOUS GOAL that everyone talks about! When can I start living life?"
Ron, one of my mentors, without skipping a beat knew exactly what to say, "You don't need God's ultimate plan for your life. You just need to focus in on Jesus, and He'll give you the next step."
It was incredibly frustrating. What in the world did that even mean? I had finished my degree in youth ministry and philosophy at Nyack College, and had spent five months on a missions experience with Youth With a Mission. I wanted to know the big picture so I could start living my life. Instead, I found myself filled with insecurity and feelings of inadequacy. I took the first job that could help me start paying my student loans back, wondering if I'd ever find my way.
But God had something for me. When we enter into season of choice and decision-making, we need to understand God's ultimate purpose in it. And over the next few years, I would be learning enough to fill a book…or a blog post.
God uses those times of confusion, when we lack a clear vision where God is leading us, to form us. We want answers – and God wants process. As Pastor Chris Brown once said, "God blesses disciples, not decisions." God wants to bless you with character, not comfort or immediate answers. Character builds what we need to sustain us when we do experience success or when we face tough times. Character is not the means to an end – it’s the end in itself! Here's two practical ways to build character in times of choice or ambiguity.
Plan as if it all depends on you, but pray as if it all depends on God.
Throughout Scripture there is a tension in discerning God's will. On the one hand, we are told to plan well in order to succeed (Proverbs 21:5). On the other hand, we are also told to trust God with our plans (Proverbs 16:9). So which is it? It’s both. Spend significant time with Jesus, praying, listening, and just being. And spend significant time walking in obedience. Diligence in prayer will lead to greater sensitivity to the Spirit for walking out that obedience.
Ask, Ask, Ask.
You need input from a variety of people. You need people that are older than you, mentors who can speak into your life. You need godly friends (not your gym buddies, as valuable as they can be) who can speak to you as well. Even your parents can offer insights that you may not have considered. And of course, ask the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will lead and guide you, and never contradicts his Word.
Even when you can't see what God is doing, learning to trust God when you can't see the big picture is what forges character in your life. When you decide to take initiative in response to God's leading, even without knowing all the steps, you build character. When you decide to take a risk and do something outside your comfort zone, you are building character. When we understand that God cares more about crafting our character than getting us to the specific end goal we have in mind, we learn to appreciate the process. Choose today to trust God and He'll take you to where you need to go, shaping you along the way.
Nithin Thompson is the Teaching Pastor at Liquid Church which is located in Morristown, NJ. Nithin is a graduate of Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary. When he's not pastoring you can find him hanging out with his wife Jackie and trying to catch Pokemon with his daughter Selah and son Wesley. He blogs on SojournIntoExile.com.