I have spent the last few months trying to answer the question, “What am I even doing?” And for better or worse, another question lies between the lines: “What is God even doing?”
Here’s the most unadulterated example I know to offer you. I love writing—absolutely adore it—and two years ago it felt like I was being propped up by God and by others to succeed in it.
I lived where the action was, rubbed shoulders with some of the most talented writers I know, and got opportunity handed to me on a silver platter. And I handled it poorly. I overindulged. I ate, and I ate, and I ate, and eventually, I thought a diet of opportunity would prove healthiest.
Imagine my surprise, then, when God took me on an unexpected turn back to the “actionless” Maryville, Tennessee. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for it. God, in His foresight, saved me from trading in my soul for the allure of worldly success and accolades. (And, to be clear, such an exchange would have been because of my failure to prioritize God above all else—not the result of anyone else’s actions.)
Even so, I’m sometimes confused by it. When I think about worldly definitions of writing success, I must admit it feels like I have taken a misstep. Vocationally speaking, it feels like I have tripped and will never again be where the action is.
The Most Terrifying Sentence You Will Ever Utter
It’s terrifying to admit all of that on such a platform as this. I’ve spent two years tearing down an idol dressed in academic regalia—and if we’re honest, I still have a lot of tearing left to go.
But more terrifying is admitting what I’ve learned: The will of God never misfires.
Admitting God’s will never misfires is admitting He is the one putting me in my position of worldly failure. He’s the one who has humbled me. He’s the one enabling me to put self to death. Dying to self is hard, and it hurts a lot.
This isn’t to say God rejoices in my suffering or failure; it’s to say that He is the source of my growth even when “growth” requires a bit of emotional tilling or heartbreak. If God is truly in control of all things (and I believe that He is), we have to address the tension of this pain-turning-to-growth-from-God.
The Most Comforting Sentence You Will Ever Utter
”Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
James 1:2–4 (CSB)
As terrifying as it can be to come to terms with the surefire faithfulness of God’s will, it is equally comforting to do so.
God does not deal in incompletes. Not one of His actions will be begun that He does not also finish. God sees us through. His will doesn’t misfire, and it can’t misfire.
How much more confidence should we have in the midst of our pain-turning-to-growth, then! Like stitches, in order for the grace of God to be strung through you, you must first be punctured—and during our tearing down, we can be certain that God is the One who “heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).
If it’s within God’s plan for you to suffer—for a loved one to pass, for you to lose a job, for you to feel like a failure, for you to remain barren or single or be cheated on—God will certainly bind you up. He is good to His people, and He promises redemption. He sealed that promise once and for all in blood on the cross.
In the resurrection of Christ, God was telling us He was always in control. Just when the disciples felt things had gone off the rails, when the one who claimed to be the Messiah was being killed on a Roman cross, God vindicated the promise He made to Abraham.
The resurrection means God’s will never misfires, even when it feels like it might be doing so. Look, then, and behold the sign—the Son of Man who has come to take away the sting of death and the sins of the world.