Probably no one who’s lived for any length of time can say life has turned out exactly as they expected, at least to this point. Even the best-planned life will encounter unforeseen twists and turns along the way.
Sometimes they’re merely brief detours. Like taking a highway exit to get gas or buy some fast food, then quickly getting back on the highway. Other times, however, life’s course goes in completely unexpected directions.
Kind of like leaving New York to go to Florida, and suddenly discovering you’re rerouted to Colorado.
Try mentally transporting yourself back in time 10 years, 20 years, even 30 years. Can you remember what you were anticipating about your life? Your dreams? Your plans? Your aspirations? Now consider how those goals, hopes and expectations compare with how your life has unfolded to date.
If you could have done so then, would you have chosen the life you have now? Some of us might have, but for probably the majority of us, our lives look very different from what we had envisioned.
In my case, when I enrolled in college, I had no idea my educational and career paths would take me from New Jersey to Texas to Ohio to Pennsylvania, back to Ohio and Texas, and now, to Tennessee. It’s almost as if God were saying, “I know where I want you to be, but you can’t get there from here. You have to go somewhere else first.” Actually, lots of “somewhere elses.”
Over the course of one’s life, we experience joys and tragedies, successes and setbacks, delights and discouragements we could not have imagined. In some cases, we wish we could have a do-over, a “mulligan.” Other times we think, “Wow! I never would have thought of that!” The question is, how do we deal with our disappointments and sorrows, as well as surprising opportunities and challenges?
For those of us who trust in and follow Jesus Christ, it helps to believe that He is in control, even when life seems spiraling out of it. As the Lord says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Whenever we’re tempted to wallow in self-pity or despair, this offers the assurance that bumps in the road, the obstacles we face, are part of God’s plan for taking us to where He ultimately wants us to be.
As I started my journalism career, I envisioned a long career in the newspaper business. I did enjoy the opportunity to work on suburban newspapers for 10 years, but the Lord had other plans for me and my career. In fact, over the decade I spent as a newspaper editor, God was also using the path He took me on for working in my life in other ways. Who I am today, not only professionally but also personally and spiritually, is a result of how He guided me and my family from place to place, job to job.
This is one reason that more than 40 years ago, I adopted Proverbs 3:5-6 as my “life verse.” It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”
There have been many times along the way that my paths seemed more crooked than straight, but in retrospect I can see God knew exactly what He was doing, every step along the way. I love the promise He gave to the ancient Israelites – one we can also claim as believers today:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile’” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
Perhaps you’re at a point in life when you feel like you’re “in exile.” You might be wondering, “God, what is going on? Are You there? How did I get here? Are You aware of what’s happening?” If so, the Scripture passages above assure us that He is there – and knows quite well, better than we do, what’s going on.
Sometimes He wants us to move into action, to step through doors He opens. Other times, however, the Lord asks us simply to slow down and trust Him. As He says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
* * *
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.