“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
(Matthew 6:25-26 NKJV)
Every year on my birthday, I have a tradition where I take time to reflect on the past and write about how I’ve changed. This year in particular is special, as I come to the end of being 20 years old! To celebrate the last two decades of my life, I wanted to do something quirky–perhaps a 20 Things I Learned at 20 kind-of-thing–but as I brainstormed ideas, I couldn’t help but notice that there was actually one important lesson I learned this past year.
One lesson that was underneath all the other ones I have learned. One that I realize God has been trying to teach me for years:
Stop trying to figure things out prematurely.
I know that I want to control things. I want to know what will happen next and choose the ending if I can. However, as I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve learned that God’s plan is always better than mine.
So, when I had this revelation, I didn’t initially understand it. I thought, Well, God, You know I just want to know Your will. No harm in that. That’s true. Wouldn’t we all want to know God’s will for our lives?
However, what He showed me through various scenarios was that my desire to know His will had turned into an inability to trust Him. Take for example, a few months ago in the spring. I had applied to three different internships, which I hoped would lead to full-time positions by next year. However, waiting to hear back from them was agonizing. I worried about which path God wanted me to take, as it would possibly affect my soon-to-be career. My attitude would constantly fluctuate, from calm to impatient to discouraged. I bounced back and forth, wondering, God, what do You want me to do? Please, give me clarity.
This discouragement brought intense doubt. I couldn’t understand why God wasn’t giving me the clarity I was asking for. I worried that I wouldn’t have any internship that summer, and consequently, my career goals would be hindered. Perhaps I wasn’t good enough for the opportunities I wanted.
Funny enough, in this particular instance, all I had to do was wait. Little did I know, in just a week or two, I would hear back from all three internships I applied to and could now make a decision. God closed and opened doors that led to the opportunity that was best for me.
Before then, I was trying to make decisions based on nothing. Nothing happened (yet), but I believed I needed to know the future immediately!
Not all situations I’ve been through have been as simple as this one. I’ve been through circumstances that have required longer turnaround times or didn’t necessarily end up with happy endings. However, what I’ve learned this year is key: walking ahead of God steals joy.
With a limited perspective, it’s easy to find ourselves trying to skip ahead of Him. Think back to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted her to eat the forbidden fruit, using the idea that she could obtain the kind of knowledge only God had:
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Genesis 3:5-6 KJV).
Eve stepped into a place where she didn’t belong, and the enemy was clearly behind it. This action not only affected her but Adam and the rest of humanity.
When we try to walk ahead of God, we make hasty decisions that lead to guilt, shame, and regret from the consequences that follow. Before the fall, Adam and Eve had no shame–as God intended: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25 KJV). However, when they walked outside God’s will–His intentions–they experienced shame, one of the consequences of sin. Immediately after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they tried to hide from God: “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (v. 8).
This past year, because of my impatience, I was careless with my thoughts and emotions, and consequently, attempted to take matters into my own hands. Yet, by God’s grace, I didn’t act on impulse and was instead reminded that He is a God of order and timing.
The season in which we are in now has a purpose, as will the next season and the ones to follow. However, if we try to skip ahead, there are consequences. When I tried to figure out my future and rush ahead of God, the enemy capitalized on that to make me feel hopeless and discontented in areas that I wasn’t even previously concerned about.
Do we really gain anything from trying to figure out how our lives will play out in the future? The only thing we might gain is confusion, anger, and resentment from the frustration of our circumstances. It’s essential that we must stop making problems out of nothing and wait upon the Lord.
Fortunately, God knows our shortcomings, and He graciously waits for us to come back to Him. However, if we decide we don’t want to listen, He’ll let us get our way, and our way probably won’t turn out well.
It comes down to whether we choose to trust the Lord and be stable in our circumstances, without knowing the future.
Moving forward, I know which choice I’m going to make.
Here’s to making 21 and the years to come about continuing to walk with God–with Him in the lead.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Genesis 6:34 NKJV)