This week's blog is a Bible study I wrote for Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1, a banquet of 30 short Bible studies.
God may take us to uncharted places, but He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Several years ago, I was excited about a work opportunity to move overseas. I discovered a position I was qualified for in my favorite city in Europe. Some friends from church had already relocated there, so it meant built-in community. I’d lived abroad before and was very lonely. I dreaded repeating that.
For the application process, we ranked our job preferences. That didn’t faze me. Surely God wanted me with fellow believers. I submitted the form with a flippant statement “You can’t outdo the sovereignty of God.” All my friends and family prayed for me to get the job. I bragged about the prospect for weeks. My heart was set on that particular city.
When the assignments were issued, my heart sank. I didn’t get my top pick. I couldn’t understand. Everyone had prayed. I had never even visited the place, yet I would have to live there for two years. What happened to the sovereignty of God? I had equated God’s sovereignty with Him granting my desires. I thought more about my wishes than the Lord’s will.
James 4:13-16 (NKJV*) says,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
My arrogant boasting backfired. I had tried to manipulate God with my prayers. I was positive I was going to such and such a city, but the Lord had other ideas. He knew how to use my short life best, though it didn’t fit into my master plan.
Submitting to God’s will instead of demanding my own way was challenging. Though I didn’t understand what God was doing, I took the job. After a while, my new city became home. I attended an international church and found a Bible study where I made close friends. I sang karaoke at a wedding shower and ran relay races in my living room for a baby shower. We did life together. After I left, a friend invited me back to be in her wedding.
More importantly, I wound up a mere four-hour trip away from my youngest sister. God had called my sister to missions overseas. She did not receive her first choice either, but God knew what He was doing. We celebrated holidays together and often met to travel. Our relationship deepened, and we supported each other.
God even used my home as a safe haven. Various missionaries stayed with me while they were transitioning back from the field or when they needed respite. My brother also lived with me for six weeks during a stressful period.
Proverbs 16:9 says, A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. I love to plan and try to organize everything into neat little boxes of two-year increments. However, I can’t even control what will happen tomorrow. Fortunately, God sees the bigger picture. He does exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). When I let go of my death grip of control and surrender to Him, He surpasses what my finite mind could even begin to dream. Now I say “Lord willing” and mean it. I can trust God even when I don’t understand Him. I hold my demands more loosely, which frees me to receive His unimaginable good gifts.
Have you ever made plans you were certain would happen, yet they never materialized? It might not have been a move, but perhaps it was a job or a relationship. Instead of being stumped, remember, You ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (James 4:15). It’s God’s will, not ours, that matters.
When God redirects your paths with sharp turns into unknown territories, instead of cowering in fear, start rejoicing. The God of the universe who sees and knows all, is about to do great things. Initially, the scene may look foreign, scary, or even dull. But look closer, and you will uncover the opportunities God has preordained for you to give glory to His name. So don’t boast like I did when I thought I was moving to my favorite city. God may take you elsewhere. We live for His kingdom, and His plans are best. May the Lord free you to say “Lord willing” with eager anticipation and joy.
Father, Thank You for caring about each one of us, and working in our lives to fulfill the plans You have for us. Help us to remember the many reasons that we have to trust You, and submit our will to Yours. When disappointments come or when we must change the plans we have made, help us to look forward to the good that You have in store for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1. Have you ever made certain plans, but God had a better idea?
2. In what areas of life is it the most difficult for you to submit to God’s will?
3. Has God ever given you more than you ever could have dreamed or planned for?
4. Are there any truths or life experiences that help you to trust God’s will above your own?
*All Scripture verses are taken from the NKJV.
Check out Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1 on the Lighthouse Bible Studies website or Amazon.
Used with permission by Lighthouse Bible Studies.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.