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The Time Nothing Went According to Plan

Written By Ana Chavarria, USA

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”—Romans 8:28

This is a verse many Christians know by memory. I have known this verse since I was a little girl but never took it seriously. I just kept telling everyone that God had a purpose for everything. That was my way of comforting anybody who was worried or stressed. But the reality was they were empty words—I didn’t really live by them.

It was not until a month ago that I really understood that verse. “All things work together for good” didn’t mean that everything was going to be good. Some things that happen in life can be and will be bad. But ultimately, everything (both bad and good) will work out according to God’s purposes and for our good.

The day I learned that lesson started at 3 a.m.. My boyfriend Ramon and I were going to Puerto Rico to visit his family; we were really excited to escape the cold in USA and get some warm weather. We reached the airport on time and were waiting to board the plane when an announcement was made that the flight was delayed. After waiting for three hours, we knew we would miss our connecting flight to Puerto Rico.

Then it got worse. We were told that our flight was going to be delayed even more—till the next day. Now, we were very upset. We had been so focused on having things go a certain way that we didn’t know how to handle the change.

We complained to the airline and its staff took 40 minutes to find us another flight. This would arrive in Puerto Rico at 5 p.m., six hours past the original slated time. By then, we were tired and hungry, and just wanted to rest on a clean bed. So we decided to wait one more hour to board the next plane instead of flying the next day.

The flight took almost four hours. Thirty minutes before landing in Puerto Rico, Ramon suddenly told me that he felt pain on the left side of his face. Initially, I thought it was just a temporary thing. But the pain worsened and it reached a point where Ramon couldn’t even talk.

Fortunately, the flight attendant was sitting right in front of us. I quickly told her that we had an emergency. The crew made a call to the ground support staff, so that they would have an ambulance ready to take us to the nearest hospital when we landed.

As soon as we landed, I called Ramon’s parents and told them what had happened. They immediately rushed down and waited with us for the ambulance to arrive. My heart was racing, but I tried to remain calm and answer the questions by the paramedics about Ramon’s condition. I remember thinking to myself, “What a day! All is going wrong! Why did he end up in the hospital? Why is this happening, God?” Deep down, I knew that he was going to be fine, but I just wanted to hear it from the doctors.

After five long hours of waiting, we had a diagnosis from the doctors. Ramon had been sick for the last few days; he was doing better but was still very congested from the cold, which had turned infectious. Apparently, when we started to descend, the pressure in the airplane was too much for him to handle; the infection had caused the severe pain in his face. The doctors gave him some medicine and told us that it was nothing serious. That night, we arrived home really late, at almost 2 a.m.. I was exhausted but thankful and relieved that Ramon was okay.

The next morning, Ramon and I slowly recounted the previous night’s events over breakfast. We both realized that the pain on his face was going to happen at some point because of his infection. But because our flight got delayed, our seats were moved to the row right in front of the flight attendant, where we could get help right away. If we had been on our original flight, we would have been sitting in the very last row and wouldn’t have had been able to get help so quickly. We were amazed at how God had moved everything so that we could get help on time. We thanked God and told our family how He had taken control of every single detail.

Sure, it was a tough day. Nothing had gone according to plan. But I can say with full confidence that ultimately, everything worked together for good.

There are going to be times in our lives when everything seems perfect. But change happens; circumstances are going to shake us. That’s when we need to tell ourselves, “Yes, it’s a bad situation and it’s probably going to get worse. But it’s not the end.” God does not forget us. He uses the bad moments to shape us to be more like Christ and bring us to a place where we wouldn’t have been otherwise.

Through this experience, God put my faith to test, so that I could learn to trust and believe that He has control over everything. Now if something bad happens, I will immediately remember this moment—when God showed me that He always has a purpose with everything that happens.

So let’s trust Him wholeheartedly. He is a good Father in the midst of our pain.

What is God Calling Me To Do?

Written By Daniel Ryan Day, USA

Daniel is the author of two books: Ten Days Without and Intentional Christian. He is also the operations manager of a company that operates a family entertainment center, hotel and restaurant, as well as a blogger at intentionalchristianity.com. Daniel attempts to live out intentional Christianity in North Carolina, as a husband, father, and businessman.

 

There have been so many times in my life when I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes, those moments were silly, and getting the answer wrong didn’t have significant consequences. Like this past Christmas, when I got way too stressed out trying to figure out the perfect Christmas present for every person on my gift list. I mean, really. What’s the worst that could happen?

But there have been other moments when I felt like the decision I faced was life-changing, and if I chose the wrong road, it could mean missing out on what I was supposed to do with my life.

I think my culture places a lot of pressure on young adults to figure out the rest of their lives when they are between the ages of 18 and 24—especially when it relates to choosing an occupation. As a result, we are left with over-stressed teenagers, degree-less college students, and young adults (some in their 30s and 40s even) who bounce from job to job trying to figure out the answer to the question: What am I supposed to do with my life?

For Christians, there’s a deeper longing within us than just the desire for a purposeful and fulfilling occupation: Christians are also searching for God’s will for their lives, because we believe that God should have something to say about our future. We think the choice of a job is not fully up to us.

But what if God never tells us what He wants us to do? What are we supposed to do if God seems eerily silent whenever we ask Him to tell us what He wants for our lives?

That’s how it was for me. I begged God to tell me His will for my life. I was willing to do whatever He wanted me to do; I was willing to move wherever He wanted me to move. But He was quiet—too quiet. Just like the foreboding scene in a thriller movie that comes right before someone dies. Maybe I’m going to die. I hope not.

 

This is God’s Will For Your Life

Because I couldn’t find the answers to these questions, I became frustrated with God. Have you ever been frustrated with God before? Well, I was. In fact, I got so frustrated that I Googled it—yes, I actually Googled, “What is God’s will for my life?”

I landed on a webpage with a list of Scripture passages. After reading the first verse on the list, I nearly threw my computer out of the window. It was Jeremiah 29:11, which said that God had a plan for my life.

“I know God has a plan!” I yelled out loud. “The problem is that He won’t tell me what it is!”

I read the next verse listed, 1 Thessalonians 4:3. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” What?! I had been searching for the will of God for I-don’t-know-how-long, and it was right here in the Bible the entire time! It made me wonder what else I’d missed, and what other callings might exist. I started searching.

Later in that same book, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, I found this verse: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And then I noticed 1 Peter 2:15: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

The more I searched, the more I found, and I soon discovered that the description of God’s will for our lives was quite long—super long. So long, in fact, that I started to feel overwhelmed by the call of God. How could I remember, much less do all of these things?

But then the Holy Spirit reminded me of a promise that Jesus made to all who would follow Him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

During Jesus’ time, a yoke was a wooden bar that was placed on the neck of an ox, allowing it to pull a heavy load. Often, two oxen were yoked together so they could pull twice as much.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who still uses a yoke and oxen to pull heavy loads. So I like to think of this verse in light of the baggage tractors I see at airports. Have you ever looked out of a plane window—or watched a movie that takes place at an airport—and noticed the baggage trains? Usually there’s a tractor followed by four or five baggage cars full of suitcases. Think of a yoke as one of those tractors. It’s got to be a pretty heavy load, right?

As I was reading through Scripture and taking note of the many commandments, expectations, and callings that God had for me, it was like adding a new suitcase to the baggage train. By the time I was finished, I had a lot of baggage cars on my train, and they were all full of the specifics of God’s will for my life. It was a heavy load.

But Jesus said that His yoke—all the responsibilities and expectations of what it means to follow Him—was supposed to be easy and light. So if I am burdened by what it means to follow God, something’s wrong.

 

The Greatest Calling and the One Like It

The truth is that Jesus simplified our calling for us. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

I think that Jesus not only gave us the greatest commandment, but in this passage, He also outlined what I call the greatest calling. First and foremost, you and I are called to walk in relationship with God. Instead of having to remember a long list of do’s and don’ts—like a long train of baggage cars—Jesus removed the heavy burden of the law of Moses from our shoulders and gave us a simple summary of the purpose of our lives.

What is this purpose? It is simply this: Love God and love others. That is the greatest calling, and if you remember nothing else, I hope you remember this truth: God has called you—and that’s His will for your life—to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

 

3 Things I’ve Learned about Seeking True Fulfilment

Written By EDEW, Philippines

In this materialistic age, we often equate success with attaining status, wealth, and power. For some, material success is the means to attaining self-actualization. According to Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”, self-actualization is about realizing one’s full potential, and is the top level of needs after other needs are satisfied—physiological, safety, love, and self-esteem. It is the desire to accomplish everything that one can, and to become the most that one can be.

But have we confined this idea of self-actualization to an empty and selfish material pursuit? As Christians, have we also made pleasure our primary goal in life?

My personal path to self-actualization started with a desire for material possessions, but by the grace of God, it evolved into a thirst for peace which only God was able to provide (John 14:27), and a desire to fulfill His will—and not my wishes—in my life.

While I know that God does not prohibit us from getting wealthy—He endowed riches on people like Job, Joseph, and Solomon—He has taught me some things in my journey towards seeking true fulfilment in my life:

  1. God alone deserves the glory. When life gives me all that I desire, I end up taking the credit for my success rather than giving the glory to Him. If money comes easily, it becomes easy for me to believe that I can buy security, peace, and resources instead of relying on God. In today’s world, it is easy to worship money and its purchasing power.
  1. God is the one who gives us our talents. When Moses was called by God to lead the Israelites, he protested that the Egyptians would not believe or listen to him (Exodus 4). But God used the rod in his hand to defeat Pharaoh’s snakes, to turn water into blood, and to part the Red Sea. God is the one who gives me the talents and skills to be used according to His purpose. Whatever I have, I should use it for His glory. I should not seek honor from men, but make it my priority to do His will.
  1. God’s idea of fulfillment is sacrifice. God’s Son, Jesus, lived a life devoid of material wealth or comfort. He was born in a manger, not in a golden crib. He was born into a carpenter’s family, and not into a royal household. He was crowned with thorns, not with honor. He dressed in humility, and not with a robe of pride. And finally, He was rejected, shamed, and hung on the cross. In completing the Father’s mission for Him—that is, to sacrifice His life to save sinners like me from judgment—Jesus fulfilled His purpose. I believe that this is the true meaning of self-actualization—fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives—and it has nothing to do with materialism.

I am thus convinced that it is only in God that I can attain self-actualization, just as John 15:5 states, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

My true calling is to serve God’s purpose; happiness and serenity will then follow.

When God Crushed My Dreams, Not Once But Twice

Coming from a family where my dad and uncles served as professional soldiers, it was my desire to continue that legacy when it was my turn to enlist. (My country practices conscription, where every able-bodied male would need to devote two years of their lives to serve in the military.)

I would never forget the first day of my enlistment. While others despaired and griped about losing their personal freedom, I was brimming with excitement. It was the start of a new adventure and fulfillment of a childhood dream. To top it off, I was enlisting into my country’s elite special forces, an honor that few had the chance of attaining. On the first night of my enlistment, I gazed out of my barrack window and whispered a silent prayer of thanksgiving, “Dear Lord, thank you for this opportunity of a lifetime, help me do well, and watch over me during my trainings. Amen.”

The first three months of basic military training was tough but fulfilling. Due to the nature of the training and time spent together, I built firm and fast friendships with my fellow teammates. The good streak I was experiencing continued as I graduated top of my cohort with the Best in Physical Training award. It was an exhilarating feeling and one of the happiest moments of my life; I thanked God for blessing me. I was assured that this was the career the Lord wanted for me. In the second part of my training which involved jumping out of planes, I earned the stripes to become a full-fledged paratrooper.

But everything changed in a flash. It was a regular day back in camp and the weather was fine. We were told to head to the airbase in the afternoon to clock-in a jump.  I proceeded as normal, reciting the jump procedures and checks in my mind as we headed to the airbase. I leaped out of the aircraft in excitement but just as I was about to touch ground, there was an abrupt change in wind direction. I landed heavily on the wrong footing and fractured my foot. All at once, my bright new beginning was shattered to pieces. My pursuit of a career in the army came to an end and it was the start of a long recovery period. I lapsed into a depressive state.

It was during that time that a good friend challenged me to keep occupied in hopes that any form of activity would take my focus away from my shattered dream. I was at a loss, nothing was worth pursuing anymore. Why would God allow me to have the time of my life, pat me on the back with an award but then take it all away? I felt like the butt of a joke (not a very funny one). That same friend suggested that I consider teaching as an option. I scoffed at the idea—I was a terrible student growing up and would never want to be at the receiving end of all that nonsense I had put my teachers through.

A few months passed and I began to feel restless. With each passing day, I felt a growing need to do something. I finally decided to give teaching a shot. I applied online to be a relief teacher at a primary school and got the position to teach for a year ( the form teacher of the class was away on maternity leave). I wasn’t too excited about the teaching opportunity but told myself to stay positive and be open to anything I could learn from the experience.

Within two months of teaching the first class I was assigned, I fell in love with both the job and the students. Teaching and interacting with the students helped me overcome my depressive state and I felt a renewed sense of purpose and direction for my life. After recovering from my injury and getting my fitness back, I asked to take on physical education classes for the school and started on a correspondence graduate program in Sports Science so that I could work and study at the same time. My goal was to complete my graduate studies and then join the Education Ministry as a full-fledged physical education teacher. This was what God was preparing me for, I told myself. I prayed to God for guidance and for opportunities to build good relationships with my students and colleagues. Things went smoother than expected for the next four years and I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing. Colleagues and family members continually affirmed my decision and lauded my passion.

After graduating with a sports degree, I applied to receive proper pedagogical training and to be emplaced as a graduate. In a second cruel twist, the ministry rejected my application for emplacement as a graduate teacher. Words cannot express the disappointment and frustration I felt after getting so close to a fresh start in my life. I felt God was being very unfair to me, slamming not just one door but two in my face. Once again, all that affirmation I had been getting all this while counted for nothing, or so it seemed.

A number of years have passed since those days. I wish I could say that God has since granted me one of my dreams but that is not the case.  I’ve learned to accept that He has other plans for my life. It was during those two trying and difficult periods in my life that God humbled me and helped me see that His ways are always higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). Despite planning and relying on my strength, God showed me that He is ultimately the One in charge and I can do nothing without Him.

If you know what I am doing now, it would seem like a mismatch. Unlike my previous experiences, I don’t consider myself strong in my current role. But this is exactly what I need so I can remember that God’s grace is always sufficient in times of uncertainty and helplessness. God’s strength is best manifested through my weaknesses, just as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Through it all, God has carried me and proved faithful for His glory’s sake.

Photo credit: Jef Harris / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA