One of my church’s former pastors and later chaplain of the United States Senate, Dr. Richard Halverson, formed a beautiful benediction that started, “You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you.” Recently, I’ve been reflecting on some events that are teaching me every circumstance and situation can be used by God for His purposes.
God Sent Me to the Gas Station
Last winter I stopped to quickly fill-up my car’s gas tank, and was pretty annoyed when the gasoline pump refused my credit card and told me to see the station’s attendant. It was freezing outside that evening, so I scurried across the lot and into the attendant’s office, with my attitude, I’m afraid, matching the chilly air. While the payment error was being investigated, however, I started chatting with the attendant, and I learned that Abaychew (“Abay”) had recently moved with his wife and young son from Africa. He was on a quest to master the new language, and was courageously trusting in God’s provision. I immediately felt embarrassed over my initial indifference, and was quickly overcome by my desire to welcome him to this country.
We ended up exchanging email addresses so I could provide information about a language class my church offered. Through our handful of communications and my occasional stops by the gas station to drop off children’s books for his son, I was humbled to know I was being used to answer a few of Abay’s prayers. Fortunately, God used me despite myself, making it evident that my flaws don’t limit Him, but rather, His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God Sent Me to the Bible Study I Wasn’t Prepared For
Having led small group Bible studies in the past, I am quite familiar with another mystifying example of God working despite and even through my human inadequacies. Sometimes, I have poured myself into preparing a study, compiled the Greek and Hebrew definitions for key words, included humorous analogies and insightful applications from Biblical scholars, yet crickets chirping could have provided more response than the attendees did.
Other times, though, I have entered Bible studies completely exhausted, having considered cancelling it, but deciding instead to just admit my inadequacies and give the study to God for His use. Sometimes, those poorly presented studies have been the ones that participants thank me for later, telling me of the ways the Holy Spirit had pressed a truth into their hearts through the passage covered. “Really?!” I might’ve responded, confessing my lack of preparation which points to the baffling truth that God certainly doesn’t need us, but is gracious to work through us. As 2 Corinthians 3:5 points out, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our competence comes from God.” Maybe a captivating introduction will draw-in listeners, but only the Holy Spirit can open a heart.
Even Through Life-Altering Tragedy, God is Sending Me
Most apparent from my own life, is the powerful and humbling way in which God has worked through the terrible car accident I was in over seven years ago.
I had finally finished my master’s degree, landed a job in my field, was involved in wonderful ministries . . . I happily predicted the special ways God would use me. Boy, was I wrong.
The car accident left me with significant injuries. I was physically and cognitively compromised, but God worked remarkably—though not in the ways I would have guessed. The initial years of recovery turned out to be some of the most influential time of my life thus far, dramatically demonstrating how God is not limited by what limits me.
Romans 8:28 clearly states the reality that “God works for the good of those who love Him.” That verse is certainly not saying every circumstance on earth will be enjoyable, yet we can be confident that all things are woven into His story to accomplish His purposes. Surviving a serious brain injury motivated me to later earn a certification as a brain injury specialist in my field. God has allowed me to gain the qualifications as both a clinician and a client of the same form of treatment, through which He’s touched hearts and minds in ways far beyond my reach. It’s an understatement to say that God worked through me in a way and in a time I never could have predicted.
The three situations I’ve recalled are different, yet they each challenge me to always live anticipating that both difficult and ordinary events may provide vital preparation for things currently unseen. From the humbling situation of forming a friendship with Abay, to God working despite my Bible-study flops, and even to the dramatic circumstance of the accident, there are three applications that I’ll carry with me, and I hope can help you, too.
1. Be flexible. Maybe you share my assessment that life plans typically don’t turn out as expected. In my three decades on earth, I’ve been forced to humbly accept that I have remarkably little to do with arranging my most influential moments. So when—not if —your plans change at some point, try to be flexible and step forward in faith, knowing God may be accomplishing far more than what you could have even imagined!
2. Be humble. I might think of great ways for God to use me, but at least in my experience, He may work in the areas I least expect, or even want.
3. Be confident. I’ll surely find myself in other situations in the near future when I’m more aware of my inabilities than abilities, but I should make it my prayerful goal to demonstrate confidence in God’s directing.
The first line from Dr. Halverson’s powerful benediction reminds us that every circumstance has purpose and great potential. His benediction went on to say “God has a purpose in your being (wherever you are). Christ lives in you and has something He wants to do through you where you are. Believe this and go in the grace and love and power of Jesus Christ.”