When I was just a young 20-something, I had my life planned out: I wanted to be a successful business person, musician, and church servant before the age 25, by which time I’d also be married, and focused on growing my career and my family life.
Twenty-five came and went, and I hadn’t achieved any of those goals. I’m now 31, full-time writer and occasional musician (whenever my band friends need help). I’m not yet married, but getting there slowly with my girlfriend of more than two years.
It took me years to understand, partly due to my immaturity and stubbornness, how none of my initial plans were in line with God’s plan and timing for me, especially when I hadn’t checked with Him in the first place. Even though those moments resulted in very painful mistakes, I thank God for how He has used these to teach me what not to do in the future.
Committing to something without thinking it through
When I was fresh out of college, I felt invincible. I wanted to do everything—be a businessperson by day, rock star by night, and ministry servant on the weekends.
I joined a friend’s band as a drummer without really understanding the implications (late night rehearsals, unpaid gigs, and the responsibility of being an active, contributing member). On top of this, I was actively serving in the church’s music team.
My mum didn’t approve of my rock star aspirations, especially seeing how it was affecting my sleep and health. But I was determined to make my dream happen. Eventually, I came to realise I was being a poor steward of my body. Not being able to get proper sleep meant I couldn’t function properly to do my work at that time.
I then decided to quit the band, but failed to handle the situation well. While my bandmates respected my decision, they had asked if I could still perform for a couple of shows we had already booked, since they needed time to find my replacement. However, thinking that staying longer would mean I was being disobedient, I vehemently said “No”. The lead singer was understandably angry and stopped speaking to me for years.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. After more than five years, I got a chance encounter with the lead singer that involved a big breakfast and good conversation, during which I was finally able to confess and ask for forgiveness for my immaturity and, by God’s grace, we were able to reconcile.
Now, I’ve learned to carefully consider if I can truly commit to something, so that my yes will be truly a yes, and If I can’t, I say no graciously. More importantly, I’ve learned to pray about these decisions and ask for wisdom.
Being noncommittal towards someone I liked
Years ago, I began a friendship with a young lady in our youth ministry who had caught my attention. I started texting her every day about random things. While I did have feelings for her, I didn’t confirm with God whether a romantic relationship was something He had intended for me that time (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).
Deep down, a part of me knew that I wasn’t ready to handle the emotional aspects of it. However, I didn’t have the courage to make my intentions (in this case, non-intention) clear, mostly because I was not ready for the work it would take. I also had not thought about how our friendship was affecting her feelings.
My indecision eventually led her to think that there was something between us, and when she clarified with me, I denied that there was something going on. From then on, we stopped communicating and she moved to a different church shortly after. It was a horrible way to lose a friend.
Although I never got to reconcile with her, the good thing that came out of this was it taught me to be intentional with someone I liked, which I made sure to do when I pursued my now-girlfriend. When I sensed God nudging me to pursue her, I didn’t just pray and confirm through Scriptures. I sought the wisdom and counsel from my accountability partners and mentors, who all replied with a resounding “Yes!”
Finding my career path the hard way
When I first started working, I felt pressured by my parents to pursue a career in business. While they had given in to me studying a non-business course, my early working years were spent trying to “get back on track” to pursue what they wanted for me.
Thing is, I didn’t know that my parents’ plans and God’s plans could be completely different things. I thought that obeying everything they said automatically meant I was obeying the Lord and following His plan. I applied for all the jobs they sent my way and accepted each as they came, only to work for just a few months before resigning.
After a few years, I finally gained the courage to pursue my line of work (writing), but instead of consulting God, I did things my way, taking writing jobs left and right, which resulted in the same pattern: application, acceptance, followed shortly by resignation.
It took me ten long years to get past this, after taking a hard, sobering look at where I started and where I ended up. The lesson I learned came from this proverb, the words of which really pierced me: “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21, NKJV).
Thinking through this verse led me to see how I had gone to two extremes in my career, from blindly trusting my parents’ human wisdom to idolising my own wisdom. And in both cases, I had placed God in the backseat.
So, for the first time in ten years, I took time to pray and ask God for a job that wouldn’t just provide me with growth opportunities and good income, but would also give me time to serve my family and in my church’s discipleship ministry. In saying this prayer, I had decided I was not going to just work for myself; I wanted to seek God’s will in my life, to follow His lead and bring Him glory wherever He leads me.
Though the past decade has not been easy, I’ve come to learn two important things. First, that work is an opportunity to be productive for the Lord, and to bless those in need. Second, that I need to seek God when I’m faced with an important decision, and ask for His leading.
I’ve come to learn that seeking godly counsel means intentionally taking time to pray over what I’m about to do and really wait for God’s guidance through His Word and the people He’s placed around me, i.e., my spiritual community.
Through these experiences, I’ve come to see how selfishness and self-centeredness can lead to pain, and yet God is more than able to use these pains to help me and others grow deeper in faith and trust Him more. Though I’ve learned things the hard way, I hope that my experiences can be used to help others in their faith journey.