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When Things Don’t Make Sense

Written By Michelle Chun, Malaysia

“Seriously, God?” I was lying down face up on the floor at home, looking at the spinning blades of the ceiling fan. It was January 2014, and I was at a career crossroads in life. Young, inexperienced and struggling to obey His voiceI had just finished a three-month Bible school in New Zealand, and upon my return to Malaysia, was learning what being jobless felt like. It had only been a few weeks, but I was going crazy. 

You see, I’m a planner. I enjoy being in control of my life, and my future. I like selecting tasks, having goals, and working to achieve them. After all, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail, right? So there I was, confidently waiting for the Ultimate Planner to hand me a perfect plan. But then I felt God prompt me. “Take this time to rest. Don’t do anything, don’t plan anything, don’t even look for a job.” 

After that? Silence. 

I couldn’t believe it. I needed the cash, relatives were gossiping, and there would be a gaping hole in my resume if I didn’t find a job, fast. At that point, His plans for me to take a season of rest made no sense at all.

But God and I have a funny relationship. He often upsets my plans, or even better, dishes out plans that leave me stumped. So what do you do when it feels like God’s gone crazy? 

Well, after ranting and many tears, I quieted my heart and went back to His Word. In Matthew 7:7-12, Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock. I found helpful handles in this passage—encouragement that could guide me during this season

 

Ask and it shall be given unto you.

Some of us were taught never to question God, or our faith; I humbly beg to differ. God made us thinkers with an ability to reason. Asking the Lord for clarity and faith to understand what our earthly minds cannot fathom is biblical (Psalm 44:23-24, Psalm 74:9-11).

If we’re questioning because we want God’s plan to fit into our plans, lifestyles, or choices, it’s no longer healthy asking but selfish doubt. However, if we have sincere, searching hearts, He will answer. It may not be the answer we want at that moment, but His peace will silence the chaos within. I especially found peace in worship (It’s not beyond God to control our Spotify playlists when we hit shuffle!) and the Word; it calmed my troubled heart hour by hour.

 

Seek and you shall find.

Seeking wise counsel is an often overlooked gem in our Christian journey. Proverbs reminds us that wisdom is the principal thing! If you’re struggling to surrender to God’s plans for you, seek godly wisdom from leaders and friends. 

Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days (Proverbs 19:20). When God’s plans don’t make sense, godly advice can be a lamp shining in the dark, pointing you back to faith in His goodness. My parents and sister, close friends, and spiritual mentors were a huge source of encouragement in that season of hopelessness, reminding me that following Christ’s purpose sometimes isn’t what the world wants, or accepts. Their wisdom gave me the courage to silence the worldly voices, and rest in obedience.

 

Knock and the door shall be opened unto you.

Finally, knock at the door of your own heart and ask God to reveal what’s stopping you from trusting His plans. Sometimes, it’s because we’re more confident in our rational minds than in a Sovereign God. I was definitely guilty of that, because I thought no one could know me, my deepest thoughts and desires, better than myself. How wrong I was.

After all, we’re human. Our plans are oftenif not alwayssmall-minded and short-sighted. We can’t see the future, so how can we truly plan for it? Perhaps we have less control over our lives than we think we do; our choices (although entirely our own) often cannot guarantee the outcomes we hope for.  

In Jeremiah 29:11-14, we find a promise of God’s purposes for us, a plan that gives us a hope and a future. His plans aren’t tarnished by sin or selfishness; they’re plans of a loving Father for His beloved children. He always has our best at heart, which is ultimately knowing our Creator in a deep and personal way, and understanding our purpose as His creation. As we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him. That is His promise.

 

In 2014, I learned firsthand that His plans will always trump mine. I obeyed and didn’t look for a job. Instead, I spent time with Him, binge-watched Top Chef, stared at the ceiling fan, and wallowed in self-pity (yes, still a sinner) as I struggled to trust His crazy plan. Looking back, those were precious moments in my Christian journey, for it was there in my deep pit that God became more real than ever to me. No longer did I feel like a puppet at the mercy of a grand puppeteer. Instead I found out more about His character: He’s a good Father, and He loves me. 

True to His nature, God never let me down. A little over two months later, I found a position at a Christian humanitarian organization. Actually, after one initial inquiry led to a handful of offers, it felt more like the job found me, for God’s plans are never half-baked. He’s also a long-term planner because a year later, while deployed on the job for an emergency response, I met a great guy who had volunteered. We’re celebrating our two-year wedding anniversary this month.  

So yes, God’s plans may not make sense at the time, at least not to our limited minds. Trusting Him is not always easy, especially when it seems like nothing’s working in your favor. At times, God’s plan may not look pretty, or maybe the breakthrough you’ve been praying for hasn’t come. You may feel lost and alone, but know that if God’s brought you to this path, He will bring you through it. He never leaves us nor forsakes us, I know that for a fact (Hebrews 13:5). Stay the course, and He will steer you safely into harbor.

If you’re trying to make sense of God’s direction for your life in this season, I encourage you to be unafraid in asking Him for faith and clarity. Seek wise counsel from those with spiritual authority in your life. Knock on the door of your heart, asking the Lord to help you trust Him wholeheartedly. 

Finally, I pray you will find rest in the blessed assurance that your future is in the good, steady hands of the Ultimate Planner. 

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on Seeking God in Decision-Making. Read the other articles in the series, “When You’re Skeptical of God’s Plan” here, and “When You Don’t Hear From God” here.

When You’re Skeptical of God’s Plan

I consider myself a very thorough decision-maker. I try to think of all possible factors, potential outcomes, and I take a long time to do it (as if more time would result in a better decision). I certainly don’t have a problem with not thinking things through—my problem is that despite all my efforts, I’m actually not very well-equipped to make decisions. I’m not sure any of us are. After all, we can’t anticipate the impact of every decision we make. We can’t predict the future situations we’ll run into, or the best way to prepare for opportunities we don’t know we’ll have.

I faced this reality head on during my third year of university, when I found myself agonizing over a really difficult decision. My pursuit and study of comparative politics had led me to apply for an opportunity to spend a summer interning at my state representative’s office in Washington, D.C. After interviews, applications and essays, and only a few months before the semester ended, I received news that I had been accepted. Not only did my representative’s office offer me a position as a summer intern, but unlike the majority of D.C. internships, mine would be funded, as I had also been awarded a competitive scholarship.

Everything was quickly falling into place for this incredible resume-building and prestigious opportunity. But all the while, I couldn’t shake an unmistakable uneasiness that I felt about taking the internship. In response to the uneasiness, I turned to seriously praying about the decision before I committed to anything.

As I prayed, I found myself considering getting a job near my university and staying local for the summer, instead of spending it 700 miles away in Washington, D.C. But that didn’t make any sense to me. I made a list of pros and cons, and every train of logic concluded with it being an obvious decision to go to D.C. It was a rare chance to work for a state representative, I would gain a ton of experience in my field of study, and it would be a great opportunity to shine Jesus’ light in the political center of the country. I was even planning to move to D.C. after I completed my degree, and this would give me a chance to make valuable connections that might help me find a job after graduation!

Nevertheless, the more I prayed about the decision, the more I felt peace about the choice to stay local, and consequently, I felt increasingly uneasy about taking the internship. I knew what I had to do. So after wrestling with and praying through the decision for weeks, I finally informed the office and scholarship committee that I wouldn’t be taking them up on their offer.

Honestly, I was relieved. But I was still so frustrated that the only explanation I had to offer my inquiring friends and family was, “I prayed about it, and it just didn’t feel right.” Even though a few close Christian friends completely understood my prayerful decision, this seemingly trite response left most people curiously questioning my life decisions.

Five years down the road now, I can see how spending the summer locally allowed me to develop a friendship that later turned into marriage with my best friend. I can also see that, as I continued to submit my plans for comparative politics to God, He totally redirected my aspirations and career. He laid job opportunities in my path that I could not have anticipated or prepared for, and that definitely did not involve politics or moving to Washington, D.C.

We can’t always find explanations or reasons for why God leads us a certain direction. Sometimes it takes half our lifetime before we can understand—sometimes we may never know. But, this rare experience allows me to look back and think, “Ahhhh. I see what You were doing there. I’m glad we went with Your plan and not mine!” I hold tightly to this. I let it remind me that our all-knowing, wonderful, mighty God is not constrained by human logic, and certainly works outside of our understanding.

These moments of clarity help me to avoid leaning on my own understanding and pursuing what the world tells me is a good opportunity, and instead to submit my ways to a God whose thoughts and plans are so much higher than my own (see Proverbs 3:5-6 and Isaiah 55:8-9).

I’m so thankful I didn’t end up in D.C. that summer, because it would have taken me several steps further down the wrong path, away from the beautiful future God had planned both for my marriage, and my career. It’s comforting for me to know that God is worthy of my trust, even when He steers me in an unexpected or confusing direction.

He is the perfect author (Hebrews 12:2), and that means He knows every plot twist, every challenge to come, and every mistake I will make. I can always turn to Him for guidance, trusting Him before myself and before worldly wisdom, to direct and author my life story.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our series on Seeking God in Decision-Making. Read the other articles in the series, “When Things Don’t Make Sense” here and “When You Don’t Hear From God” here!

How Christianity Ruined My Life

I had a very clear vision of what my life should look like.

I was supposed to be married by now, for one. There was someone I had called the love of my life. And even though I had known for years that I had no peace from God about marrying this person, I did my best to ignore it. I called the absence of that peace so many things: fear of commitment, of change, of moving too quickly. Eventually the pain of living with my heart split in two became unbearable. The day I chose God and ended that relationship, I felt certain I’d just exchanged the person I’d loved most for a lifetime of loneliness.

I was also supposed to have some sort of brilliant career by now. What was the point of graduating with top honors, only to be saddled with middling part-time work, and no career progression, benefits, or opportunities to build any kind of legacy? Meanwhile, my more fortunate peers have landed jobs that put them in places to move financial markets, fight for justice, and heal the sick. I know I’m not without intelligence, but God so firmly closed all the doors to work I considered significant, that I really did wonder if He thought me incompetent.

And I certainly wasn’t supposed to have been sexually assaulted for four years by a senior staff of my home church. Or to need to look for a new place to worship so that I could heal from my post-traumatic stress disorder. At the lowest point of my life, I didn’t even have the familiarity of community I’d come to call family. And God didn’t seem to be in a hurry to provide a new one either. He gave no word on where I could find another church family. It felt like God was content to kick back and read His newspaper while I drowned at sea.

This wasn’t supposed to be my lot. I’d served Him faithfully all my life and lived within the boundaries He’d set for godliness. Yet on all the things that mattered most to me, He stayed curiously silent over the years. I wasn’t asking for much: just someone I could love, work that I could be proud of, a community where I could be safe. These things were biblical, surely, and good. And what was it that Scripture said? “No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Ps 84:11).

As the years went on, that verse increasingly felt like a joke. Around me there were people who didn’t give any thought to God and His ways, but they were getting everything that I wanted! Why did God seem intent on frustrating all my attempts to carve out this life for myself?

Crushed, and furious that I’d “wasted” my life living for Him only to get nothing valuable in return, I eventually left God.

My circumstances had led me to misinterpret God chronically: I thought that He was not good because He refused to give me the good things that I needed to thrive. But after three miserable years of trying to find happiness apart from Him, I realized that I’d gravely misread the situation.

We don’t hear much about idols these days. It seems like such an antiquated idea, people bowing to wooden statues and expecting to be saved. How can they not see that those things are useless?

But what I didn’t realize was how much having a spouse, a job with career progression, and a church community to alleviate my loneliness, had become idols. If only I had these things, my heart unknowingly thought, I’d be saved from pain. They’d meet my needs for significance, love, belonging, and value. God + (insert idol) would make me content. And, if I really had to choose, it wasn’t God who I believed was the more effective of the two.

As He held those things back from me, and watched me rage and rail, God must have been rubbing His temples wondering, “How can she not see that those things will not save her?”

I can’t be certain, but I have a hunch why God ruined all my plans. If He had let me have those things I had wanted so badly, I would have depended on them to meet all my needs. I would then have to spend every waking minute ensuring I didn’t lose them, so that my needs could keep being met. Was I putting enough into my job to make sure I kept getting promoted? Was I being a good enough partner to make sure I wouldn’t be left? Was I meeting the expectations of my community to make sure I stayed valuable to them? Enslaved to a life of frenzied scrambling, I would have been reduced to a mess of insecurity and fear.

And when these idols failed to complete me—as they were bound to fail—I would have been completely shattered. What kind of damage would being so overwrought with fear have done to me? What kind of damage would I have done to the people I loved by expecting them to fill a need no human could fill?

It was out of His goodness that God upturned my life: to expose all the idols that I was relying on to save me. God refused to leave me deceived, clamoring for things that would not work. Instead, He led me to Himself: the True Satisfier (Phil 4:19). I’ve come to learn that being married or having a successful career or a church community aren’t dreadful things to want. But if I couldn’t survive without them, I know I’ve made them my idols.

Since I left my relationship and returned to God, there’s not been a day where I haven’t felt an excruciating loss. But there’s also not been a day where I’ve gone to bed without peace. God has come through, without fail, in quiet and surprising ways to meet the needs of the day. He turns my attention to the beautiful things He already has given me—my family, close friends, the work that I have—and lets me feel His presence through them.

 They aren’t consolation prizes, God tells me, but the very best things I know you need right now to heal. Sometimes He shows up in the books I’m reading, giving me answers to painful questions I haven’t even properly articulated. He even orchestrated an elaborate object lesson once, on my evening walk, to demonstrate how walking with Him will lead me into a life that suits me better than the one I had left behind. These things give me hope that I’ve not been forgotten.

Even without the things I thought I needed, I’ve been sufficiently . . . filled. In letting go of all the crutches that made me feel supported and safe, I can finally give God a chance to reveal His power and make my life whole.

I don’t have a clear vision of what my life will look like anymore. But I am starting to see that I am in safe hands. And perhaps this is as good a starting place as any.

God is my Home

Title: God is my Home
Artwork by: Melissa Rechard (@belovedscribbles)
Description: It all started when I left home and moved to a new town with my husband. I was excited about our new home and started decorating it and making it cozy. During the first year, a flash flood happened when we were not in the house. The flood ruined my precious guitar and our brand new furniture. It was heartbreaking. Little did we know that it became an annual event for 4 years that left us devastated each time. It was a cycle of cleaning up the mess and resolving to feeling settled again.

Last year, when the flood happened, my husband and I decided to move out and rent a place. Despite having a new place to stay, I felt depressed and constantly restless. I realized that this feeling of homelessness was also aggravated by the sudden death of my father early last year. The home that I used to return to in my hometown was void of the coziness and security that I once had. It felt so empty. With the loss of my home and the grief of losing my dad, I tried finding security in a physical home. During that season of constant struggle, the Lord spoke to me over a series of events that changed my perspective.

One day as I was going up the lift in our rental, I told God, ‘Please Lord, give me a home.’ Suddenly, the lift stopped, leaving me in total darkness. In that dark space, God impressed upon my heart that this earthly home is temporary.

A few nights later, I listened to the song ‘I am no victim’ by Kristene DiMarco, the lyrics, “I am no orphan, I’m not a poor man. The kingdom’s now become my own and with the King I’ve found a home”, spoke to me so deeply. I felt so comforted that the King is my Home!

The Lord spoke to me again after I painted an eagle for my mum’s birthday (picture below) as she requested. I wasn’t aware at the time but a friend reminded me that the eagle carries significant meaning in God’s Kingdom. I learned that God wants us to be carried on the wings of an eagle so that we see His perspective, not ours.

 

One morning during my quiet time, I pictured myself resting on a soaring eagle’s back where I could see the mountains and valleys below. God reminded me that I just need to rest as He carries me to soar above my circumstances. The verse ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.’ (Exodus 19:4 NKJV) became so real to me.

 

 

He also gave me a vision of a huge eagle hugging and enveloping me under its wings. The verse “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1 NKJV) suddenly came alive. Under the shadow of His wings I find refuge. HE is my secret place, HE my Home! It was mind blowing! God then showed me that He is greater than all my earthly problems. That was when I saw the Eagle flying from the earth and earth started appearing so tiny. He flew into the galaxy and suddenly it became so huge that I couldn’t see the end of His wings anymore! And He said, ‘I AM INFINITE’. I was in awe.

 

 

God is infinite and greater than the vastness of the galaxies. He showed me that He is bigger than the floods that destroyed my earthly possessions, bigger than the grief I feel for the loss of my father, and bigger than my longing for an earthly home. Above all, He is my constant, he is my Home.