When I was twelve years old, I was certain about my future. I was going to be a missionary in Africa. I really did love Jesus and wanted to be used by him but was, of course, too immature to understand that life doesn’t usually go how we plan, even if our plans are good.
Since then, I have faced many life choices, some really big and some really small. I didn’t see how these could possibly be connected but looking back, I see God at work thought each step, leading, helping, and directing me. For many years, my dream to go to Africa as a missionary seemed dead but through a number of impossible circumstances and choices with outcomes we could never have predicted,
God has brought my husband and I to Africa as missionaries for almost a year. God gave me that desire when I was young so that when the opportunity came when I was older, I would be ready to say yes!
And now, we are facing decisions with what to do after our time in Africa. We are yet again at a crossroads, knowing that decisions we make now will affect our lives for years and in ways we cannot predict now. How can we make huge life choices in a way that pleases God? How can we decide what to do? I want to share how we are thinking about these things, not as a formula to follow but as a mindset to help you as you also make life choices.
I am convinced that God puts choices in our paths to push us back to Himself. He wants us to seek him! James chapter 1 verse 5 encourages us this way: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously without reproach.” Let’s face it, we all lack wisdom! We can and should ask God for it because he gives generously. He gives without reproach. He’s not upset with us for not knowing what to do, he knows what is best for us and wants to give us the wisdom we desperately need.
James gives us further direction about how to ask in verse 6 “But let him ask in faith with no doubting…” We can ask. We should ask. And we should ask in faith believing that God will give it to us. God loves us and uses difficult circumstances and big junctions in our lives to keep us asking and looking to Him.
For most big decisions in life, I’ve found that the waiting and the seeking time is the hardest. When things are preparing to change, I want to know now what’s going to happen, I don’t like surprise endings and I’d much rather be in charge of the outcome. This is not how God works generally. When we get frenzied about the future, we don’t need a spoiler about the future, we need to trust God.
We need to be obedient to Jesus’ instructions in John chapter 15 verse 4, “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me… Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit for apart from me you can do nothing.” I do want to bear fruit and that only comes from taking the time to pray and read the bible, using those as a tool to get close to Jesus. And when I do that, God consistently helps me. Sometimes his help will be clear direction for our lives but most often, the help is joy and peace as we continue to wait.
At some point we have to act. Now, I don’t mean just jumping up and doing whatever you’ve been thinking about doing. What I mean is be faithful now, as you wait. Do the right thing now. The bible has so much to say about this! Colossians chapter 3 verse 4 tells us how to go about this, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Incredible.
Whatever we are doing, we can do it to serve Jesus! That is wonderful, encouraging and challenging. Often when facing impending change, my default is to focus all of my attention on the future and forget what I am supposed to be doing today. I forget to be faithful now. It’s important to be intentional about doing our work now to please Christ in the process of waiting.
A wise woman used to encourage me to “just do the next right thing.” As you wait, asking, abiding and acting, keep doing the next right thing. Keep being faithful and God will direct you. Proverbs 3 verses 5-6 tells us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.”
I could never have guessed the path he took me on to take me to Africa but seeing him faithfully direct me in the past gives me confidence he will continue to direct me and my husband in the future. Let us joyfully trust him with our futures!
Ashley Mullins is the wife of Chris. They are currently in Malawi, Africa serving at a seminary training Malawian pastors.