Like everyone around the world, 2019 through 2020 has been a roller coaster for my family. God had been working in my heart and mind for years about the direction of my career and the implications for my wife and kids. My calling is Christian education, and I don’t see that ever changing. However, I began to reconsider a move I made a few years back from teaching to administration.
I felt an inescapable desire to get back into the classroom—as a teacher and a student. I began to pray fervently about returning to a teaching position while also furthering my education. More than anything, I was intensely burdened with maximizing my fruitfulness for the kingdom of God.
Sparing the details of the year-and-a-half-long process, God has guided my family and me through a major life change. I now sit in a different house, in a different state, with a different job, heading down a different path. And I could not be more excited!
It has been said that the only constant in life is change. But, no matter the size or number of changes we face, it is good to know we serve a God who never changes.
God has taught me countless lessons through this process. The following are four that I hope will be helpful to share.
Lesson 1: The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.
…or so our realtor told us.
We had to pass up on a house we really liked. We had to come to terms with reality. We were not in a position at that point to put an offer on any house—no matter how much we liked the floor plan. While it was a tough pill to swallow, it was a lesson that I had been learning for some time.
Going back to teaching was the right thing, but there were things I needed to accomplish as a vice principal. So, it was the wrong time. Pursuing a degree in apologetics was the right thing, but it was not financially feasible until recently. So, it was the wrong time. The job I found was the right thing, but it was too much change too quickly. So, it was the wrong time.
In the spring of 2019, I found an amazing Christian school that had an opening for a high school Bible teacher. I applied and got a couple of interviews. Professionally, it seemed like the right thing. However, as I mapped out what it would mean for my family, I realized we were not ready. As amazing of an opportunity as it was, it was the wrong time, therefore it was the wrong thing.
After about a year of continual prayer and preparation, I found that the position was still open. I applied again. I got the interviews again. The wrong thing became the right thing at the right time.
Just think of how often people in the Bible, which are eventually used by God in a great way, must go through a time of learning, struggling, and growing. Moses works as a shepherd. Jacob makes good on a bad contract. Jonah spends some time in a whale.
The reality was tough, but it was reality. Moses was not ready to lead. Jacob was not ready to receive his birthright. Jonah was not ready to preach. But, they would be ready in time.
God has taught me that I should seek his will not just in what I do, but also when I do it.
Lesson 2: The little steps I know impact the big steps I don’t know.
My family and I have taken a big step, the kind you (hopefully) only make a handful of times in life. There are countless questions that come with such a transition, and each one carries major consequences. I don’t know how many times my wife and I have asked ourselves, “What are we supposed to do?” But, it seems like most of the time the answer has been, “I don’t know.”
Nevertheless, there were a few things along the way that I did know.
I knew that we were supposed to commit what we were doing to the Lord, and in doing so our plans would be established (Proverbs 16:3). I knew that we were supposed to ask God for wisdom when we found ourselves lacking it, and God would be happy to give it (James 1:5). I knew that as unclear as each next step seemed, there were clear commandments of God to be obeyed throughout the process. (1 Corinthians 7:19).
Every day for a year, I woke up not knowing what major change the day would bring. However, every day I was comforted with the reality that God never changes. So, I did the things I knew to do, small though they were.
Just think how James and John were so concerned about where they would be seated in Heaven that they totally missed how they were supposed to serve before they got there (Matthew 20:20-28). In doing so, they sort of missed the point. Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve. He was sending them to do the same. For them, greatness would be found in service, because in service they would find Christlikeness.
God has taught me that the small steps that bring me closer to him are just as important as the big steps that take me further in his will.
Lesson 3: God will not be replaced by his blessings.
I found an amazing teaching job, the best opportunity I had come across in my search. In my first interview, the hiring principal held up a stack of over a hundred applications to let me know where I stood. I gave the best interview I could and waited. I got the callback. The stack of a hundred plus dwindled to five, and I was still being considered. After another round of interviews, it went from five to two, and I was still in the running.
However, at some point in the process, I got tunnel vision. This job was it. The place, the school, the position—it was all what I had been praying for, and God had answered! Getting this job became the most important thing in my life. This job would be the solution to all my problems. This job would be the thing that made me complete. I simply could not see my future without this job!
Then the call came. They went with the other guy. Door closed. End of story.
In the type of irony that only God could orchestrate, around that time I was teaching in my church about—wait for it—idolatry. I had shown my class where the Bible teaches us that our hearts are idol factories. I had taught that what makes an idol is not the materials with which it is made, but the place it is given in our lives. I repeatedly taught that the most sinister thing about idolatry is that we make idols out of good things God has given. I warned that God will not tolerate being replaced by his blessings. The entire time, I was living my lessons.
I realized that God will not use a person in whose heart he does not reign.
I prayed. I fasted. I repented. I moved on. God showed me in a deeply personal way that no job could be the answer to my problems—but he could be. No job would be the thing that made me complete—but he would be. No job should be the center of my life—but he should be.
A couple of weeks later, I got another call. It was the principal asking if I was still interested in the job. With all the caution of my newfound humility, I accepted.
Just think how Abraham, after waiting for decades, finally received God’s blessing in his son Isaac. Soon after, God commands Abraham to give him up. As difficult as it had to have been, Abraham was willing to obey. Not because he loved Isaac less, but because he trusted God more. Abraham knew that God’s blessing is only a blessing when God remains on the throne of our lives.
God has taught me that if he is going to do anything through me, he must be the most important to me.
God will not use a person in whose heart he does not reign. If God is going to do anything through me, he must be the most important to me.Tweet
Lesson 4: Seeking God’s will is more about confidence than about certainty.
Moving is hard! There are so many details. So many questions. So much uncertainty.
From the job search to house hunt, these are the times you would want to be the most certain about your decisions. However, after all the research and consideration, mulling over every detail we could cover, my wife and I still found ourselves asking, “Are you sure?” Too often we found ourselves answering, “No.“
Oh, and did I mention that in the middle of the entire process, this small matter of a pandemic happened. So, there was that. It’s hard to be certain about anything when everyone is living in “unprecedented times.”
I suppose we all value certainty. When making decisions, everyone wants to move forward without a shadow of a doubt. But, when is that possible, if ever?
For the past year, I have woken up not knowing what uncertainty the day would bring, what document I had forgotten to sign, conflict I had overlooked, or requirement I did not know about.
I had very little certainty. But, I have learned of something better—confidence.
In life, shadows of doubt are cast by corners that you can’t see around. You don’t know what lies ahead. You can’t. You can, however, trust the one who is telling you to make the turn.
God knows what is around the next corner because he’s the one who put it there. So, we proceed, not with certainty as to what we will find, but in confidence in God’s ability to map out a path that will lead us to himself.
Just think how often in the Bible God calls people to a task, and about the only information they have to go on is that it is what God wants. Abraham was sent away from a place where he was certain of everything to a place where he was certain of nothing. Gideon was sent to battle uncertain of how many men he would even have with him to fight. Nearly every task the disciples carried out for Jesus, they did so uncertain of what their Master was doing.
God knows what is around the next corner because he is the one who put it there.Tweet
But, the people of God live by faith, not by sight. We move forward with faith—in Latin con fide. Our confidence does not come from our ability to foresee our path. It comes from trusting the author and finisher of our faith.
God has taught me that confidence in him who never changes is infinitely better than certainty in situations that always change.
As my family and I begin this new chapter in our lives, we are overwhelmed by how God has guided and provided.
Here’s the thing…
He will do the same for you! I do not know where you are in life right now. However, for every twist and turn God places in our way, he promises to give the wisdom, mercy, and grace we need. Great is his faithfulness!
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2 responses to “Four Lessons I’ve Learned through a Major Life Change”
Excellent words of wisdom and encouragement. Thank you!
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I always enjoy reading your very scholarly columns. Thank you for your willingness to share the lessons God imparts to you.
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