A big dream of mine is to get a higher education in biblical studies. This is so that I can equip other pastors within my denomination, and it is a dream that is beginning to unfold. I start my first semester of graduate school in May. I’m doing everything I can to get ready: I’m registering for classes, applying for scholarships, and meeting with counselors. Life is busy! This new season has me excited, nervous, and, if I’m honest, a little intimidated. As with all new chapters in life, I’m being confronted with new challenges every day.
For example, a few weeks ago, I was creating a long-term academic plan (No big deal, right?). I had scheduled a half hour into my day to work on it. As I was trying to discern which classes to take, when to take them, and how to pace myself semester by semester, I was overtaken by the need for control. It was imperative for me to figure out my academic plan – to the T. The more I worked on it, the more stressed I became. I ended up spending much more time on it than the designated half hour, and this compounded the aforementioned stress. I was getting anxious. What should have been a joyful (and relatively easy) task became dreadful. An hour later I was finished. For now.
One week later on a sunny spring morning, I was drinking coffee on my front porch, enjoying the cool shade of my table umbrella, and happy to be relaxing. Then I got the urge – it was irresistible. I decided to revisit my academic plan. I pulled out my laptop and started reviewing the PDF that lists all my classes and when to take them. Then I began to doubt: Are these the classes I should take? I started shifting courses around and, before long, I was feeling anxious again. I still wasn’t satisfied. I was getting worried: What if this class isn’t available when I need to take it? What if I can’t finish my program in time? What will I do then? Suddenly, I caught myself. “What’s wrong with me?” I asked, “Why am I getting so anxious?” I took a deep breath, and began to pray. In that moment of quietness, I felt a gentle – yet pointed – conviction: I’m anxious because I’m not trusting God.
At the heart of my anxiety was a lack of faith in God’s ability to guide my future. That is why something as minor as an academic calendar triggered such a strong reaction. In the scope of God’s plan for my life, my academic plan is a pretty small thing, but I was making it a big thing. I got so caught up in planning my future that I left God out of the picture. I could sense God saying to me, “Why are you so troubled about graduate school? Did I not bring you this far? Have I not guided you these past six years?” God was right. I had no reason to be anxious about the future. So I put my laptop away and picked up a book to read.
That day, God made a point to remind me that the fully surrendered heart doesn’t need to worry about the future. As for me, I had committed my life to God but at some point along the way I took the burden upon myself to make everything happen.
All of us need reminding that if you have given your life to God, then he will make your path straight. He will guide you. He will open the right doors, and close the wrong ones. That means you can be diligent with your plans while also maintaining an attitude of rest. Even when plans fail, and circumstances don’t go your way, you can trust that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
So, what’s the secret to planning your future? Give it to God and have faith that it’s in good hands. After all, if our heart’s desire is to pursue God’s purpose, then we can trust that He will fulfill the desire of our hearts.