Keep seeking the Lord and God will lead you to a place God needs you to be.
There is a an obscure verse in Acts 16:7. It is easy to overlook as it looks like an unimportant side-note to where the remainder of the story of Acts goes. In case you do not have your Bible handy, Luke is writing about the journey the apostle Paul and his cohort took. The line says, “When they had come opposite of Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them;” (NRSV). Did you see that, they had positioned themselves to go a certain way. They had made plans and worked themselves to a place in their journey where Bithynia is a next goal for them. Nowhere did it say they ignored the leading of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Jesus to get to that place. No one misheard the Lord. The text says, as they prepared to go to Bithyia, then they were prevented from going there by the Spirit of the Lord.
I believe this is important for us to understand how God is at work in the midst of our lives; in which we see so many otherwise “best laid plans” being delayed or lain aside. How many of us have worked to carefully get to a place right now and find our way is not open as we intended it to be? You planned, you worked for a circumstance, yet it is not happening. Now What!?
First, honestly assess where you are and how you got to “here”. If you laid your will before the Lord, and know to the best of your ability, you followed God’s leadership, then trust fully, God has this. If you did make plans based on your own will, “I want”, then this is a brilliant time to repent and turn to God with your future plans. How did you get here?
Second, in either case we are ALL in a time of pause, to discern whether God is calling you into a season of perseverance (IE: keep pressing to get to Bithynia) or a new calling/goal (going to Macedonia-IE: God called them to spread the Gospel into the continent of Europe!). Prayer, reading scripture for discernment stories (like this one in Acts 16:6-12), speaking with Christian friends, etc. will all help you gain clarity. The hard part in discernment is separating out what we want versus what God’s kingdom calls us to. If you are living for self, and you are “happy”, you probably will make another selfish decision to foster this false sense of fulfillment. Chances are you will need a season of discord to break you free to hear God’s voice. If you are seeking to love God, your neighbor as yourself, then you will only find peace when you are entering the pathway God has for you. **St. Ignatius of Loyola did great work on helping people discern decisions, email me if you would like more resources.
Third, Trust! Trust that all your efforts that led you up to the decision point, are not a waste, even if you get called in a different direction. In our example from scripture, it turned out their efforts to go to Bithynia, placed them in a port town which allowed them to go to Macedonia/Europe. While their geographical goals were changed, God called them to use all their experiences, training, learning, and more in a place far beyond their initial understanding.
Lastly, Act! We do not know how many days it took the disciples and Paul to understand the new plan, nor how long it took to make alternate arrangements. After all, it is only one line in scripture. That had to be some of the hardest few days, weeks, or maybe even months! We are ALL experiencing some form of that, aren’t we!? After however long, we see they went where God sent them.
This overlooked nugget of scripture holds so much for us in this season of life. Where we thought we were going, it is different now. One final note wrapping this up. Had they been hard headed and stuck with their first plan, they would have duplicated the Lord’s mission. You see, unbeknown to Paul and the disciples, through the historical sources we know the Apostle John was already at work in the region of Bithynia. No one was in Europe yet, so God sent them there. Not only that, the vision Paul had originally was of a male asking for help in Macedonia. This caught Paul’s attention and he went. When Paul and his entourage arrived, it was Lydia and the women she led who became the first Christians and ministers of the Gospel on the continent of Europe.
All of this to say, keep seeking the Lord and God will lead you to a place God needs you to be. May I suggest you say this simple prayer? “I trust You Jesus, I trust You Jesus, I trust You Jesus.”
I will be on vacation July 13 – July 27. If you need emergency pastoral care or help, Becky Breedlove is checking voicemails twice a day at church: 903.455.1594.