Updated: May 5, 2020
Have you ever asked God for a sign? I have... and somehow it never seems to go well. Unfortunately, as I write this, I am in one of those "God is silent" moments. I'm past the point of blaming God for not "showing me the way". I like to think my spiritual journey is a little bit more mature than that. Yet every time things don't go as planned or how I thought God was leading them, I ask myself the same question.
Why didn't I get the job? Why didn't my boyfriend want to propose to me? Why did I fail the test after I studied so hard? Why did my team lose our championship game? Why didn't things go like I expected?
Why, why, why. Maybe you can relate to this feeling of confusion. Maybe your experiences are more tragic than mine. Why did my loved one die? Why did my marriage fail? Why did I get evicted from my home? There are so many things that can go wrong in our lives and it can be miserable and exhausting trying to understand the cause.
I used to tell myself it was because I lacked faith. If I had prayed a little harder or fasted a little longer maybe things would've ended up more favorably for me. Other times I used to think that a missed opportunity or failed situation meant I didn't try hard enough. I should've polished my resume better. I should've told my boyfriend I loved him more often. I should've studied even more for that test. Often if those conversations in my head didn't give me the satisfaction I would reprimand myself for being blind-sighted. How dumb of me to think I would get the job. How dumb of me to think my boyfriend loved me. How dumb of me to think I would ace the test. I hate to admit it, but all of these approaches to handling my failures are unhealthy and useless. It doesn't matter what I should have done in the past or if I was somehow "not smart enough" to predict the future. Instead, the root of my problems is fear.
I am not alone in my worries. Everyone I know wants some sort of certainty about their choices before they make a final decision. Many couples who are getting married establish a pre-nuptial agreement. Many students apply to more than one college "just in case" their top pick rejects them. People invest in homeowners insurance and car insurance policies for fear of something happening to their possessions. Investors need to see collateral to put their trust in a business decision. I'm not saying any of these things are inherently bad, actually, some of them are quite necessary and wise procedures to consider. My point is, people are constantly looking out for themselves, unwilling to blindly act without a sense of security in something. We all want an indication (ahem, a sign) that our choice is going to pan out to our advantage.
I used to think that Bible characters such as the disciples and those who physically walked around with Jesus must've been so fearless. Imagine how reassuring it would be to put your trust in God if you actually met the Son of Man himself. Imagine my surprise when I go into the gospel books of the Bible and recognize the same fears in those people that are dwelling in my own 21st-century heart. The reality is people have been fearful for centuries, and people have asked God for signs for decades. In fact, a large portion of Jesus's followers and believers only believed in him because he healed the sick, raised the dead, or cast out demons. Even with Jesus right there in front of them, they were asking for signs!
Jesus went as far as to start calling people out on this. In one instance there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” (John 4:46-48)
Of course, asking for signs and wonders isn't all bad. In the Old Testament, we see a great example of Gideon asking God to give him a sign that he should go to battle.
Judges 6:36-40 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” And God did so that night, and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.
There have been times in my life and in my family members or friends' lives where I've felt one of us asked God for a sign and that request was granted- the guidance was given. But if I'm being honest, it seems like more often than not, there is no sign... or at least not one I'm able to recognize. In those moments of silence from God, I really wrestle with my faith. I am afraid... afraid of missing out, afraid of making the wrong choice and getting hurt. Some of my lowest moments are times like those... but I am ever so slowly learning how to handle them a bit better than I used to.
I am learning to simply serve, work, and act in whatever season of life I'm in. What I mean by this, is instead of stressing over my "next big move" I've accepted that I just need to act on whatever decisions are right in front of me. That might be the decision to get out of bed in the morning or the decision to make a bagel instead of a bowl of cereal. Sometimes that means taking a part-time job even though I am not passionate about it because I know it will pay the bills. Sometimes that means letting go of the boyfriend even though I thought he was "the one" for me. Most of all, that means accepting that God is great enough, powerful enough, and loving enough to get me where I need to be even if I don't understand it.
Sometimes I hear older folks talk about how they "never reached" their potential in life. I think because there is so much pressure put on us nowadays to make money and live up to society’s standards of happiness, we often obsess over how to make that happen. Think of all the failed medical students, performers, or college dropouts who feel like they never fulfilled God's plan for their lives. I would actually beg to differ- I think they never reached their plans for their lives. Of course, there is a certain level of responsibility on our part to take action if we want to fulfill God's plan for us, but if we are sincerely trying, if we are really doing our absolute best, we must believe that we are on the right path.
Maybe you are reading this and you are still shaking your head. You are trapped in the land of should have's. You read this post and you still feel empty because you feel you've made so many wrong turns in your life, there is no possible way for God to get you back on track. My sweet friend that isn't true. You are living a lie if you feel that you "missed" your purpose.
We must let go of this idea that closed doors represent mistakes, misread signs, or failures. Perhaps we should actually celebrate closed doors. Closed doors help us decipher what our next step should be. Maybe you are saying, "Melissa, how is going bankrupt something to celebrate? How is being evicted from my house something to celebrate? How is my wife divorcing me something to celebrate? Well, don't take my word for it... instead, look to scripture.
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Following Jesus isn't about signs and wonders, it is about living your life to the fullest right where you are at in your journey.
I am preaching to the choir tonight. I am looking for a job. I have applied for several different positions, all of which I felt God had led me to, and one by one they have all rejected me. The last one rejected me today. Naturally, my first reaction is disappointment and a good deal of shame as well. I wrestle with insecurities about my abilities. But praise God, my career doesn't have to define me. I might not be where I personally want to be in the working world, but I have faith that I am where God wants me to be in my relationship with Him. I'm choosing to simply bloom where I've been planted for the moment.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
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