Am I following God’s plan?

Photo: David Monje, Unsplash.

I have been preparing for a transition. I remember going to the Oregon coast alone and staring out to the ocean. My wife, Sierra, had just given birth to our daughter Orly, and we were really struggling being so far from home. I had gone to the coast to find time to think. 

What would be our next move? Do we move away to be closer to family, or do we stay in Oregon where we have made our home? What is the right decision?

In church we often use special language when we are making decisions. We talk about discerning God’s call for our lives and letting God guide our steps. In the church where I grew up, we were encouraged to give our lives to God and to follow God wherever God called us. 

This often created a value judgment around decisions that one would make for one’s life. Following God’s call was good; going in a different direction was bad. 

I grew up with the idea that God had a perfect plan for my life, and I needed to stick to the script. If not, then that would have been seen as defying God, which often ends badly. Jeremiah 29:11 was the verse commonly used to justify this idea. As long as I was following God, I was assured that everything would work out.

But what do we do when the plan is not so neatly laid out for us? What the church had failed to mention to me, was that sometimes the decisions we have to make are not easy. At times we are faced with decisions and options that cannot be so easily characterized as right or wrong. 

Rather than feeling like God has a perfectly etched plan for my life, I have often found myself feeling like a rudderless ship. I was always told I should allow God to direct my life, but lately I have noticed God has not convinced me to move in any one direction. 

Now, there are some clear decisions in our lives that are right and wrong. The Bible, the church and fellow humans can help us discern paths forward. But there are moments when no answer seems right or wrong. This lack of clarity can be anxiety-inducing.

When I think about the lack of -clarity on our life journeys, I am reminded of the story of the two disciples traveling to Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel. This story takes place after the death and resurrection of Jesus but before Jesus appeared to his disciples. 

I imagine the followers of Jesus as being those who had placed all their eggs in one basket. All their hopes and dreams were on Jesus’ shoulders. And now he, to their knowledge, was dead, but there was no body to be found. 

I imagine the disciples felt like a rudderless ship. Where were they supposed to go? What was the next step?

The text doesn’t tell us why Cleopas and his unnamed companion are traveling to Emmaus. All we know is that this is the road they had chosen to travel. This is the direction they decided to go. 

While walking and discussing all that had happened, they run into a man they think is a stranger, though it was Jesus. They walk, talk and learn from the resurrected Jesus before he vanishes after breaking bread with them.

God is not the one guiding the steps of the two disciples. Rather, God is the one who meets them on the journey. God meets them in their uncertainty. 

It might feel comforting to see God as sketching out every part of our lives before we are born. But I think God gives us autonomy. God allows us to travel the road of uncertainty. 

We may come to a fork in the road and need to make a tough decision. We might choose to turn right or left, but no matter what choice that we make, God walks it with us. 

It is less about us making the right or wrong choice and more about God being with us no matter which direction we go. 

Uncertainty can be scary or even immobilize us. But God travels with us in those difficult moments.

Through much conversation and prayer, Sierra and I have decided to move closer to our families. Many people have affirmed our decision, but this does not make the journey any less difficult. Leaving a beloved community breaks my heart. But I have confidence that God is with us on this journey. 

I have no clue if all of this is according to God’s plan. I believe God will show up on whatever road my feet touch.  

Jerrell Williams

Jerrell Williams is pastor of Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kan. A 2015 graduate of Bethel College, he has a Read More

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