For the past two years I have found myself unable to write, unable to gather my thoughts onto a page, unable to summarise all that God has been teaching me.
I’m really not trying to be dramatic, it’s literally felt impossible at times.
Writing has often felt quite natural to me, it’s a way of processing and recording important moments in my life. But for the past year this came to an abrupt halt. Each time I tried to sit down and write, I’d find myself stopping and starting in frustration. I had so many questions still left unanswered that I found myself unable to come to a conclusion on almost anything. There were far too many dots to connect and pieces to put together.
The reoccurring question seemed to be ‘What does my future hold?’ and ‘God, where are you taking me?’
Unresolved: uncertain of what to think or do.
I found myself in a book shop one afternoon where I read the words “Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart” and I thought ‘hmm…unresolved, this is a great word to describe my life at the moment’.
At 18 years old I cried out for God to reveal himself to me and I experienced him so radically, so completely that something inside me was changed forever. For the first time in my life he felt real and his grace and love was deeper than I had ever considered or imagined. He was no longer a religion, an idea or a questionable belief that got me into heaven and away from a scary destination after death. He was close, he was near and he was SO alive to me. All at once I realised how much I needed him and wanted to seek him more than anything else.
My immediate reaction to experiencing the reality of Jesus was complete surrender and I placed my future plans into his hands.
Fast forward four years though and I was surprised to find myself at numerous cross roads in life. I had no idea what I was doing, where I was going or who I was going to be with. This was pretty terrifying for me. For four years God had paved a path for me that felt so right, so natural and so easy that I never questioned whether he had a plan for me. But suddenly, the fog set in and the pressure of decision making weighed heavy on my mind as I asked him to bring clarity.
My greatest fear was to waste my life, to make a wrong decision and to choose the wrong path. There were many nights I lay awake praying, fasting and asking him to reveal his plan for my life. I questioned my heart motives, my abilities, and there were many times I doubted my purpose.
It was a season marked with anxiety and constant worry towards the future as I tried to look ahead and imagine my life in the next 12 months.
And yet, it seemed like everyone repeated this one word to me…’REST’.
I hated it. I hated the word rest.
The word felt foreign to me. I couldn’t work out how to practically apply it to my situation. It felt like a useless word to use when reassuring someone.
Do I sit and wait? Do I knock doors and see if they open? What if I pray and believe for God to show up and he doesn’t? What if God just wants me to get on with things? Does he care? What if I just live in this limbo land of the unknown forever? Will I be stuck here forever? What if I choose something that he doesn’t want me to do and I ruin his plans for the rest of my life?
What if, what if, what if.
Maybe I am just overly anxious, but maybe you’re reading this right now, walking through a similar season in life and thinking SAME (if you know much about the enneagram, you won’t be surprised that I am a type 6..lol).
The story of Ruth
I spent most of my weekends this year listening to podcasts whilst driving back and forth to my house in Belfast. One day I listened to a sermon on Ruth by Tim Keller titled ‘An Immigrant’s Courage’ that did just that.
For the past year I have reflected on the story of Ruth. It has been a comforting reminder that in the midst of uncertainty, the God who intervened and so graciously stepped into Ruth’s life…is the God who I seek and serve.
Ruth stands in Boaz’s field as a poor, foreign widower with no means of provision or protection. She’s gleaning, a custom in Hebrew law which allowed the poor to come behind the reapers of a field and collect the fallen spears of grain. She’s picking up the leftovers and taking them back to Naomi, her mother-in-law, who also just lost her husband. It’s a pretty grim situation. I wonder did the two widowers ever feel hopeless? Lost? Anxious in the middle of uncertainty? Did they have faith that God was working in the background or did they feel like he had left them in the middle of their grief and poverty?
Hopeless: having no expectation of good or success.
The bible doesn’t give us an insight to Ruth’s prayers (but oh how I wish I could have read those!) or how she felt in the middle of her uncertainty; but we do know that she continues to go to Boaz’s field. Following behind the reapers ahead of her, she could have compared her small bag of leftover’s to the multiple bags of crops they were collecting. As they gathered a wealth of crops, she could have asked God why others are so blessed and favoured. But instead of getting bitter, asking God why or complaining, she continues to pick up the leftovers.
Everyday, she would return to Boaz’s field.
Ruth was strong, humble, obedient and in the face of uncertainty, she bowed her head and said ‘yes’ to a daily task that seemed to be going nowhere.
As I attempted to work out God’s plan for my life- formalising, strategising, considering and wondering- Ruth taught me the power of being faithful in the present.
Little did Ruth know, she was standing in the field of God’s provision and protection. Boaz watches Ruth and takes note of her faithfulness, and what probably felt like a hopeless situation was actually the answer to her future. Ruth “coincidentally” finds herself in the field of the only person that could redeem her situation. Boaz was the families ‘guardian-redeemer’, a legal term used to describe a close relative who was obliged to help a relative who found themselves in difficulty or slavery. We read later on that Boaz marries Ruth and that she gives birth to a son, Obed, the Grandfather of King David.
Ruth was a poor foreign widower, yet she is weaved into the lineage of Christ and is welcomed into the family of God.
Whether Ruth knew it or not, God’s hand was at work in her life from beginning to the end. He was at work as she grieved the loss of her husband, fled her country, lived in poverty, was deemed as a social outcast, picked up leftovers and laboured in Boaz’s field from morning to night.
Because even in the most uncertain times, God is at work, whether we recognise it or not.
Trusting in the unknown
Ruth’s story really challenged my perspective on God as a provider and protecter. So often I face uncertainty with a ‘sleeves up’ approach, feeling alone and like I need to work it all out in one day.
But what if we lived with a heart like Ruth?
Staying obedient and humble in the everyday tasks.
Loving those closest to us and meeting their needs as best we can.
Not comparing our blessings to others and being thankful for what we’ve got.
Going out to the field he has given us and trusting that he will meet all our needs.
In Psalm 77 we hear King David, Ruth’s great Grandson cry out to God:
“Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.”
Even if we can’t see it, God is making a path- a way through the unknown.
Our obedience to him in the tasks we may see as small, mundane, ordinary and sometimes laborious are all a part of his plan for our lives.
And by the way, I still haven’t figured out God’s plan for the rest of my life. I still don’t really know where I’ll be in 10 years time. There are many questions I have that are still unanswered- I wrestle with them frequently. I still feel like I have random pieces of a jig-saw puzzle left over, with no idea where to put them. I’m still connecting the dots. I have not solved “God’s ways” as I hoped I would. I am am still figuring out what it means to “rest”. There are many unwritten and half-written entries in my journal. I still get anxious when I think about the “unknowns” of my future. Even though God has shown me my next step, there are many unknowns I have yet to face and I don’t know if there ever will be a day without them.
So yes, I am still learning to trust God everyday and I still need to remind myself to trust him in whatever “field” I find myself in.
He knows what he is doing and he knows where I am going.
Even better, like Ruth, we are being weaved into a much bigger story than we probably realise.