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By Wayde Goodall
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:9,10)
My undergraduate studies that helped prepare me for a career in ministry were exciting, challenging, eye-opening, and addicting. They gave me a hunger to understand the Bible, theology, and human behavior. When beginning college, I had only known the Lord for about 2 years and everything seemed new. The future in ministry was to me — unpredictable.
Knowing and doing the will of God was (and is) always on my mind and heart. On some days I would worry about missing God’s perfect will and purpose for me. On one of those days I saw the university president walking across the campus lawn. Impulsively, I ran up to him and asked, “How do you find the will of God?”
This gracious man said, “Son, I determine the will of God in my life more by looking over my shoulder (where I have been) than by looking ahead; when looking back, I can see how God has led me.”
Over the years, I have seen the wisdom in his answer.
Even during times of wondering What in the world is going on? — when ministry seems confusing and complicated — we can decide to keep trusting God and to keep being faithful to the task at hand.
Many clergy decide to walk away from their calling and career because the work of ministry is not turning out the way they thought it would, or there has been a bad experience (or bad experiences). Focus on the Family has discovered that as many as 1,500 – 1,700 clergy walk away monthly from this work we call the ministry.
If this is something that is crossing your mind, can you hang in there and take a look back and see how God has led you? When you are having a challenging day (or season), it is often humbling to look back to the people who have helped you, the open doors you have walked through, the ways you have grown, the blessings you have experienced, and the people you have helped.
In Asia, there is an old story about a wise man and his son who lived on one of China’s frontiers. One day, for no apparent reason, this young man’s horse ran away and nomads took it across the border. Everyone tried to offer consolation for the man’s bad fortune, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this is not a blessing?”
Months later, his horse returned, bringing with her a magnificent stallion. This time everyone was full of congratulations for the son’s good fortune. But now his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a disaster?”
Their household was made richer by this fine horse the son loved to ride. But one day he fell off the horse and broke his hip. Once again, everyone offered consolation for his bad luck, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this is not a blessing?”
A year later nomads invaded from across the border and every able-bodied man was required to take up his bow and go to battle. The Chinese families living on the border lost nine of every 10 men. Only because the son was lame did father and son survive to take care of each other.
For this father and son, what appeared to be a blessing and success had sometimes been a terrible thing. In our lives, what appears to be a terrible thing often turns out to be a blessing, as God uses everything for our good.
Look back to the discouraging times, or perhaps a mistake, failure, tragedy, or disappointment in your life and see how God was with you then. Bad experiences usually turn out to be valuable life lessons and growth opportunities, and some of what we thought was going to be a wonderful experience turns out to be the opposite. The remaining truth is that God was (and is) with you, and Romans 8:28 becomes a reality. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Make a note to yourself; write it on the mirror, put it on the refrigerator. Remember, He is faithful in all he does (Psalm 22:4).
Your friend in Christ,
Wayde Goodall, D.Min., dean, College of Ministry, Northwest University, Kirkland, Washington