"You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail."
Sometimes we pray about something and feel like God has told us exactly what do to and we set out to accomplish it. Sometimes, however, we think we know what God wants us to do, but when we set out to accomplish it, He changes things completely. When things do not go the way we expect, we have two choices: will we keep trusting Him OR will we lose faith in Him and try to do things our own way? Our family recently went through a major shift of plans. I'm writing this so I can look back on it and remember that God led us to do this when life gets hard in a few months and we begin to question things.
When Scott and I were first married, we served as short-term missionaries with the International Mission Board for a year. After that, through a series of God-ordained events, Scott and I came to Macon, Georgia to work with the youth group at Northway Church over 6.5 years ago. These past 6.5 years have been some of the greatest years of our lives. We love nothing more than getting to see our teenagers fall in love with Christ and obediently follow God’s call on their lives.
Several years ago, we began to sense that God was calling us to serve Him overseas as missionaries again. Of course we were willing to follow God, but it was definitely a lot harder this time. We had a family now and we loved our students at church, but we followed the calling and began the application process with the International Mission Board. We also put our house up for sale, knowing God would have to take care of the sale of our house amidst a very unstable housing market. After lowering our house several times and knowing we would lose all of our savings, we lowered it one final time and received an offer over Christmas break last winter.
After our house sold, we moved into an apartment and were about to share our news with our church family when a health crisis put a major halt on our plans. I almost had a heart attack and had a stent placed in my LAD artery, where 70% blockage was found. Our plans to go overseas were not going to be able to happen. So, we had just sold our house and gotten rid of a lot of our possessions, we had just lost all of our savings, and then we are told that we can’t do what we felt God calling us to do. We began to wrestle with God about what He was doing, not understanding why all of this would happen.
To be honest, I started to have a crisis of belief. Sure, I knew all the right answers. I knew God was in control of the situation and was not surprised by any of this. But, I could not understand why He would place a calling on our lives to go overseas, have us sell our house and then close that door. It made no sense. People are dying everyday who have not heard the name of Jesus and we are willing to go, and yet, God says no.
Had we not heard Him correctly when we started the process to be overseas missionaries?
A few months later, God began to show us that He did have a purpose and a plan for us; it just looked a lot different than we imagined. My brother, Will Blanchard, is the pastor at a church plant in Northwest Arkansas called Northwest Community Church. Will began sharing with us their main needs at Northwest: they really needed someone to help them launch a brand new youth and missions program. We began to see that God would be using our calling for overseas missions and our love and experience of working with youth. But then came the scary part: Will shared with us that Northwest would initially only be able to provide our health insurance. Scott would need to be bi-vocational and Scott's parents would have to help provide our housing for this to be possible.
Were we really considering this? Were we really about to leave a stable job in a church that we loved to move to Arkansas where we would not have a salary?
When I think back to when Scott and I first started the mission’s process, I truly believe we were being obedient to the calling God had placed on our lives. But, God re-directed it. He may have re-directed it in a way that was hard for us to accept, but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t have a plan for us. Two years ago, I never would have thought that we would be moving to a small church plant, where my husband would be working as a school bus driver or substitute teacher and we would be depending on his parents to provide our housing. But, God used His initial calling on our lives to get us to where we are today. Two years ago, we may not have been strong enough to accept a call like this. But God has used these past two years to strengthen our trust in Him, even when life’s circumstances were out of our control.
One thing that I have really learned through this experience is to KEEP WALKING IN OBEDIENCE, even when my plans don’t go the way I originally thought. We were completely confused and crushed when we were told we could not go overseas. But that’s when it’s the toughest to keep walking in obedience. It is then that we have to decide to keep trusting and looking to Him because God will not fail us. We can’t always control the outcome, but we can control whether or not we will be obedient.
May we walk in obedience, trusting that He has a plan, even when life doesn't make sense.
"We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God."
-2 Corinthians 3:4-5