We live in a time where we no longer think truth is out there. In our day truth is created, generated, is personal and comes from within. Whether learned in class espousing philosophical deconstruction or simply singing along with a song from Moana, we are taught today to follow the voices within. Follow your heart! Find your own truth! Do what makes you happy! That chorus sings incessantly today.
Last month marked a year since our family moved out of New Jersey. This month marks two years from the time where God made it clear that our time in the garden state was coming to the end. This was not what "my heart" wanted. I had always assumed and intended to stay in the northeastern United States serving God's purposes there. When it became clear that it would be best for us to transition the church we had planted and base a new ministry out of Virginia, my heart literally felt sick. By this, I don't mean a bummed out feeling for a couple of days. I mean a deep feeling of discouragement and sadness that lingered for many months. Why? I love New Jersey and the work I had been given to there. My heart said stay, be still, endure, figure it out, and keep a tight hold on my will and plans.
And please don't think it was some heroic decision on my part; I was not happy in my soul about leaving. Yet as I look back over the last two years I see a kind hand of Providence at work in countless ways that I would have never been able to see by looking into my heart. Today, the Lord is giving me new passion and excitement for my work that I could not have anticipated. I see his light in my wife's eyes and my family is doing well in a new season. I am enjoying the care of my new pastors and building friendship with them and serving the Lord's purposes together. God has cared for his church in New Jersey in wonderful ways through his people there. If I had followed my heart, none of these decisions would have ever been made.
Sometimes God's plan works out in our lives by doing what we do not, on the surface, desire. Sometimes loving him and loving other people means we should transform our personal desires and plans. I believe that sometimes things are not so clear until much more life is rolled out by God into the rear view mirror.
The sovereignty of God is much more than a mere doctrine. It is something we trust. It is knowing that the judge of the earth will always do right by his own children even in the most difficult and trying circumstances. We trust God's providence and rule because we trust God.
Though in catchy Disney songs we might hear to always follow the voice inside, there are times when the voice of the one who made us must hold sway. Sometimes these voices lineup. Our hearts desire is the will of God for us. These days feel great. There are other times we learn obedience through trials and difficulties. Obeying God through his Word, wise counsel, difficulty and circumstance is quite complex. It is a sure and true path in the end.
The martyred missionary Jim Elliot once remarked that in trusting Christ he had never made a sacrifice. I wish I could say I always knew to trust God with every difficulty, circumstance and decision in real time. Sometimes I just don't. And yet trusting the one who is the truth has always led me in his path and for this I simply give thanks. He really does know what is best even when it doesn't feel that way to us.
I wish my heart trusted more readily and easily and I understood as much in the moment as I do looking back over over the years. But you know what they say about hindsight; it does get clearer as each day passes.
So these last two years have been challenging for me but they have led me back to the words of Jesus Christ: "Come, follow me." And in these words there is also a corollary truth: we don't simply follow the voice inside.