To listen/watch this post:
Broken, bruised, battered, tired, or merely lost, we’ve all asked the question, “Where do I go from here?” We look out onto the horizon and wait; the sun rises and sets day after day, season after season and we wait. We wonder; we search; we look to others for clues and come up empty. We feel stuck; sometimes like we’re moving backward.
We’re plagued by thoughts that sound more like accusations such as, “I should be further along” or “I thought I’d be over this by now.” Our unmet self-imposed timelines and expectations have a way of suffocating us to the point of immobility or causing us to rush into something that though sounded good at the moment, was not meant for us. Either way, we eventually hear our tired voices plunk out the words, “Where. Do. I. Go. From. Here?”
We find ourselves here for a multitude of reasons, but more often than not we find ourselves here because life took unexpected twists and turns, dumping us into unknown territory. In this place, our purpose may be muddled, our calling stifled, and our vision shaded by self-doubt. We’re stuck.
And it’s painful.
My daughter has been stuck in her grief. She desperately wants to escape it and yet she’s fearful of leaving it behind. She feels that if she is not presently, outwardly grieving the daughter she lost late in pregnancy she is dishonoring her. Burdened, she asks, “Where do I go from here?”
Having been in this place of in-between; in between one step and the next, I caution her not to rush anything, to find breath in the present, meaning in the moment, or take a step backward if necessary. Though it’s good advice, no one likes it. We’re forward-thinking; “movers and shakers,” as my grandmother used to say.
Staying still or even taking a step backward is not on our agenda; it’s not part of the plan. It feels unproductive, motionless, maybe even like we’re failing—failing ourselves or others. I have to pause here and ask:
- Who set our agenda?
- Who’s holding us accountable?
- To what measure/standard are we judged?
- And who in the world told us we’re failing?
- What is wrong with pausing?
- What is wrong with taking a step backward, if it means that we might gain the confidence and direction to take the next step forward?
My daughter looks at me with furrowed brows as if to say, “Are you kidding me right now? You think I should stay in this place?”
I pause, knowing she will replay my words in her mind later. God gives me His words and I wince before I even speak them to life because they are not popular; she won’t like them– and yet….and yet, they are the very words that give us hope when we surrender our agenda for His. His words:
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; he delights in his way.” Psalm 37:23
I ponder them in my mind for a moment or two before I find myself nodding in agreement with what I feel the Lord is impressing on my heart. I timidly say (because I know it sounds so cliché), “ God has a plan for your life, my girl, and contrary to what you see or feel or even think right now, He is ordering your steps for good.” Que the Jerimiah 29:11 poster and every youth group lesson ever taught! I get it and I cringe.
She stares blankly at me and I know I’ve missed the boat. The words, though filled with hope and truth rooted in unfathomable love are so overused that they’ve lost their luster and we’ve lost our confidence in them.
I press on and pull a loose thread to this abstract concept in an attempt to unravel it to something smaller, more concrete, more tangible for her—and for me, honestly. (God is often teaching my daughter and me simultaneously).
- Do you believe in God?
- Do you believe He is sovereign, which is just a big fancy word that means He is in all and overall?
- If you believe in His sovereignty, can you believe He has a plan for you?
- In whom do you place your confidence, God or yourself?
This has everything to do with submission—again, not popular because although we’re quick to say that we believe God is sovereign, we don’t really like the idea of submitting to His will. Maybe this is a trust issue or maybe it’s a control issue. Either way, our lack of submission is perhaps an indicator that fear lingers just below the surface of our motives.
“God doesn’t expect us to be fearless in reaching our destiny, just faithful.”
The room falls silent and I swear I hear crickets. I also hear what sounds like a bruised heart rise to the surface and I find myself sharing stories of my youth (and not so youth) when I didn’t know if I really trusted God, so I orchestrated my own life (my own steps). God was merely along on my ride.
I wanted my version of God and my fairytale. That’s not faith. That’s not submission.
When we feel stuck, it’s easy to start collecting evidence against Christ–to believe that He is not really for us, that He doesn’t really love us. We’re “Yay God,” when our steps move us forward onto our desired path and we’re “How could you God?” When they don’t. This says a lot about our beliefs of Christ. We cannot merely accept the parts we like, the parts that align with our plans, and not the parts we don’t like. Can we believe He good and He is still for us even when our current step hurts like hell?
I stop and remember that even Jesus was broken, crushed, battered and died BEFORE he rose; before He moved to the next “step” and that was part of God’s perfect plan.
Beloved, we’re still in order even when we’re broken, even when we’re stuck.
How do we know this?
Psalm 37:23 states, “The steps of a good man,“ meaning those who know and love Christ “are ordered by the Lord…” When we trade in our agenda for His or said another way, submit to His ways, we can live in confidence that our steps are ordered. We will not miss His plan for us—His good and perfect plan, even if we’re steps or miles behind our friends or our self-imposed ideas of where we should be.
Order implies plan, purpose, direction—a choreography that moves and breathes and rests.
Trust His ways. Trust His timing. Don’t place strategy or “I should have’s/should be’s” over submission. Lean into Him and when you do, you can confidently take that next step.
My girl takes a step backward as she takes time to digest her season of life and in all the most important ways, she has just taken the biggest step forward for the kingdom of God. What God sees is not what the world sees. His ways are not our ways; His steps are not our steps.
Go ahead, my girl, take a step, even if you think it’s a step backward.