It was funny to me when I found out that the topic of this week’s devotionals was Israel’s time in the wilderness, because I have recently been feeling like I have spent that last 20 years of my life in the wilderness.
The people of Israel were well aware that God had promised to take them to the Promised Land, but they were not aware of what the journey to the Promised Land would look like. They had no idea how long they would be in the wilderness or what suffering and hardships they would endure before they reached their destination.
When I look back over the last 20 years of my life, I feel like I have been wandering in the wilderness, and I feel like I’m still there.
Twenty years ago, in the summer of 1999, I felt God call me to abandon all my future plans and to pursue full-time ministry. I was 21 years old, engaged to my wife, I had been working as a horseshoer for about four years, and I was trying to get into veterinarian school. I had my whole future planned out, and things were going according to plan. God had saved me a year and a half earlier, and everything was changing. God was producing in me a greater love for him and a constantly growing desire to share the gospel and see people saved. And in the summer of 1999, I felt a call to go to Bible college and become a preacher. It was extremely scary to walk away from the life I had envisioned and pursue the unknown, but I trusted God and did it. I started my first semester of Bible college in the fall of 1999.
Now, fast forward 20 years. How’s my preaching ministry going? What church am I pastoring? Well, the fact that I am writing this devotional is a clue that things have not gone according to plan. What happened? Good question.
Sometimes I feel like the last 20 years have been one detour after another. It’s been 20 years since I felt God’s call, and I’m still a horseshoer. I’m getting older. Time is slipping away. My health isn’t what it used to be. My mortality is ever before me. Will I ever reach my destination? Will my life be a waste? These are the thoughts that litter my wilderness wandering.
But then a bright light pierces the darkness:
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
― Psalm 139:16 NLT
God is sovereign.
With God, there is no such thing as a detour! God has ordained every day of our lives. Every single thing that comes to pass in his creation has been sovereignly and eternally decreed. He is moving all of history toward his eternal goal and his purposes cannot be thwarted.
Everything that happens in my life and your life is all part of his eternal plan. Every time you felt your life was taking a detour, every time something or someone got in the way of your plans, every trip, stumble and fall. every heartache, every loss — they are all part of his eternal plan.
How does that make you feel? Angry? Confused? Secure?
Does it make you angry that God’s eternal plan included such pain and loss? Are you confused as to why he would allow such things to happen to you? Does it bring you any security at all to know that your God is sovereign, and that nothing happens apart from his eternal decrees?
Trust me, I understand. I have felt all those things. But after all is said and done, the feeling of security rises above all the negative emotions, because I know that the last 20 years of my life have not been one detour after another. For the last 20 years, God has been accomplishing his purposes in my life. Every step of the way I have been exactly where God planned for me to be.
God’s purposes do not lie only in our destinations, but also in our journeys.
In the last 20 years, God has broken me thoroughly and has been rebuilding me from the ground up. The man he called into full-time ministry 20 years ago was not ready for it back then. That man struggled with addiction, was full of pride, was a poor husband, and so much more. Today, I am not what I should be, but by the grace of God, I am not what I was. He is still sanctifying me and conforming me into the image of his Son. And all along the way, he has been using me — even as a horseshoer — to minister and witness to people in barns and pastures.
Will I ever get to walk in my calling? I believe so. Whatever God has eternally ordained for my life will happen at the moment he ordained for it to happen. But whether or not I will ever enter full-time ministry or pastor a church, I can find peace in knowing that God is sovereign and every moment of my life I have been exactly where he eternally decreed that I should be. I might not accomplish all that I plan to with my life, but I can rest assured that God will accomplish all he plans to with my life.
And since he has eternally decreed all that comes to pass, it appears that he ordained that at this very moment I should be writing this devotional. And that you should read it. Interesting, huh?