Pass the Test of Trust

break out of the box of expectations and see the big picture

Have you ever been surprised at the events life has brought you? I have. And if your experience is anything like mine, you’ve probably dealt with some disappointments.

  • People who don’t turn out to be who you thought they were.
  • Things that don’t work out the way you had expected them to.
  • Circumstances of life that don’t fall into place, allowing you to achieve your dreams.

At times like these, I’ve been left with a bunch of questions and a heap of broken plans. I couldn’t help but come face to face with questions about who I am and who God is.

A Disappointed Dream

Years ago, I wanted to become a missionary. I had an interest in foreign cultures and a view of the world’s need in comparison with all that I’d been given, and I wanted to be involved in meeting the needs of others.

Time passed, and soon I reached an age when I had expected to be out working for God on a foreign field. But I was still at home, involved in correspondence studies and ministry in my local church.

Impatiently, I began to wonder what was going on. Had I missed God’s direction in my life? All I’d wanted was to become a missionary. That’s a good desire, isn’t it? God would want to grant such a wish, wouldn’t He? But I felt lost, and I couldn’t see God at work in my life.

Weeks went by, and I struggled with discouragement. I felt angry with God. Why wasn’t He working in my life? Why did I have these dreams that were not fulfilled? Where was God? Was He even real?

Expectations Revealed

Finally, light dawned. When God granted the desire to reach out as a missionary, I quickly thought of how He should work to fulfill this calling in my life. I thought of the time frame in which He should work. There they were: my plans for how God should work in my life, complete with deadlines for Him to meet!

Sounds presumptuous, doesn’t it? Yes, I was presumptuous. And God wasn’t planning to work that way in my life. He wanted to bring me to a mission field I hadn’t considered, and He didn’t change His course to meet my expectations. God went right along, guiding me in the way He wanted me to go.

However, my expectations of God’s work built a box around my view of God and His involvement in my life. I looked for Him to work where I expected Him to work. When He didn’t work there, I couldn’t see Him at work in my life. That’s when I my heart filled with despair.

Surprising Fulfillment—at Hand

I realized that if I were to see God at work, I needed to let go of my expectations. If God were to have His perfect way in my life, I couldn’t hold on to preferences and ideals that limited His reign in my life.

I learned that God, as my Good Shepherd, had a greater interest in my reaching His goals than even I had. He would lead me, and I could trust Him to lead me to the right place, even if I did not understand the route He took. I chose to trust that He was able and willing to accomplish His purposes in my life.

Over the past five years, I’ve begun to see the bigger picture God had planned. Even while I doubted God’s reality and questioned His calling on my life, baulking at the correspondence work I was doing, God was equipping me for an unexpected mission field: communication through publications. He led me where He wanted me to be.

Through the training I’ve received, I’ve discovered a love for communicating God’s truth through the printed and electronic page. As I saw God at work, the words of Isaiah 52:7 took on new meaning: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation” (emphasis added). God is fulfilling His calling on my life in a way that I had never expected, allowing me to touch the lives of people I’ve never met from my own home!

God knew what lay ahead for me. He graciously prepared me for the work He had for me to do: first teaching English, then serving as an editor, and now working as the content developer for a home-education Web site. All of these opportunities involved serving with Biblically-based ministries and helped me gain an understanding of the worldwide work of God, which often involved more than I anticipated.

Expect the Unexpected

In the book of Genesis, Joseph’s experience demonstrates how God works through the unexpected to achieve the incredible. As a youth, Joseph dreamed of leadership. His family mocked his dreams, and in time his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph became first a slave and then a prisoner. After years had passed, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and became a ruler over Egypt, eventually rescuing his family from a famine. At last, his dreams came true.

Did Joseph see that God was using his experiences as a slave and a prisoner to equip him for leadership? Perhaps not; but later in his life, Joseph looked back with understanding and gratitude that even the terrible, traumatic events of his life were used by God to accomplish His purposes. He spoke to his brothers, “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20). God used his disappointments as the very instruments that brought about His plans for Joseph. If Joseph had embittered his heart over all the things that happened to him, God’s plans would have been left unfulfilled.

How about you?

Are you looking at God through a box of expectations? God has plans for you beyond what you can envision today. His work in your life is a lot bigger than you expect or comprehend. Are you willing to hold your dream loosely so that God can mold it and expand it to match His dreams for you?

When I boxed God in with my own ideas, I limited His work in me and through me. I could see only a small glimpse of what God wanted to do, and because I clung so tightly to that little picture, I couldn’t see the larger plan that God was working out. I thank God that He opened my eyes to see the truth in time: I could trust Him even if I didn’t understand everything at the time.

God works all things together for good. If I had become bitter over His “failure” to open doors for international ministry, I would have missed the ultimate fulfillment of His plan. I wouldn’t have stayed around long enough to see what God had in mind; I would have given up. Disappointment is not the time to give up, it’s the time to hold on and wait to see the good that God has in store.

Laying down your expectations and walking with God one step at a time takes faith and trust. It takes faith to believe that His promises are true and that in the end, all of the unexpected and unexplained details of your life will work together for good in the end results that God has planned. It takes trust that is strong enough to obey God’s voice even when you cannot see His hand at work, knowing that He is guiding your steps and that as your Good Shepherd, He will not lead you astray. After all, He wants you to reach your final destination! He is determined to lead you in the right way, if you will only follow Him step by step.

“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:11). “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

May God grant you the faith to reach out in trust and experience the completion of His work in your life!

—An ATI student from Minnesota

March 2005