So many times in the past I’ve tried to plan out my life, especially when it comes to my ministry and its future. However, I quickly learned that following Jesus meant that it is virtually impossible to lead him at the same time. Quickly I learned to humble myself and follow willingly, even when that meant doing the opposite of what seems to make sense to me and others around me. Quickly I learned to quit trying to map out my future, and instead allow myself to be taken where Jesus would have me. Without fail I have been placed where Jesus needs me to be.
I still try to plan out my life at times. I try to show God where I might serve him best. I base my hopes and plans off my desires, and off the need to be successful in the eyes of the world … and I grow frustrated that things do not progress how I feel they should. Then I stop, pray, and remind myself that it’s not about my plans, and it’s certainly not about what I deem to be successful or not.
It’s in prayer that I am reminded that Jesus is leading me exactly where he needs me to be. I am reminded that it is for his glory that I work. I am reminded that through unwarranted accolades and unwarranted suffering and pain, Christ is with me so long as I choose to remain with him. Christ has taken me. To all the places he has taken me he has provided me with comfort & hope, with peace & joy, and most importantly with grace to carry through not my plans, but his.
To follow Jesus Christ, who was betrayed, wept, bled, and died before he rose again, is to be at high risk of being taken where we had not intended to go. Eugene Peterson pinpoints the trouble with praying: We are often asked to respond in ways that we never intended when we first began to pray.
It matters little where or in what century we are called to live out our Christian life. The witness of those who have gone before informs my own experience, telling me that we are often taken to places where we receive unwarranted accolades and to other places where we receive unwarranted suffering and pain. A disciple, one who chooses to be student and follower of Jesus, is not a ‘self-made person’ and is not on a personally designed journey.
The key word in this them is taken. Just as Jesus was taken into the wilderness after his baptism, so we are taken into the experiences of discipleship that we do not necessarily choose for ourselves. We choose to follow Jesus and then Jesus chooses where we will go. It is that simple.
The saving truth here is not that we are taken where we do not want to go; rather the saving truth is that we are not alone. There is One who leads us and goes with us. Jesus arose from baptism and ‘the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness’ (Mark 1:12). But even there the angels (messengers of God) were with him and tended to his needs. While we may not choose the place to go, we can choose to remain with the One who sends us and there find comfort, companionship, grace, peace, and joy.
–Rueben P. Job, A Guide To Prayer For All Who Seek God, p.200