Enjoying the Journey
Recently I wrote a post on the discipline and joys of staying where God put you. Like the Psalmist David we sometimes feel like we would like a change of scenery and circumstance. He wrote in Psalm 55, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” We have all been there.
There are days when the word escape sounds beautiful. The problem is that leaving does not always bring the peace that our pragmatic hearts promise. There is a rest in the middle of the storm. One of life’s great lessons is that we are to grow where we are planted – and even the wind that seems contrary to us is part of that growth. (Read Part I of this discussion, Stay, here.)
That being said, there are times when God directs us to something new. There are moments when it is time to go. I must give this disclaimer: it is never time to leave if leaving violates a clear command of Scripture. God never leads contrary to His own revealed will. Likewise, it should not be the newness of a thing that prompts a move. Novelty is the besetting sin of our generation. Here are a few principles that can serve as guidelines during the transitions of life…
1. Wait on God.
Don’t leave anywhere hastily. Hurried decisions are rarely motivated by God’s leading, and usually driven by our emotions. You never waste time waiting on the Lord.
This is the time to get as close to the Lord as you possibly can. Seek wise counsel. Listen for the voice of God.
2. Be as certain about leaving as you were about being there in the first place.
Do you remember the clarity with which God led you to where you are? Do not leave without that again.
Just this week I prayed with a fine, Christian young man who is seeking direction for the next step in his life. I recommended that he take the prayer of David as his own: “O LORD…lead me in a plain path” (Psalm 27:11). Do not move as long as there is doubt. God will make it plain.
In the end, Christian people should not move because they are fleeing something, but because they are following the Lord. Don’t use “God’s will” as spiritual camouflage for your plans. The call of God is key. Am I doing what I want or what my Father desires for me?
3. When you know – obey.
Delay is disobedience. Once God makes something clear, act on it. Do not get ahead of God…and do not get behind Him. I well remember leaving home, my family, my church as an 18-year-old boy. There were plenty of options and sufficient desire to stay. But there was something on the other side of those arguments – the will of God for my life. I was doing what God had chosen for me. That helped me leave and that has been the thing that has helped me stay.
4. Finish well.
Pastor Sexton has always told us that people remember how you start and how you finish. So few finish well. Don’t give up on what is before you until your course is through. Leave behind a testimony of faithfulness. You will be glad you did.
5. Leave right.
I have watched people leave churches, colleges, places of employment, throwing hand grenades back in the door on their way out. Not good. If you must leave, leave peaceably and with grace. Don’t just walk away. Leave so that you can come back and others will always be happy to see you.
6. Appreciate the past as much as you anticipate the future.
I like everything about my car, until it is time to trade. Suddenly, I can spot every scratch and flaw! They were there all along but for some reason pointing them out makes me feel better about getting rid of the car. Silly, isn’t it? We try to justify what we want by tearing others down. People do the same thing when they “move on” in life. Don’t criticize everything you didn’t like.
There are no perfect places and no perfect people. We have a rule for transfer students who come to Crown College. They are not allowed to criticize the place they came from. God used it to get them where they are. Thank God for every step on the journey and those who were on that journey with you.
Oh, and by the way, express that appreciation to those who loved you and invested in your life…
7. Stay connected.
Little children tend to think that they can only have one friend at a time. You don’t have to trade in one for another. Keep all the friends you can – you are going to need them! Pray for those God has allowed to cross your path and work at staying friends until Jesus comes.
Some of my best friends have come through a ministry like ours through the years and have gone on to serve in other places. I am glad they are still my friends. And I am blessed to have watched certain people leave with such grace that I have been instructed by their example.
I hope that God will allow me to stay where I am serving the rest of my life. If He chooses otherwise, I want to leave right. For servants of Christ, life is not a chain of endings; it is “a series of new beginnings.”