How Do You Figure Out What To Do Next?

“Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future. I will bless the Lord who counsels me – even at night when my thoughts trouble me.” – Psalm 16:5,7 CSB

As a people who have been redeemed, a people who have embraced the turn from one way of life to another, I find it odd that Christians (myself especially) seem to be no less averse to change and transition than the rest of the world. The fact that people can change, not just direction but literally become a “new creation” is to me, one of the greatest gifts God gave us apart from himself. A.W Tozer says it so beautifully: “yet as much as we may deplore the lack of stability in all earthly things, in a fallen world such as this the very ability to change is a golden treasure, a gift from God of such fabulous worth as to call us to constant thanksgiving.”

 In moving from one thing to the next, our instinct is to know what it is we are moving towards.

I love lists. I love spreadsheets. I make rough-drafts of my grocery lists, and then re-organize them by the path I naturally take through the store (always counter-clockwise) so that I never have to double back. To say that waiting on God for direction isn’t something that comes naturally to me is a slight understatement. Transition seems to be a somewhat innocuous word that brings with it some rather frightening terms: Calling. Vision. Destiny. Fulfillment. Purpose. In moving from one thing to the next, our instinct is to know what it is we are moving towards. What’s my destination? It’s so easy to relate to David and the above psalm. Who hasn’t been kept awake at night with thoughts of “what next?” We can’t think of it without thinking about what we are meant to do, who we are meant to be, what our purpose on the earth is. This is heady stuff, the stuff that keeps you up at night. So how do we move forward?

My mother-in-law said something to me once that forever changed the way I make decisions. “The will of God is not a tightrope. It’s a field.” Doesn’t something inside you just immediately breathe deeply at those words? Sometimes, it’s the amazing stories of faith that have left me paralyzed on that tightrope. I remember once hearing about a missionary who realized they had a birthmark that was the exact shape of Africa. They walked into their destiny knowing they were physically marked for the work God had created them to do. I remember studying my own birthmark, willing it to look like somewhere, anywhere. It looks like I dripped chocolate ice cream on my leg. Drat.

What if I started to replace this almost-mythic idea of destiny as a destination, with obedience as a daily way of life to a God I can fully trust with my future?

I have found that transition done well in my life has looked less like a miraculous intervention and more like simple day-to-day obedience. I believe and love those incredible stories, but what if, instead of falling asleep begging God for a letter in my mailbox (preferably on Heaven’s letterhead) saying, “Dear Melanie, do these things in this order. Everything will be okay. I love you. Xoxo, Jesus” I woke each morning with the thought, “Jesus, how can I be obedient to you today? How can I trust you more?” What if I started to replace this almost-mythic idea of destiny as a destination, with obedience as a daily way of life to a God I can fully trust with my future? I believe in goals, I believe in knowing where you want to go and having a plan to get there. I’ve just been challenged lately with whether I’m trusting God with that path. Sometimes to climb a mountain, you have to walk the switchbacks.

I had a teacher who once said (and I’m paraphrasing), “When you get to those points in your life where you don’t know what you’re supposed to do next, go back to the last thing you’re sure that God said and check to see if you’ve been obedient to that.” Perhaps the next step in your life involves laying something down before you can move forward. Perhaps there is someone you need to extend forgiveness to. Perhaps you simply need to stay the course and complete a difficult season well.

He’s not going to promise us abundant life and then make it nearly impossible to find.

God is so faithful. He knows how to get you where you need to go. He’s not going to promise us abundant life and then make it nearly impossible to find. He’s not being coy. It’s likely that if I am feeling stuck, the problem is with me. With my desire to see everything as perfectly linear and to make the will of God follow a tightrope or fit on a spreadsheet. There’s so much room in his will to be who God created us to be. Frederick Buechner (whose thoughts on calling and vocation are so much better than my own) said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” If that’s true, then the options in that are endless, and perhaps none of them are “wrong”. What do you love? How could you use it to benefit someone else, and see the Kingdom of God expand?

Buechner also says, Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

Psalm 16 goes on to say, “Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my body also rests securely. For you will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful one to see decay. You reveal the path of life to me.”

In the middle of a difficult transition? Or trying to figure out what’s next and what your purpose is? Come join us for a Discipleship Training School to spend time learning about God and His plans for you!

Ready to make the jump.

At YWAM Montana-Lakeside, we are all about doing whatever it takes to know God and to make Him known, together! We’d love to help you make that next step in your global missions education. Apply now!

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