Now that I have the attention of everyone under 60 years old, I can tell you why this essay was not written for you.
When we look at our future, we plan. We have our heart-felt desires. We make decisions. Hopefully, we have prayed, listened for a response, and moved forward under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Far too many of us don’t listen. We think that we can do it on our own, and there is a great wonderful world to conquer.
Noted theologian, A. W. Tozer, wrote about feeling inadequate in speaking about the book of John. He also wrote that it was, at that moment of feeling inadequate, the Holy Spirit helped him write. Yet, we spend so much of our lives relying upon what intellect God gave us. In my youth, I kept hearing, “God gave you a brilliant mind. Use it.” The corollary to Tozer’s maxim is that when we rely upon the skills and capacities that God gave us instead of God Himself, we fall short.
When you are young, you can’t look back. There isn’t enough there to see if your decisions will work out. When you are older, you can look back, but is it worth it?
I can look back and see a lot a stupid decisions, mostly on little things although some may have had a large impact. I had a boss that threatened to fire me if I didn’t quit the Army Reserves. That isn’t legal, but it would have turned into a he said – he said battle in court. I quit the reserves. The boss did everything he could to fire me anyway. He was not successful, but my career was severely damaged.
I could play the “what if” game. What if I had stayed in the military? What if I had gone back to my first employer in Texas when I got out of the military? What if we had waited to have children for a few years? These three decisions made massive changes in my life and the life of my family.
Yet, all of the decisions that I made led to this place at this time. I’m right where God wants me to be. Was I successful? In earthly things, I was far from successful. Considering my potential, I was a disappointment. I refer to the ‘intellect’ mentioned earlier. Am I in a comfortable retirement? It is hardly comfortable at all. I know what God meant by putting the line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Tomorrow, I’ll pray that prayer again, and then again the next day. Why do I, then, say that this is where God wants me? I look out and see other Christians with their fancy homes, their beachfront properties, their loving children that live nearby. (My children are more than a day’s drive away.) God wants me right here, writing about how I screwed up, but God is still with me. He wants me to write about how God is faithful in the good and especially the bad times. God wants me to talk about how you need to find more time to talk to Him. God has a lot to say, if you are listening.
Why does God want me to suffer? Suffering here in this place is nothing like places where I have helped start up steel mills. (India and Thailand come to mind. Korea, China, and Mexico were different.) I won’t play the role of Job’s friends against myself. My God is a sovereign God. He is all-knowing and all-powerful. My plans as a young man were destroyed nearly from the outset, but God had something better planned. My hard work, dedication, and, yes, intellect created in me a survivor. We always had a roof over our heads. My children had the essentials and more. Yet, God was teaching me that all of my adult advisors were wrong. My parents, grandparents, other relatives, Sunday School teachers, and educators in over 19 years in the school system all told me that God gave me a brilliant mind. I should use it to make wise decisions. When we rely upon our own understanding, we screw up. Proverbs 3:5 says to trust in God and not our own understanding. Yet, everyone says, “Trust your gut.”
When we pray, does God answer? Yes, if you are listening. Does God answer in time? He answers in His time, not ours. And that is where the rub comes. Can you wait another month? When I took my last job, I had three months of unemployment left. I felt in my gut that it was a bad move. I postponed them a month, hoping anything else would come along. I really mean it when I say, “anything.” I called a few potential places to almost beg for an interview. I was that sure that SW Pennsylvania was not the place for us. My wife had the best job she had ever had. She was the surgical technician in a birth center. She was there only if an emergency came up. Then she would spring into action so that the delivery room became a surgical room. That way, the expectant mother didn’t have to be moved. To keep busy when there were no emergencies, she was given the job of taking baby pictures. That way, she got to play with the newborn babies all night long while the mothers slept. She was in heaven. I didn’t want to take her away from that. I didn’t want to move to the outskirts of a big city. I didn’t want to move back east of the Rockies. And in my interview, I felt uncomfortable around most of the people that I interviewed. As it turned out, there were good reasons for my concerns. It seemed that ethics, truth, and morality were not good fits at the company that I would eventually work about half of my working life.
In a large part, my gut was right. Yet, my new job put me in a place where God’s love was needed. Did I make a difference in people’s lives? I may have and I hope so, but as those years wore on, I learned to not trust my gut as much. I learned to not trust my intellect as much. I learned that the scary road was really the safe road. If I let go and let God make the next move, I would be safe, but never comfortable. If I got comfortable, I might rely on myself for the next move. I needed to learn Faith with a capital “F”. I had faith. I had accepted Christ as my savior by surrendering my will to His, but I didn’t realize how big God is. I have read A. W. Tozer and Oswald Chambers lately. Both talk about how we imagine God as being small enough that we can pull Him out of our pocket, as needed. Our worship of God will be better and more meaningful when we see God as the sovereign God of the universe. The line about every knee bowing comes to mind, including those kings who have never bowed to anything. I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior nearly 50 years ago, but I was too smart for my own good. Even the greatest genius of all time is not as smart as God.
That’s why this essay is not meant for those under 60. You cannot see the sovereignty of God work in your life until you have enough life to see how His mighty works led you to this place at this time. There are probably those over 60 who have not learned the lesson yet. And what is the use of looking back other than to praise God for all of the blessings over all of the years. At times, I feel that I am an infant on the journey to manhood when it comes to faith. When my faith has grown to the size of a mustard seed, maybe Jesus will call me home.