If I’ve learned anything in the past seven years of following Jesus, it’s that He is dependable. Many, many times, I’ve been in fear about my health, anxious about a situation regarding work, or uncertain of how it’s all going to turn out. And every time He has come through for me by healing me, or giving me peace, or just working out those practical circumstances, I know His presence is something I can depend on for the rest of my life. And there’s no peace like knowing that this Man, who’s this faithful, will be at my side forever.
Jesus is dependable, but He is not predictable. When I first began to follow Jesus, I wanted to cram everything I knew about Him into formulas. And sometimes, formulas work. Example: if I don’t pray in the morning, I usually feel discouraged and grumpy by about 2 p.m. Another example: if I begin to thank Him for what He’s done, instead of complaining about a difficult circumstance, my whole mindset shifts. But I have found that when you follow a God who may have a will apart from your own and who knows you better than you know yourself, life can’t be planned the way you thought. And formulas aren’t going to work the way you thought.
When I first began to follow Jesus at age 20, I thought, Great! I’ll have the life I always wanted, but it will be a life lived with Jesus. I knew that Jesus would always give me joy and peace, but I didn’t know that He would change my heart radically, and along with it, the desires I had been feeling. By age 21, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to move back to California after graduating college. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to grad school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life anymore, but I did feel an odd and totally unexpected pull towards a country that I had never heard of before sophomore year of college- Morocco. And that pull turned into an eventual decision to move there to teach English, at age 24.
Walking with God is surreal. I often find myself in places and circumstances and think, “how did I get here?” And that’s how I ended up in North Africa for three years. And that’s what is so unpredictable about following Him. The truth is, my life there was challenging but more interesting and exotic than anything I could have dreamed up myself. It was cooler and more fulfilling than moving to Paris to study pastry, or to New York City to write for a magazine. Because God’s dreams for me were bigger than my dreams for myself.
I loved Morocco so much that after a year I decided I could end up living there forever. There were difficulties (more often than not, related to food poisoning) and there were victories (making new friends, camping in the Sahara, learning Arabic), and I experienced what Jesus called “life to the full”*. But then God led me back to California, and gave me peace about staying there. Moving back to LA? Totally unexpected. His peace was dependable- but where it led me was unpredictable. Because He knows me better than I know myself, and He knows what I need, and what will ultimately bring me joy and satisfaction.
Let’s put it this way. A toddler might not know where she’s going when her dad straps her into a car seat. But she trusts her dad, and he knows the destination. She might not fully understand her dad’s character either, but she knows that he’s good and he’s loving.
Jesus is the same, but better. He is personal and loving, but we won’t fully understand His ways in this life. Life with Him cannot be mapped out, and it cannot always operate on formulas. We can only depend on the One who is dependably good.
*John 10:10 (NLT)