“God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.” – A.W. Tozer
CHANGE: WRESTLING WITH THE UNKNOWN
If there is one thing in my life that I consistently struggle with, it’s changed.
Six years ago, I moved away from my family in south Georgia for college in Virginia. At the time I was 21 years old. I had never been away from my family for more than 2 months. Moving away was incredibly frightening. In my case, change meant moving 8 hours away from friends that I had invested in over 21 years of my life. Change meant a lot of new, uncertain things in my life. For a person used to safety and comfort, this was very difficult. It meant that I was moving into a new setting where I was the outsider, the new kid. Yet, I knew God was leading me away from where I had been for 21 years to grow and live independently from my family. What I didn’t know at the time was that change was soon to become the mantra of my life. I had no idea that God was going to use the thing I hated the most to shape and refine me, day-by-day, moment-by-moment.
Tim Chester says, “Change is a lifelong, daily struggle that will end with an eternal harvest of holiness.”
God uses change in our lives, good and bad, to refine us and shape us into the image of Jesus, bringing us into fuller joy.
REDEEMING THE UNKNOWN
In my own life, God has used change in several ways to shape and refine me. In college, I was forced to stand on my own. I was taught through the unknown transition into adulthood that God can be trusted in all circumstances. Because of my experiences in college I came to understand the church with deeper clarity and conviction. I learned that God does not only intend for us to show up once a week to a building to hear his word preached but that the church is his body – a people redeemed by Jesus sent into the world to be his witnesses. I learned that the church isn’t a place at all – it’s a people. I learned that God calls me to worship every single day, not just on Sundays. I learned that the church is this messy, broken, redeemed, beautiful, healed people trying to live in light of the truth and that we have been declared righteous by God through faith in Jesus.
God was also revealing to me that discipleship was much more than just one on one meeting or a bible study. Rather, discipleship is submitting all of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus. Jeff Vanderstelt writes,
“Discipleship—learning to follow, trust, and obey Jesus in the everyday stuff of life—requires submitting to and obeying God’s Word in three key environments: life on life, where our lives are visible and accessible to one another; life in community, where more than one person is developing another; and life on mission, where we experience making disciples and, while doing so, come to realize how much we need God’s power.”
Ultimately God used my time in Lynchburg to grow me and help me to see the beauty of who Jesus is and who He is making me to be. I have found Proverbs 16:9 to be fittingly and sometimes frustratingly true – “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
God’s grace is at work, transforming us as we navigate these recent changes together.
Marriage is messy. My wife sees my life for what it is and I see the same in her. This is what makes it so amazing! God is in the works of changing us—through marriage—to His likeness.
Paul Tripp reminds us that God uses spouses as tools of change.
“When your ears hear and your eyes see the sin, weakness, or failure of your husband or wife, it is never an accident; it is always grace. God loves your spouse, and he is committed to transforming him or her by his grace, and he has chosen you to be one of his regular tools of change.”
God is redeeming the difficulties in marriage to transform us. He is using our transition into marriage as a means of changing us. He is using the sin, brokenness, selfishness, and mess as tools of change for the sake of His name.
When Kristen and I were dating, we often dreamed of what our future would look like, where we would be, and who we would be serving. We had plans to settle in Virginia (quite comfortably) for a season before we would eventually move to Portland, Oregon to be a part of a church planting team for the sake of Jesus’ name being made known in the Pacific Northwest. However, God had different plans. Again, Proverbs 16:9,
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
My wife was recently attending a local fair for teaching jobs when one particular school seemed to stand out. This school is called Centro Educativo el Manantial (CEM). This is not your normal, American public school. This is an English immersion school that is found in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. It was started by an organization called Global Education Ministries. When Kristen first told me about this, I remember thinking, “there is no way we are moving to Mexico!” Why would I want to go to Mexico? We already had a great plan! We had a safe plan. We had a comfortable plan. We had a plan that required minimal change. We would stay put for a couple of years and then move to Portland.
So we prayed. And prayed. And we sought wise council and deliberated with friends. Finally, after much consideration, wisdom, and prayer, we can say with confidence that the Lord is leading us to follow Him to a country neither of us knows, in an area we are unfamiliar with, and in a way we never could have expected. Six months after being married, we are about to embark on the biggest adventure of our lives. Here is what we are learning – God calls us into unfamiliar situations that require us to obey and trust in His faithfulness.In light of all of this, we have committed to two years in Puerto Escondido, Mexico for the Glory of His Name! We are very excited about how the Lord will use this in our lives to grow us, mold us, draw us closer to Him. We are equally excited to see how He uses us to lift up the name of Jesus in Mexico!
PURSUING JESUS IN THE MINEFIELDS OF CHANGE
If there was going to be anything I’ve learned through all these changes it is this: Jesus is worthy of all our time, possessions, decisions, and personal desires. Psalm 103:2-5 gives us a beautiful picture of our God and who He is to us.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Nothing else in this world will give the satisfaction that Jesus offers. He is good and there is no one like Him. We were created by and for Him. It doesn’t matter if you are living in the states or in another country, God desires that you seek him with your whole heart. He has given his church a command: to make disciples of all nations. Therefore, all of us have a mission and that mission is to love and serve your neighbors, co-workers, classmates, roommates, spouses, and those you encounter on a daily basis. That mission may lead us into uncomfortable situations and deep into the unknown, but there is so much joy in following Him. Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” If Jesus, in joy, endured the cross, how much more can we, with joy, seek Him and follow Him wherever he leads us? He is our joy, our treasure, our hope.
There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to moving to Mexico. Where are we going to live? How are we going to raise enough money? What are we going to do with all of our stuff? It can be overwhelming thinking about all of these logistics, but there is beauty in following Jesus into these unknowns.
The less we know about our specific plans, the more we will be able to trust in God’s promises to keep and guide us. We have nothing to hold onto except for Jesus. What a joy it is to trust in His promises to take care of us!
God’s word tells us to follow Him regardless of the cost. Following Jesus will most likely take us through minefields of change. This means, we never know when some kind of change will happen in our life. We will continue to encounter change — sometimes to the extent to moving to another country. This will be a constant reality for the rest of our lives. The good news is – we can walk through minefields of change with an understanding that God is worthy of our trust. His name is worthy of our lives, regardless of the cost.
Daniel graduated from Liberty University with a B.S. in Communication (2011) and a Master’s of Divinity in Evangelism and Church Planting (2014). He will be serving as the Director of Communication for GEM. Kristen graduated in May 2016 with a B.S. in Elementary Education and will serve as the 4th-grade teacher at the Manantial School. They enjoy playing sports, eating good food with friends, and exploring with their wonderdog, Nala. Above all, they desire to make disciples by making Jesus known in Puerto and around the world. To read more posts on Daniel’s personal blog, click here.