Have you ever tried to do something you knew you needed to do, yet every time you tried to do it it felt like you were swimming upstream? Well, that’s how I feel about my job search after almost four years. It’s not like I don’t have a network of professional colleagues who personally know me and my work after working in higher education for twenty years. So what gives?
Am I the only living, breathing, and well qualified person out there in higher education who can’t find a job anywhere? It sure feels like it. And everything I’ve read lately has stated that one of the fields where jobs have really been opening up especially over the past couple of years or so is in higher education. And I see the increase in the number of openings in my field of work every time I go looking for a job to apply for in Student Affairs/Student Services. And when I apply, I hear nothing. So what gives?
What gives? Can you sense my frustration?
This morning I looked ahead a few days in a devotional booklet I read regularly and came upon a devotion that gave me something to think about (well, they all do, actually), and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s titled, “Unstoppable” and is found in Our Daily Bread:
Read: Numbers 22:10-34
“Under it. Over it. Around it. Through it. Nothing will stop me from doing it.” I often hear people express this kind of attitude when they get an idea or see an opportunity that seems good or profitable. They devote all of their resources to getting it done.
As evidence that this way of thinking may be flawed, I call as my witness a donkey—a donkey belonging to a man named Balaam.
Balaam was offered a profitable assignment from a neighboring king, and he inquired of God for permission to accept it (Num. 22). When God said no, the king’s representatives made a better offer. Thinking God might change His mind, Balaam asked again. God granted permission for Balaam to go with them but with strict conditions. God knew Balaam’s heart and was not pleased with him, so He placed His Angel in the way. Balaam couldn’t see the Angel but his donkey could. When the donkey refused to continue, Balaam became angry with the animal for blocking his progress.
Balaam’s story teaches us that not every obstacle is meant to be overcome. Some are placed by God to keep us from doing something foolish. When our plans are hindered, we shouldn’t assume that it’s Satan trying to stop us. It might be God trying to protect us. ~Julie Ackerman Link
Let Your wisdom guide me ever,
For I dare not trust my own;
Lead me, Lord, in tender mercy,
Leave me not to walk alone. ~Reed
God is always protecting us—
even when we don’t realize we need it.
The story of Balaam is one we all should heed if we are trying to do something that is just not working out and/or from selfish motives. Sure, there are times when we can force our own way, like taking a job we shouldn’t have taken or buying a house or car that didn’t seem quite right. And, I’ve known some single women in years past who got married just to be married because they were tired of being single and had reached “a certain age” and the result was less than satisfactory. God knows our heart condition, and He also knows what is going on “out there” that we can’t see. But first off, we need to be right with the Lord–in right standing with Him with nothing standing between Him and us–not a job, or a house, or a car, or a spouse, or a money-making scheme, or material possessions, or sex, or (fill in the blank). As Jeremiah 17:9-10 (MSG) states, “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”
God is the only One who knows how to get to the heart of each one of us. Oh, we can cover up just about anything with others but God knows our heart and the real condition that is within our heart and our mind. There is no “pretense” with Him. He sees it all. As the following verses in Jeremiah 17:11-14 (MSG) state, “Like a cowbird that cheats by laying its eggs in another bird’s nest is the person who gets rich by cheating. When the eggs hatch, the deceit is exposed. What a fool he’ll look like then! From early on your Sanctuary was set high, a throne of glory, exalted! O God, you’re the hope of Israel. All who leave you end up as fools, deserters with nothing to show for their lives, who walk off from God, fountain of living waters–and wind up dead! God, pick up the pieces. Put me back together again. You are my praise!”
When this journey of mine started four years and four months ago when I accepted that ill-fated job and moved to Houston at the end of September 2008, my spiritual condition was less than satisfactory but I didn’t even realize it. My life didn’t look any different from the other folks I lived and worked around who considered themselves to be Christian. And to this day I do not consider it a mistake that I accepted that job nor do I believe that God merely permitted me to take it against His will. No . . . . God has His reasons and it was to get to the heart of the matter which was my waning spiritual life. In other words, did I want life according to His plan for me or according to my own plan while I asked Him to bless my plan.
Many Christians in America have a tendency to do just that–make our own plans and then ask God to bless those plans. And, while we may get by with that type of thinking for a while, if we truly belong to Him we will eventually reach a point where the rubber meets the road. It’s at that point that we have to either make a decision to follow Him or to continue following what we want while asking Him to bless our own plans. It’s really a matter of the will–His will or our own will. And many folks continue on with their own will never heeding the call back to Him who is our source for everything we need (not want).
I was clearly faced with that choice back in late September 2008 when I landed in Houston, and I made a decision at that very moment when I understood it was His way or my way to relinquish my own plans for my life and follow Him. And while my life got very bumpy at times in the midst of a very messy situation, He protected me and got me out of it in His way (when I lost that job), and from that point on it’s been a very unique journey with many ups and downs since then but with a steady progression of moving forward in the right direction this time–in His direction–and not mine. That is not to say that I don’t get frustrated after all of this time of unemployment and not being able to understand why it doesn’t end. I do. But believe me when I say that the last thing I want is a job I’m not supposed to have just because someone offers it to me. I’d rather continue to remain unemployed until God opens the right door whether it leads to being employed in another job or leads in an entirely different direction. In fact, just this morning He reminded me again to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10) and to stop trying to rush out ahead of Him because I am frustrated or bored.
As the author of the devotion above stated in the last paragraph, “Balaam’s story teaches us that not every obstacle is meant to be overcome. Some are placed by God to keep us from doing something foolish. When our plans are hindered, we shouldn’t assume that it’s Satan trying to stop us. It might be God trying to protect us.”
God knew Balaam’s heart, and He knows ours, too. So the next time we get frustrated about a situation or circumstance in our life and are tempted to try to force the issue on our own terms, think about Balaam. God knows our heart and why we are trying to force the issue. And He’s protecting us from future heartache that we don’t know about and can’t see. But will we listen?
We need to listen . . . .
YouTube Video: “Draw Me Close – Thy Will Be Done” sung by Marvin Winans: