Student Series: Trusting God’s Plan Will Come Into Focus

If I could choose one word that captures my college experience, it’d be trust. Trust that the college I’m going to is the right one, trust that what I’m majoring in is the right major, trust that where I end up after college is where God wants me to be. In essence, much of college has been about building the foundation for how God will work in my life in the years following.

When I think of trust and putting my faith in God, I’m reminded of one particular story that happened to me when I was young. When I was six years old, my mom’s brother got married in Vancouver, Washington. During our stay my parents, aunts and uncles decided to take me, my sister and several younger cousins to hike Ape Cave, a lava tube at the base of Mt. St. Helens, which is an active volcano.

Now I’m a pretty spontaneous guy. I like adventure, so even as little kid I was pretty excited to take this excursion. On the way to the hike, we stopped by a run-down convenience store to buy a couple of flashlights. We had two flashlights for the fifteen of us, and there was no telling how long those flashlights had been sitting on those shelves. Well, we also had a camera that Uncle Greg brought, and we heckled him for it because it’s pretty dark hiking underground. When we got to the lava tube’s entry, we somewhat jokingly realized we were the only ones there, but we didn’t think much of it. After hiking about a mile, one of the flashlights gave out on us. No worries, we thought. We’ll just grab the backup batteries, which of course we didn’t have.

There we were, in a lava tube with one working flashlight, sowe turned around and headed back to the entrance. After about five minutes, the second flashlight started flickering. There was a collective intake of breath as we waited to see if the flashlight would make it. The light sputtered for a few seconds, then vanished completely. We were trapped with no light and pandemonium threatening to unleash, but I guess that’s what you get for buying flashlights from a dilapidated corner store.

Alone in the cave, we screamed in vain. Kids began crying while grownups tried to stay calm and prevent panic. The outlook was bleak. What ended up saving us, aside from the divine will and grace of God, was Uncle Greg’s camera. He would snap a photo with flash, give us a few yards to see, then we would walk as far as the flash extended, and repeat the process. In this manner we eventually climbed out of the cave, physically unscathed but with our sanity bruised.

As I look back on this last semester of trying to find an internship, which was about as much fun as being in that cave without a flashlight, I’m reminded of how God works in our lives.

This past year I applied for a variety of internships, ranging from sports to retail management. I printed out countless resumes, had a fair number of interviews, and did a good amount of waiting. For me, what was frustrating was how far along in the process I’d make it before being notified that I was no longer being considered for the position. It was as if I was good but not good enough. The number of “no’s” certainly took a toll on me as I asked God why I hadn’t received offers for internships I would’ve been elated to accept.

Rather than exasperation, I needed confidence that arises only from reliance on our Mighty God. What I was doing was telling God why He wasn’t adhering to my plan and my desires instead of realizing what He had, and has, in store for me is astoundingly better.

One of the more popular verses we hear today is Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (NIV). I think too often we look at this verse and think God will prosper us in the ways we want Him to and immediately give us what we want. And He might do that occasionally, but there’s something more meaningful here. The plans He has for us are His plans, ones that He knows. It doesn’t say we know His plans for us, it says He knows His plans, so we have to trust that His desires for us are far greater and far better than our own. (I assure you they are.)

The verses that follow Jeremiah 29:11 provide greater context to what God wants in our relationship with Him. Jeremiah29:12-14 reads, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find mewhen you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the Lord…”

God doesn’t want us to sit by idle, waiting for Him as we neglect any responsibility. He’s calling us to deeper communion with Him through prayingand seeking Him in all aspects of our lives. As we do so, He reveals Himself to us as verse 14 indicates, and we also learn to trust and rely on Him in everything. Moreover, we realize we could have been trusting in Him the whole time. By trusting and seeking Him, He’s transforming us into His image through Jesus who came down and died for us. It’s in the struggle and the wrestling with God where we experience more growth, allowing us to be more grateful for the blessings He has given us.

In late April, I received an offer from a non-profit organization, and I’m currently interning with that non-profit and one of its partner organizations. I’m seeing Him and learning about Him in new ways, and I’m convinced that God opened this door. This summer I’m learning new skills while getting to implement some of the skills I’ve gained in college. It’s been a unique opportunity, one I wouldn’t appreciate as much if I had not received several rejections.

God often reveals His will a little at a time, kind of like Uncle Greg’s camera in the lava tube (Psalm 119:105). Instead of showing us the big picture right away as we often implore Him to, God only shows us a few feet because He wants us to rely on Him and His provisions. In trusting Him, we are building a stronger relationship with Him, one that will rejoice in both the light and the dark.

Spencer Haynes grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and he is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, where he studied Economics. In his spare time, he enjoys playing chess, porch talks, reading Flannery O’Connor, and eating his favorite road trip snack, peanut butter M&Ms.

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