I have been off work for three weeks now. Although the gap between contracts was not something I chose, I knew it was coming, so I happily made plans and set goals for tasks that I hoped to accomplish during this time.
Since then, I have been finding that setting goals is one thing, attaining them is something else again. I have met a couple of my goals, but I also have several significant goals which keep getting deferred as I experience one delay after another, one obstacle after another.
This morning at our church, Steve spoke about one of Jesus’ best-known stories, featuring a father and his two sons. Son #2 asked for his inheritance while his father was still alive. He then totally mismanaged his inheritance, and ended up with nothing. Steve described him at his lowest point as having absolutely no control over his own life. He ended up at a point where he had to humble himself and return to the father that he had previously spurned and rejected. He had become completely dependent on his father’s willingness to overlook his past behaviour and treat him with a kindness he did not deserve. The only thing he could do for himself was to humble himself and throw himself on his father’s mercy.
The description of the runaway son as having no control over his own life resonated with me because of my own recent experience. During this period between contracts, I have realized again that in reality, I also have very little control over my own life. I haven’t succeeded in getting myself a work contract, and I can do very little to speed up the process. I haven’t succeeded in fixing my Highlander (I tried to avoid an expensive repair yesterday by fixing the cabin heat control myself – a job that involved soldering a broken connection on a circuit board, a skill with which I have very little experience – and was unsuccessful). And to complete my litany of woe, I haven’t even succeeded thus far in installing the latest release of the Oracle Enterprise database on my laptop. For most of you, that last item may be totally meaningless, but I’m an Oracle professional so I ought to be able to accomplish at least that one item on my list!
Lest any of you start to worry that I’m really losing it, things aren’t actually as bad as I just made them sound. Putting it all in perspective, I do have several reasonably good work prospects, one in particular that has quite a good chance of materializing. I also have reason to expect that over the next month or so, a number of other prospects will surface. I’m pretty sure that finding work is mostly a matter of timing, and the Lord has provided Marion and me with a financial buffer so we are not under any immediate pressure. As for the Highlander, I do have a feasible plan B (get a replacement component from a vehicle recycler and install it myself). And as for the Oracle installation, this is a complex and notoriously trouble-prone process, and each failed attempt teaches me something new, so I’m actually quite confident of eventual success.
We’re sometimes tempted to lose sight of the big picture when we are under pressure. But I am a man who is on a journey from despair to hope, and I am determined to hold on to God’s promises. Before surrendering control of my life to Jesus twenty-five years ago, I was plagued with many of the maladies that spring from pride and rebellion. My life was dominated by anxiety, fear, worry, and a critical spirit. God has been renewing my mind with His truth for the last twenty-five years with the result that today I am a much more confident and hopeful man than before. I have been learning to cultivate an expectant faith that looks for the provision of God in every situation. So, most of the time, when I face obstacles like the ones I just listed, I remember that I am not a failure – I am a chosen son of God who is going through a period of testing.
Most of us would prefer not to be tested. Still, there is no growth without testing. The purpose of this particular period of testing, I believe, is twofold. In part, it’s to train me to continue cultivating an attitude of faith and hope even when the circumstances don’t seem to be in my favour. But I believe God has another agenda as well. The testing is also designed to remind me who is really in control. God loves me too much to let me get independent. He wants me to be confident in His provision, but he also wants me to remember where it comes from. I am freshly aware that I am truly not in control of my own life. I do have a good Father who wants to bless me and intends to prepare me to carry an increasing measure of His glory as the end of the age approaches. I also have a good Father who likes to remind me every now and then – lest I forget – that despite the illusion of control, in reality I am not in control of my own life at all. The reality is that I am totally, utterly, completely, blissfully dependent on a good God who will not fail to bless me, but also will not fail to remind me where the blessing comes from.