Walking Into the Unknown
So often we treat God like a GPS, or, I know I do.
I tell Him where I want to be, how much time I want to take getting there, and that I don’t want any roadblocks on the way. Better yet, I fully expect He’ll give me a detailed list outlining the route and discuss with me any possible detours thereby giving me the option to decline any unplanned deviation that prolongs my journey.
Yeah, I’m sure somewhere up there, God is laughing at me.
It’s easy to trust God to get us to our destination—to fulfill the dreams He’s placed in our heart—when our plans come together, when we know what we want and know how to get there.
But, what if we have to trust Him when it seems that our destination is unknown?
When the GPS has lost its Wi-Fi signal?
We’ve all been there before, when you’re happily driving on the road, on an out of town trip, following that pleasant but passively rude voice on your map app.
“Proceed to the route. Turn left. Turn right. …[silence].”
All of a sudden, you notice it’s been a few minutes since the GPS has interrupted your conversation with your driving buddy and you look at your phone only to see—you’ve lost the Wi-Fi signal. What!
Sheer panic begins to flood your mind as the map you trusted to get you home, or to that party, suddenly loses the destination and now you’re left alone to figure out where you’re going and how to get there.
Seasons of uncertainty can often feel like this, like we’re blindly traveling towards our destination hoping somehow we’ll get there, and maybe even leave us wondering if we still have a destination.
What do we do though when are previous planned route seems to dissolve? Do we stop and reevaluate, come up with a new plan of action, or do we continue to move forward even when our next step is unknown?
Not too long ago I had to ask myself these questions, which often ended in venting sessions yelling at God, “Why would you let me get this far in my life, attend graduate school and obtain a Master’s degree only to one day find that I might change my mind about what I want to do?”
Mind you, I hadn’t started to rethink my career path until about a year-and-a-half into a dream job. Here’s the kicker: the only reason I began to rethink my career path was because of the life-affirming experience I had on a mission trip to Myanmar. And why did I go on the trip? Well, this rabbit hole leads back to God.
So, as you see, it seemed that as I continued to follow God while working in my career and seeking Him first, my heart’s desires began to shift. I found myself saying, “The blueprint that I had in mind for my life—I don’t know if I still want what I thought I wanted. God what do I do now?”
To me, it seemed as though I followed God halfway around the world to serve His people, only to find myself lost. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, yes? I followed God’s leading, and along the way my GPS lost the Wi-Fi signal.
About a year after I began to rethink my career plans, not knowing what was next or what I wanted to do exactly, I found myself being released from my contract with my dream job.
There I was, with no job.
No idea what I wanted to do next.
Still having to pay bills.
“Well God, what am I supposed to do now? I literally followed Your leading and in doing so, my heart began to yearn for something deeper. What exactly?! I don’t know! But I followed You, and now my plans are gone! How am I supposed to move forward if I don’t know where I’m going or if I don’t have a specific idea of what I want?”
I was so scared in this moment, but it was here I recognized that I trusted the road map I set for my life, more than I trusted God.
How could I even begin to move forward without some sort of guide? It seemed like I had nothing else to hold on to, or to trust—except God.
And this is the part of the story that makes me laugh, because I see now that I was set up.
In all of my life, I had charted out my own course, coming to God with my blueprint and He graciously signed off on it by blessing my endeavors and giving me the grace to carry out the commitments that came with it. Commitments that involved years of education and laying down the desire for instant gratification because I was committed to the process.
Yet in the most subtle and gentle way He tugged on my heart to travel to an orphanage to serve children, all without me knowing this would be the catalyst that would affirm the deepest desires of my heart and leave me completely dependent on God to give me a new vision.
If you find yourself navigating your own season of uncertainty, walking into unfamiliar and unknown territory I not only sympathize with you but I will be the first to let you know—you are not alone. Not only do I stand with you in your journey, know that there are so many that came before us who’ve gone through a similar season.
Scripture gives us a window into the lives of people whom God led into the unknown:
Remember Abraham? In following God, Abraham was led to leave his family and country; a place of comfort and familiarity.
“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:1-2, English Standard Version)
Remember Ruth? Ruth wasn’t even in relationship with God, but she knew and loved Naomi—a woman who was close to God, and in following Naomi, she came to know God and inevitably followed Him. What’s astonishing is that Ruth was so strongly compelled to follow Naomi even though it meant taking on a life of poverty, judgment (because of her past), and continuing to be a widow.
“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’ ” (Ruth 1:16 ESV)
I share these examples with you to encourage you to keep moving forward into the unknown, just like Abraham and Ruth, continue to drive forward even when things seem bleak, even when you feel removed from the familiar, and it appears the only thing ahead of you is hardship.
If you feel like you’re in a state of wandering, roaming without purpose—I understand. I get it! The truth however, is that you are not aimless; you are being guided ON PURPOSE and FOR A PURPOSE. Listen to what God says:
“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” (Is. 42:16 ESV)
Listen, I know that even with God’s Word to encourage us, it’s still a difficult season to walk through, so in addition to scripture, I’ve also discovered practical steps that have helped me in my season of walking into the unknown and I want to share them with you:
1. Have grace for yourself.
When you’re in this kind of season, there will be a lot of trial and error experiences, which means you won’t get everything right. You may say the wrong thing, or even miss a step in a process, but God does not expect you to be perfect. This is a time for you to learn and grow, and we don’t learn anything by getting everything right all of the time. Embrace that you will make mistakes, but those mistakes leave room for God’s grace, and if He can have grace for you, you can learn to have some for yourself as well.
And please know, when I say embrace making mistakes, I am not referring to purposely committing actions or patterns of thought contrary to God’s Word.
2. Document your journey.
Whether you decide to journal, blog, or create a YouTube channel—keep some sort of record of this season. It will help you to be present in the experience as it is happening helping you to filter through your thoughts and process your emotions. Secondly, being present in the experience will develop your awareness of what God is doing in and through you, as well as around you.
3. Encourage someone else.
The most rewarding aspect of going through this challenging process is that I’ve personally been able to encourage others walking through their own seasons of difficulty. It is hard to articulate in words, but comforting and lifting up another person in the midst of your own hardship restores joy to your soul that results in a sense of ease about your own situation. As well, encouraging another through prayer or by spending time with them will impart value and love into them and in the process you will inevitably catch some of it too!
4. Continue to talk to God
This may seem so obvious for believers, but I know I’ve had moments along this journey where I’ve been so frustrated I stopped talking to God. Whether you realize it or not, talking to God about your season while you’re in it, whether it’s you praising Him, venting at Him, or even questioning Him—creates an intimacy with Him that will sustain you to endure the season and along the way shape you into the person He has created you to be.
Remember that GPS analogy I used at the beginning? How we can sometimes treat God like He’s a GPS? Well, of course God isn’t, but as it turns out, in my case I was the one who was the GPS.
I charted out my course, and God blessed it, but now I understand what appeared to be the disruption in the Wi-Fi signal, the disruption that removed my planned route to a specific destination, was actually God leading me into a deeper intimacy with Him concerning His heart—the true destination.
Dear friends, trust that in your season of uncertainty, and journeying into the unknown God IS leading you.
You are not lost. You are not without purpose. You have purpose. You are being led.
He is leading you to where He’s called you to be—close to His heart.
English Standard Version
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.