When my husband and I entered Emanate, we were headed to West Africa. I had wanted to minister there since I was a little girl. My husband, Bill, and I had visited four years earlier, thoroughly enjoying our time, and left feeling, “Yes, we could see ourselves serving here.” Fast forward four years and we’re in training for full-time tribal missions work. One day, in chapel, a missionary shared about their ministry in Paraguay, South America, a field where NTM has worked for almost 70 years. After sharing, my husband said to me, “I can really see us working in Paraguay.” I said, “Paraguay? You mean Paraguay? Like, Paraguay?” Needless to say, I did not see this coming. I wanted to go to West Africa. Period.
In Romans, we’re given a tiny glimpse of a desire of the Apostle Paul. In chapter 15:24, he says, almost in passing, that as he goes to Spain, he hoped to visit with the saints in Rome. He wanted to go to Spain and preach the Gospel, but he never got there.
In 2 Samuel 7, we see that King David’s desire is to build a temple for God. Even Nathan, God’s prophet, says to go for it and that God was with him. That night though, God reveals that no, David would not be the one to build the temple. A descendant of his would in fact build it. And later, David explains to Solomon that he wanted to build the temple, but God told him no, because he had shed much blood.
Going to West Africa to preach the Gospel. Building a temple for God. Going to Spain to preach the Gospel. These are all good things to desire to do. But even good things may not be the best thing, or the right thing to do. So, then what?
When plans go awry, what then? When medical issues arise and you can’t go to serve where you thought you were going, what then? When your husband says Paraguay, and NOT West Africa, what then? I believe there are three things that should happen in any believer’s life when things don’t go according to how we planned them.
PRAY. It may seem redundant, but our first response to any crisis, whether big or small, should be to pray. Praying aligns our hearts and attitudes with God’s, and we come away from prayer hopefully more clear-headed.
PURSUE. Pursue God and not the dream, or destination or desire. When we pursue God above all else, many desires, dreams, and even destinations often get realized.
PREPARE. When you’ve prayed and pursued God, prepare yourself. God has incredible things in store for those who diligently seek HIM. No place of service or dream job can compare with knowing God. Paul and David both understood this. In Philippians, Paul talks about having LEARNED to be content in whatever circumstances he is in. All throughout the Psalms, David talks about taking refuge in God alone, learning to be content with what God has for him, even though he didn’t get to do what his heart desired.
As for me? After praying about going to Paraguay, like my husband asked me to, I pursued God, wanting to go where HE wanted us to go. Now, we are preparing to go to Paraguay, and I’m content with that.