ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 10/4/2018
Back in 2006 I was a scrawny, freckle faced freshman in high school with a huge dream. My dream was to play college baseball. That year I would spend hours upon hours on the computer scouring the internet in search of insight and tips on how to dominate the college sports recruiting process. I had every last detail of the process planned out. One example being the Excell spreadsheet I made full of college baseball programs that comprised my list of “potential schools.”
Pursuing this dream is actually where my love of strength and conditioning was born. I knew that because I was the smallest kid on my team that I needed to utilize the weight room in order to make my dream of playing college baseball a reality, so I spent hundreds of hours researching training websites and magazines. I fell in love with the process of trying to maximize my physical abilities. I would ride my bike up to the high school field and do my speed/agility/baserunning workouts. I would go by myself. No teammates, no music, just alone with my dream. I actually still have the training programs I wrote for myself back in 2007.
This dream of mine had consumed me. It’s the primary reason why I didn’t drink a sip of alcohol in high school. I rarely went to parties and when I did I always got offered a drink, but I always said no. Looking back it’s kind of funny to think about because I definitely could have had alcohol at those parties and still played college baseball. It really wouldn't have effected anything, but I wanted this dream so bad wasn’t taking any chances.
In a lot of ways this is who I am. I am driven. When I see a path that seems exciting I start sprinting towards it with determination and focus. My work ethic over the years has provided many paths for me which has been great. I’ve never really struggled with finding a direction to sprint because I’ve seemingly always had one in front of me. Until now.
Maybe you can relate to my background of always being driven and focused. Or perhaps you feel like you’ve never had a clear direction on what path you should take. No matter what side of the spectrum you fall on I want to point you to Isaiah 30:18-26.
When I read this passage it read like a blueprint of how we as followers of Christ are supposed to find direction. I’m going to breakdown this passage into 4 steps that we need to take, and the order of these steps is crucial. 1. Await 2. Surrender 3. Receive 4. Rejoice
(18) Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
(19) For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.
(20) And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
The past 6 months for me have been like a roller coaster. Back in June, 4 months ago, I never would’ve imagine I’d be in the position that I’m in right now. My life and my circumstances were headed in a direction that I was loving. Things that I had been working my tail off for, hoping for, and praying for we’re really starting to take shape.
Then everything went a different direction. A direction that I didn’t want. In the midst of it all I could physically feel myself losing control of my circumstances. But like my story in the opening of this blog, I never lost focus. I was determined to fight through the adversity, and the chaos, and the stress and see victory over my circumstances. I attacked it with the same drive that I did with my dream of playing college baseball. It worked for me back then, it’s worked for me numerous times since then, so I knew it would work for me again.
It’s been nearly two months since I walked away from my last job. Nearly two months since I’ve gone to work and served others and coached others. I still feel lost and directionless in many ways, even outside of my career. This is why I was so drawn to Isaiah 30 when I first read through it. The Lord is gracious to those who wait for him (18). He hears you, He answers you (19). We all go through phases in our life where we feel like the Lord doesn’t hear us. Maybe he is simply holding out on answering our prayers so that we will trust him even more. Maybe sometimes we are just praying for the wrong things.
But it says right here in scripture that he hears us, and that he answers us. This is the truth! One of my old pastors said something in a sermon one time that I will never forget. He said, “The bible is not just a resource for our lives, it is the authority for our lives.” The absolute truth is in verse 19, and we must align our lives as though scripture really is our authority. We must know with everything we have that he truly does hear us, and that he will without a doubt answer us.
Typically when dealing with any kind of hardship or suffering our initial reaction is to question God. Why did this happen? Were there any areas I was not faithful? And not only is that ok, but I think that's what we should do! Job did it (Job ch 3). David did it (Psalm 13:1). Shoot, even Jesus did it (Matthew 27:46). Verse 20 promises us that through adversity and affliction that God will not hide himself. He doesn’t say when he will appear to us, or how he will appear to us, but he does promise that he will. And I believe that is worth waiting for.
(21) And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
(22) Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”
Imagine yourself riding a bicycle down the street with the street representing the path you are on in life. You can pedal slow and just enjoy the scene around you, or if you want you can pedal fast and add some danger to your trek. You can turn right. You can turn left. You are in control of the bike.
Then you give your life to Jesus and become a Christian. By some sort of Jesus magic your bike just became a tandem bicycle.
You say, “Oh whaddup Jesus. Hop on my dude!*” In your mind you think you’re about to be unstoppable. With Jesus behind you helping you peddle you’re going to take your bike to all kinds of amazing destinations. No matter what direction you steer the handlebars you know it’s going to work out because you’ve got Jesus along for the ride.
But that’s not exactly how it works. When we surrender our life to Jesus he kicks us into the backseat and he takes over the front. It is him who steers the handlebars. It is him who dictates the speed of the pedaling. Our job is to simply follow Jesus and trust that he is always taking us in the right direction.
Now, it’s still a tandem bike. We still have to pedal and put effort into our journey. But we have to be willing to get in the backseat and let Jesus take over the controls.
Verse 22 alludes to the fact that we must trust that Jesus is going to get us to the right place at just the right time, and not get caught up in distractions or the things that we idolize over God. My biggest struggle is that even though I can trust that I’ll be in the right place, I always want Jesus to pedal faster. Being a driven person I’m always (figuratively) trying to pedal as fast as I can (except when I’m literally mountain biking. I’m still not that great at it so that’s my exception) but in reality I’m sometimes just spinning my wheels and getting nowhere.
The last few months have taught me how important it is that I slow down. I’ll admit I still don’t think I know how to do that yet, but I’m actively taking steps in my life to try. And honestly by giving up control and trying to slow down it feels like there’s been a weight lifted off my shoulders. I can sense Jesus regaining control in my life and I'm really excited for what path is ahead of me, even though I have no idea where it's leading or what it'll look like.
*Also, you talk weird
(23) And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures,
(24) and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork.
(25) And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
When I step back and think about what it really means to find direction I can’t help but think in simple terms. It means finding Jesus. All the wordly blessings he can give us, whether it be good health, a dream job, a dream family, Chick-Fil-A, or amazing friendships, are all temporary. Jesus is the only blessing that can sustain us for eternity. So while all those blessings above are good, and even though I’m now craving a chicken biscuit, it doesn’t make sense for us to attempt to find our sense of direction in those things. Because even if we lost all of those things we as followers of Christ will never lose Jesus. He promises us this.
As he indicates in verses 23 through 25, he is our provider. He gives us what we need to be satisfied. He gives us himself. We simply need to receive him and trust him.
I don’t want this to seem like I’m completely disregarding other things like jobs, relationships, or health. It’s extremely important to invest in those things and to love those things and to express yourself using those things. They just can’t become idols. And they can’t become vehicles for comparison.
With the landscape of social media it’s so incredibly hard not to get caught up in comparing yourself to your peers. Everybody is posting about their amazing job, their amazing relationship, their amazing biscuit from Chick-Fil-A (ok I’ll stop now) so when you see people posting about what they have and it’s something that you don’t have it’s only natural for you to feel incomplete. This only magnifies our need for Jesus and why we need contentment in Him as our heavenly provider.
(26) Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.
What I really love about this passage is that it’s basically just pointing us to the Gospel. Verse 26 talks about the light of the moon being as the light of the sun. I interpret this as saying darkness (or pain, or brokenness, or uncertainty) is temporary and that it will eventually be seen as God’s glory (light). It also encourages us because it tells us that the light is so much greater than the darkness could ever be.
The truth is there’s no Gospel without sin or pain. Jesus had to go through the pain of the crucifixion before he could experience the glory of the resurrection. This should give us hope in that we can rejoice in our suffering (Romans 5) because we know the end result is always glory in Jesus’ name. And every every time your life seems to change direction when you weren’t expecting it you can hold on to the hope that He’s got his grip on the handlebars, His feet are fastened to the pedals, and He knows exactly what direction you’re headed.