MY VERY NEXT THING by Stan Rarden

 HOPE AND CHANGE in God’s kingdom it’s different! At times during my working career, in the very back of my mind the thought would pop up, “What would I do if this job went away?” I would respond casually, almost indifferently, “I’ll never be out of work for too long. I’m good at many things, and I know so many people that I could probably go from one gig to another without too much trouble.” This proved to be less true than I’d hoped. Out of work, and after a few months of searching for new work and getting nowhere, I began to feel hopelessly stuck in the horrible NOW, with no foreseeable hope of a bright future. Every minute spent looking for work was painfully futile, and every minute spent doing anything else felt hugely irresponsible. For me, this was the no-win situation of all time. Change was needed here, obviously. When change finally came, though, it wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be. I thought my situation needed changing, but instead, I got a change in the way I looked at my situation. Instead of fear that I’d never find work again (with the dread and depression that comes with that), I started to see that God has plenty of things He needs me to be doing right now, and some of them don’t look very much like a job search.

Of course, a few mindset adjustments needed to happen, such as:

• “It’s not irresponsible or lazy to use my time for things other than looking for work, as long as I’m doing what God tells me to do right this minute.”

• “I am not fearful about money, or income, or provision. God has all that well in hand for me.”

Without these other two adjustments, there’s no way this would have worked for me. But in the process of changing (which didn’t happen overnight) I remembered wishing, when I was a 9-to-5er, that I could just take a day or two (or a week or two) off every now and then, and go volunteer at the church, or work around the house, or take my wife on a trip, or just spend some solitary time writing, reading the Bible and hanging out with God. But I never could find a good time to do this. I was always too busy. You know. You’ve been there, no doubt.

But I eventually realized that now there was nothing stopping me from doing all those things, and a hundred others. These “other things” — working in the yard, cleaning the gutters, or whatever – WERE His workplace for me at the moment. I could spend the day fixing all that stuff that’s been piling up on my workbench, or changing the oil in the car, or going to the doctor, dentist and chiropractor in the same week. We could go in search of fall color in the mountains. God gave me the gift of time, the peace to enjoy it, and the grace to feel productive while doing it. I’ve come to realize that with every task he gives me, he is equipping me, training me and setting me up for my next assignment in the workplace.

So in my new-found downtime (which isn’t really downtime at all), I’ve spent a season volunteering full-time at my church, I’ve done several pro-bono projects for local charities, and I was even able to help several families with home moves and other chores. And as a totally unforeseen bonus, since my mind hasn’t been consumed with worry and doubt about how I’d get by, I’ve become more effective as a volunteer. I’ve become a better witness to others about the love and grace of God, and about how His promises are true, because I’ve been experiencing them. There’s a certain “realness” about taking God up on His promises, and finding out that they are totally true, that definitely communicates peace and confidence to others who are in the same situation… at least I hope there is, for those of you who are reading this right now and are deciding whether to see if God’s Word is true in Philippians 4:19, “…my God shall supply all your need according to His riches by Christ Jesus.”

Don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t an easy change… it was a difficult one. Shame, fear of lack and fear of failure, didn’t go quietly. And I’d be a liar if I didn’t’ tell you that those things still come calling on a regular basis, to see if I’ve left the door open a crack so they can climb back in. But “change” is only good if you don’t change back to what you’ve changed from. For me, the ability to keep condemning thoughts out comes from proclaiming God’s goodness to whomever I’m with, be it another volunteer or someone I just meet on the street.

No, I don’t have a job at the moment. No, I haven’t drawn a paycheck in a while. But God has given me “all sufficiency in all things so that I might abound to every good work,” (2Cor 10:8) and He’s proved it. Testimony like this makes it impossible to feel like a failure… as long as you believe it. But that’s really the way it is with every Word of God, isn’t it?

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