Twenty one years ago this month I made a journey that would change my life forever. Let me tell you about the summer of 1997. The summer of 1997 was probably one of the most frustrating summers of my life, even to this day. I had finished my third year at Northeast Mississippi Community College with no immediate prospects of continuing on the the University of Southern Mississippi like I had wanted to. I was jobless, partly because I had burned a bridge at a job from the previous summer. I was broken hearted. I had been in a relationship for the last year and a half that needed to end. And as they tend to happen, it wasn’t a clean break. We struggled to let go of each other. I attempted dating someone else, but that just blew up. I’m living at home with my parents again. They loved me and provided for me, but I was twenty years old, almost twenty one, and I really was wanting to spread my wings a bit. So I was painfully single, jobless, living with my parents, and on top of that, I couldn’t seem to land a job. I know you’re thinking that maybe I wasn’t applying myself. There were only two places I couldn’t work because I had foolishly quit without notice. There were literally dozens of other jobs I could’ve had. I left applications. I interviewed with a few of them. But there were no calls, no hires.
I sat at my desk in my bedroom, face planted in my hands, frustrated, angry, sad, heartbroken, not knowing what to do, so in anger I swept everything off my desk. And everything moved except one thing. It was an application for a semester missionary position in Sterling, Colorado with Emmanuel Baptist Church. I was still young and dumb in my faith, but I knew a flashing neon sign when I saw one. So I filled it out, sent it in, and about six weeks later, I moved across country to Colorado where God would change my life forever.
Look, I’m positive I’ve shared this story with you before, certainly at least in one of the books I’ve written, but I’m rehashing this for you today because there’s something to which I want to draw your attention. Bear with me.
That was the most frustrating summer of my life because God himself was frustrating my plans. I don’t know if I’ve experienced as many closed doors in life as I did that year. But God was slamming each one of them shut on me. The girl I was dating… gone. It needed to happen because we weren’t healthy for each other. Any other relationships I tried to jumpstart… failures. I didn’t need a girlfriend because I probably would’ve have stayed in Mississippi for her. All those jobs I applied for… rejected. Had I got one of them, I would probably have never sat in my room that day and saw that application. I would’ve probably found it later, and just tossed it because I had a job. I mean, door after door was closed. And it wasn’t anyone on this earth closing them. It was the Lord Almighty shutting them, and when he shuts something, only he can open it back up.
This morning I was praying, and once again I became overwhelmed with gratitude for how the Lord established my steps that summer. Everything I have in my life now can be traced back to that frustrating moment in my bedroom. Had God not frustrated my plans, his plans would never have borne fruit in my life. If I had not moved to Colorado, my wife, my daughters, my Colorado family and friends, my Missouri family and friends, even down to the material things I possess, ALL OF IT, EVERYTHING, 100% of what I have in my life now would never have happened. Everything I have, I owe to Jesus. And I owe it to him because in the summer of 1997 God made my life miserable so he could bless me over the next two decades.
I don’t know how that resonates with you, but I believe that all of us have seasons of frustration. You might be in one right now. You’re trying to do the right things but it seems like every time you put one foot in front of the other, something pushes back and you feel like you lose ground; one step forward, two steps back. Don’t be quick to blame the Devil. Don’t be quick to blame your ex, or blame your boss, or whomever. It might be – and very likely is – God pushing back on your plans because he has something far better in mind for you. His pushback is putting you in the right place, the right frame of mind, the right circumstances, the right relationship status, so that when he finally makes his reveal and shows you where he wants you to go, you’ll be inclined to go.
That’s how it worked for me, at least. I think that’s how he works with all of us.
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
I hope this encourages you in your season of frustration and imparts some wisdom to your for the journey ahead.