Last Christmas, I found myself reflecting on the past year more than usual. If I had to characterize the year with one word, it would be “change.” I started a new job with a nonprofit a couple of states away, which meant cramming as much of my life as possible into my car, moving from sunny California to the damp environs of Washington, and finding a whole new church family and community of friends. It was one of those experiences that bridges the gap between exciting and terrifying.
As I reflected on that combination of excitement and terror, I started wondering what God’s plan for my 2016 would be. That’s why, during a recent quiet time, I focused on one verse in particular that speaks to the topic of God’s plan for our lives: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).
It may not be the first verse that comes to mind when we think about God’s plan for our future, but I appreciate what it has to say about our role in it. None of those things that I mentioned happened without action on my part. God had prepared them for me — the job, the apartment, the church, the community — but He still invited (if not expected) me to do the good work of seeking them out.
To get the job, I needed to apply and interview (well). To find my home church, I needed to visit a lot of different services. And to make new friends, I needed to say yes to events and activities that people kindly invited me to when I was new to the area. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m glad God pushed me in these ways because they taught me three things about what it means to be an active part of His plan.
- Taking action isn’t contingent on circumstances. A few months into my church hunt, I was burnt out from going to a different church every week. So there were a few Sundays when I just didn’t. Those ended up being days that pushed out finding my home church by another week. Conversely, one Sunday when I really didn’t feel like going, I ended up making connections that were instrumental in helping me build community. If I hadn’t taken the action of continuing to look for a church, I would’ve missed out.
- The outcome is still up to God. It’s easy to talk about taking action that led to my new job and friends. It’s harder to talk about failing to get consistent work as a freelance writer, or being turned down (kindly) by a woman I tried pursuing. But even though those didn’t end the way I wanted them to, I still grew as a result of taking those steps. It’s tough, but I know God had a reason for each of these outcomes. So when I look back, I don’t regret taking action. But I think I would’ve regretted not taking it.
- God prepares good works of all sizes for us to perform. Sometimes the works God wants us to do involve big things like moving to a new state, but sometimes they’re small ones like catching up with a friend. From reading the Bible everyday to praying for someone going through a tough time, I’m trying to remember that these small works are just as important as the big ones. They may not lead to profound change and aren’t always memorable. But that doesn’t lessen the fact that God prepared them just for us.
As I look forward to the next year, I have no idea what good works to expect (for me or for you). But I do know that they’re waiting for us. They’re probably going to be scary, exciting, unexpected, heartbreaking, easily-missed, transformative and everything in between. But I take courage and comfort from the knowledge that they’re “prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” And that’s a plan I’m excited to be a part of.
Michael Dolan writes marketing materials for a nonprofit in the greater Seattle area. When he’s not doing that, he hikes, reads, games, and occasionally writes some more.