Saying yes to the process
I remember when God set full-time ministry upon my heart. I was fired up; I was ready to preach to the nations, pioneer new ministries, and do everything that screamed the name of Jesus. My spirit leapt when I first heard the song, “Oceans” by Hillsong — “Yes God, You have called me out upon the waters, into the great unknown, but where have You called me, Lord?”
I waited in great anticipation for His answer. Peru, China, Singapore? Wherever it is, my feet were burning to run. Instead of sending me right into the mission field, He said, “Get your University degree first.” My heart sank. A university degree was definitely not what I had in mind as the “great unknown”. The last thing I wanted to do was to study for a degree; my heart just wanted to plunge right into fulfilling my destiny. Pursuing a degree was simply a waste of time.
There are a few people in the Bible who can relate to how I felt. Before David became king, he faithfully tended his sheep daily before being appointed (1 Samuel 16), and Joseph held on to His God-given dreams despite the condemnation and accusations, before seeing God’s promises come to past (Genesis 37). In the same way, your call to a great destiny could mean trudging through mundane daily routines or an uninspiring job.
I call them the “Desert Days”. David, Elijah, and many others in the Bible had their respective desert days before they were catapulted into their destiny. Often times, before God releases us like a fiery arrow into the mission field that He has set upon our hearts, He will take us through the wilderness. Even Jesus walked through the desert for 40 days before He started His ministry. (Matthew 4) The season where we wait in eagerness for God to call us into the fulfilment of our destiny is often the very season where He breaks and remoulds us.
As I walked on in my desert days, the blazing flame in my heart began to fizzle out over the months and years of aridness. I grew restless in waiting for God to show me His plans and questioned His silence. Reading the Bible grew stale and my prayers felt feeble. As insecurities sifted out my identity in Christ, doubts and fears caused pride and self-pity to weigh upon my heart, to the point that I felt like I had lost myself. Even though I longed for the ocean — desperate for that sense of call over my life once again — my dream soon shrivelled into a doubtful conjecture.
Having now travelled the distance, I have learnt that the wilderness is not so much about simply getting us from Point A to Point B; it is about growing us as a people of God. Some of our journeys may last for 40 days, while others persist for 40 years — all of our journeys are different — but one thing is for sure, there is a divine purpose in the path set before us.
As I shut my eyes in prayer one day and envisioned the path laid before me, all I could see was sand everywhere, a wide expanse of nothingness. My heart immediately tripped into panic mode as I scrambled to find purpose in my life. Ecclesiastes 1 became the lifesong of that season as my university degree and full-time job felt futile in expanding the Kingdom of God; I could not wait to exit this trying season.
Months would go by, and I would not hear a word from God, and it got really quiet in my wilderness. The silence tormented me with lies that my God has forsaken me, and that I am no longer called to serve Him. After all, if I matter to Him, wouldn’t He say something? The silence only seemed to make this already difficult period worse.
I eventually realised that God will not take me through the wilderness for nothing, that from His perspective, there is always progress in the process. Hence, even though I could not see the hand of God working in me, I could choose to trust in the steady hands of my Father, and that there is surely purpose for my season.
As I cried out to God for the umpteenth time for Him to speak and show me the way out of this desert, His faint whisper finally penetrated my deafness, “Keep walking on, trust in Me. I am with you.”
As He spoke, Isaiah 41:10 immediately came to mind: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Day by day, I had to keep taking the next step forward, till my eyes can see His open heavens; till I am knee-deep in the ocean. I had to keep trusting in His faithfulness, despite not knowing what was ahead of me. I began to find a comfort in His presence as I held onto Abba Father’s hand in my journey through the wilderness.
Despite the insecurities that threatened to overwhelm me and the lack of a direction with my life, I’ve found that the only place I wanted to be was in His presence, not even in the mission field. As the psalmist writes, “the LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him” in Psalm 37:23, I believe that God is establishing the foundations of my destiny as I delight in Him through the trials. Going through my wilderness, I have rediscovered the meaning of walking in intimacy with my Father — I believe that this is the reason for my desert days.
If your heart is aching with a passion to partner with God in building His Kingdom, and yet you keep finding yourself on barren land, I urge you to embrace this season instead. Although the call to keep walking on may feel like you are merely sprinting on the spot, God is building and strengthening the core of your spirit man as you press on in faithfulness. May you persevere in your walk, and find that the land you’re currently stepping on will soon meet your ocean.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3)