I recently chatted with a friend who is contemplating a career change. She feels stuck – and maybe a little terrified. She can’t sense God’s presence or hear his voice right now, but that’s not unusual. Whenever we stand on the brink of a significant life transition, poised to cross from the familiar into unknown territory, our fears and doubts usually drown out the still small voice of God.
To be candid, I have a terrible track record at such thresholds. Whenever I’m asked to let go of one thing to take hold of another, I totter on the brink until pain and disappointment drive me forward, or people and circumstances beyond my control make it impossible to stay. Especially when the thing I must let go of is something into which I’ve invested most of my life and all of my heart.
Fear hovers at the entrance to such a threshold. Fear of losing people we love or leaving behind work that we love. Fear of losing our identity and sense of purpose. Fear of making the wrong decision when there is no turning back. Fear of mishearing, misinterpreting, or missing God altogether. Fear of what we don’t know and can’t see. Fear of failure – maybe we’re not up to whatever is waiting for us on the other side. Fear that there may not be anything on the other side. Fear that when the door closes behind us, it might be an eternity before a new door opens – and you know what they say about hell in the hallway.
Unfortunately, there is no way around the fear; there is only through. Taking that first step requires total surrender – with hands and heart open – and the first thing we have to let go of is any cherished outcomes. It is about what God wants, not what we want. It also requires child-like trust – in God’s love, care, provision and his ability to factor in all our weaknesses, stupid decisions, bad choices, wrong turns in life and still get us to our destination. And ultimately, it requires obedience born of love.
For Christ-followers, the key to walking through such fear and doubt is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the one who initiates and perfects our faith. Easier said than done, of course, but God is the one working in us, giving us the desire and power to do what pleases him ( Philippians 2:13). Meanwhile, we wait and wrestle and wait some more until he empowers us to act on the passion implanted in our hearts.
While I’m not considering any significant life changes these days, I can still relate to my friend’s situation. I’m currently on the verge of something and growing more uncomfortable by the day. I’m being compelled to leave my comfort zone, to break silence on issues I’d rather not address, to expose pain I’d rather leave hidden in hopes of giving life and hope to others. God asks for the next level of vulnerability, and honestly, I’m thrashing about on that cross. I guess you could say it’s killing me, which isn’t a bad thing.