When you don’t hear from God
Michele Ong // September 19, 2019, 11:30 pm
There wasn’t a clear, booming, “yes, go ahead with this plan” or “yes, this is the will I have for you” from God when I packed my bags and said goodbye to family and friends for a job overseas.
In fact, the heavens were quite silent when I made the decision to leave my corporate role to work as a full-time writer for a Christian non-profit ministry.
Initially, I wasn’t very sure how to react when I was offered the opportunity to join the organisation as a full-time writer. Part of me was flattered that someone thought my writing skills were decent enough to contribute to their organisation, while another part of me wondered whether it was wise for me to head back into full-time writing. The last time I did that as a journalist, things fell apart around my ears.
On the surface, it looked like I had life sorted — a corporate job, volunteer work on the side and a decent social calendar.
At the time, I was working in a retail environment for their e-commerce platform, while volunteering my writing skills with the non-profit organisation on the side.
My office was housed in a giant building with an on-site cafe, and the job came with regular work hours. I had come a long way from my days as a worn-out journalist. My salary (although it wasn’t a lot) had climbed steadily since I joined, and I figured I would be in for another pay rise if I stayed on.
But there was a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that I wasn’t stewarding my writing talent the way I should.
While I was hired for my journalism background, my time at the retail company was spent copying-and-pasting product descriptions and working long hours with various teams to promote sale events. It wasn’t a bad job and on the surface, it looked like I had life sorted — a corporate job, volunteer work on the side and a decent social calendar.
Accepting the job offer with the non-profit organisation would mean giving up on these stabilities and also relocating overseas. Who knew what life overseas would be like? I could be miserable, friendless and living on a shoestring budget!
MONEY ON MY MIND
Another concern that lodged itself firmly in my mind? Money.
As I had yet to hear of a super duper rich non-profit employee, I fretted to my sister: “What if I become poor forever? All of my other friends are holding big corporate jobs — they’ll have designer handbags and luxury cars.”
Though I’d like to think I’m unfazed by designer gear, the worry of not being able to keep up with the Joneses crept in.
My sister, who works as a dietitian in hospitals, said she couldn’t remember the last time a patient had thanked their designer handbag for giving them the strength and courage to go through their illnesses.
“People usually thank their family and friends for seeing them through, not their expensive handbag.”
I was struggling between not wanting to lose out to my high-flying friends, and at the same time, not wanting to tell God on Judgement Day that I said no to joining a non-profit organisation because of financial concerns.
But the brief conversation with my sister was enough for me to see how temporal material possessions are.
Scripture says we’re not to store our treasures on earth, where they will be vulnerable to moths, rust and thieves (Matthew 6:19), but that it’s best to store our treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:20). For me, that meant giving up a bit of financial security to pursue what God was pushing me to do — writing full-time.
SOMETIMES WE JUST HAVE TO OBEY
Having mentally moved beyond my materialistic concerns, I still found myself desperate to hear confirmation directly from God. I frantically went through any devotional I could get my hands on as I wanted a safety net — some kind of assurance that if I took the position, life would go smoothly.
So, imagine my delight when I came across an old e-book I had on my Kindle. It was a book by American pastor and author John Ortberg titled What is God’s Will for My Life? and I thought: “This is it! God’s will for me is found inside this book!”
While the book didn’t come with a concrete answer, one particular sentence jumped out at me. Ortberg looked at several biblical characters, including Moses, Gideon, Abraham and Jeremiah, and he observed: “Feeling ready is highly overrated. God isn’t looking for readiness; He is looking for obedience”.
The words “looking for obedience” rang in my ears. Biblical obedience means trusting God even when we don’t know the full picture.
I felt like God had rebuked me. The more I thought about it, the more I realised my fretting around trying to find God’s will was just an excuse stemming from my fear of putting myself under the spotlight again as a writer.
My former life as a reporter, prior to joining the retail environment, had left me spent and exhausted. So I found solace in hiding behind vendor-supplied copies for products, pushing promotional materials and writing on the side. But I was doing just that — hiding.
And when God came knocking, like Gideon (Judges 6:11-15), I offered up excuses such as “the last time I wrote full-time, it was a flop” and “I will never make enough to eke out a decent life”.
“God isn’t looking for readiness; He is looking for obedience.” – John Ortberg
I started out my career as a reporter because I wanted to change lives through the written word. But as I pushed out endless promotional materials as a copywriter, I couldn’t remember the last time someone’s life had been changed due to a phenomenal sale.
Sure, they might have been happy for a nano-second after nabbing a bargain, but I doubted it had any long-lasting effect.
Furthermore, the vision and mission of the non-profit organisation aligned with my beliefs, and I knew working with them would allow me to do one thing I love best — writing. And having worked with the team as a volunteer, I knew they were passionate about what they do, and I wanted to be a part of their tight-knit community.
After much hemming and hawing, it dawned on me that I couldn’t hide forever. So, much to my managers’ surprise, I handed in my resignation, and started the process of saying goodbye to my friends, workmates and sport coaches. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing, but I decided I would obey God, regardless of whether I heard any loud, booming confirmation from Heaven.
FAITHFULNESS AFTER TAKING THE LEAP
Fast-forward three months, and I have seen God providing for me in so many ways in my new country.
From an amazing friend who picked me up and dropped me off at the nearest train station every day for nearly two months until I got a car, to the provision of a new and fully-furnished flat that is located a decent 13-minute drive to work, God has shown me His faithfulness in meeting my needs.
A more affordable cost of living such as cheaper groceries and petrol also means that my salary stretches a little further, so my fears of being unable to make ends meet proved unfounded.
I am not going to lie and say the first few months of settling down went smoothly. Instead, it was crammed with car-shopping, flat-hunting, settling into a new job and to round it all off, I came down with a cold that lasted more than a week.
But I truly enjoy my new role of writing articles and creating content that hopefully leave readers inspired. A sense of happiness washes over me when I read comments on social media with readers writing to say how a certain article has encouraged them. Best of all, I leave work in the evenings feeling like I have done something worthwhile.
Looking back, while God didn’t come clanging down from Heaven to directly tell me it was His will for me to move abroad, He did nudge me down this current path through my passion (writing) and also by giving me an opportunity to work with an organisation whose values and mission aligns with mine.
Furthermore, had I not wrestled with God through my fears and doubts in order to come to this decision, I would not have seen first-hand His faithfulness and providence.
I don’t know what decisions you are looking to make today, but I’ve learned that we don’t always need a big sign from Heaven to go ahead with our plans.
Yes, pray about it. Do your research and seek wise counsel. These will help you discern whether the path you’re about to embark on is God-pleasing — and if it is, can I encourage you to pack your bags and just go for it?
This article was first published on YMI and is republished with permission.
THINK + TALK
- When was the last time God spoke to you? What did He say?
- Did you obey and carry out the last thing He told you to?
- Who can you speak to for godly counsel?