Many of us have been on the proverbial “What’s next? Please help me, God” cliff. I’ve felt stuck there at times, peering into the future, wondering what the next step in my life should be. It’s a frustrating place. We want to move forward, to progress, to take that next step in a serious relationship, or to finally make that career change. But we just don’t know how, so we turn to God to get some ideas – any ideas.
For me, that moment came as I was considering whether to apply for a PhD. I hemmed and hawed and went through the pros and cons while also researching a number of schools. Weeks and months went by, and still I just couldn’t decide. So I started to pray specifically about this, sort of. That is, I turned to God and halfheartedly listened while thinking to myself that I might not agree with the answer that God provided.
Then I got serious. I approached God as the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, did – as the Father-Mother of all, who meets all our needs and who maintains and sustains us. In her book “Unity of Good,” Mrs. Eddy describes God as “All-in-all” and also shows just how essential each one of us is to God when she says: “Now this self-same God is our helper. He pities us. He has mercy upon us, and guides every event of our careers” (pp. 3-4).
Guided by this reminder, I humbly asked God if applying for a PhD was the right next step for me, and, if not, what was? This was not an easy prayer for me. After all, I’d imagined praying and getting some answer that didn’t make sense to me and having to argue it out with God. Then I remembered that God doesn’t work like that. God wouldn’t put me somewhere where I couldn’t be effective and where I wouldn’t grow.
I was comforted by this verse from Isaiah: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21). To me this means that God shows us, step by step, what’s right for us. He also helps us eliminate distractions – those activities that aren’t currently best for our progress.
As I continued to pray, I realized that I’d buried rather deeply a cherished hope of mine. Since third grade, I’ve loved to write, and I’d always imagined that my career path would involve writing. It has, but not to the degree that I’d anticipated. I’ve written promotional material and articles, including website content. I’ve even had a poem and piece of fiction published here and there. But what I really wanted was to write on a broader scale.
As this gleam of hope began to burn within me, I suddenly realized that this was God speaking to me, pointing out the next step in my life journey. Now was the time, I realized, not to switch to another full-time day job or to apply for a PhD, but to become more serious about writing. I’d always made excuses in the past. I didn’t have enough time. I wasn’t good enough. I needed not to have a full-time job to really write on the kind of scale that I wanted to write.
I considered this long-buried desire and then asked myself an honest question: Why had I given up so easily? So what if I’d accumulated a rather large mound of rejection letters from my various submissions? What writer hasn’t? That very day, I made a new goal for myself. I’d stick to a schedule, writing at least a couple of times a week. A day after I made this decision, I received an e-mail from an editor requesting publication of an article I’d written some time ago. Not long after this, I received another request for publication from another source. This showed me that I was on the right track and provided me with much needed encouragement to move forward with submitting both fiction and nonfiction.
I may still apply for a PhD if and when I feel God-directed to do so. But for now I feel happier and healthier using my formerly buried talent. God showed many Bible heroes – Moses, Elisha, Ruth, Hagar, and Christ Jesus, the perfect example – what was next for them, and He had even bigger plans for them than they’d anticipated. I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store for me as I continue following the path that He has revealed to me. I’m sure there will be loops and curves, but that’s part of the journey.