They were on a mission. They had a clear, definable goal. Resources to accomplish the task were in hand. They were totally committed to their ministry of love. But they did not—could not—follow through with their plans. Why not?
I am thinking about the women that first day of the week after they had seen Jesus crucified and buried. They had to give up their plans for service to their Savior. To their surprise, their embalming spices were suddenly unnecessary. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” the two men with clothes gleaming like lightening challenged them (Luke 24).
Several of those surprised turns have defined my life. High school years were filled with plans to become a nurse. In fact, I even helped to get a Future Nurses Club started. Near the end of my senior year, God engineered circumstances so that the nurses’ school where I had been accepted actually dropped the entire incoming freshman class since they were changing from a three-year to a two-year program. That got my attention! I instead attended Moody Bible Institute where the communications major had just been added. He knew I would be better with words than with pills and needles. He also knew that David McMillan would be there.
Several years later, after Dave and I were married, we had been accepted by a mission board to serve in (then) Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Africa. Two months before we were scheduled to leave, the church in Zaire declared a moratorium on new missionaries. That’s how we ended up in France. The four years there brought a lot of personal turbulence and soul searching and led to our leaving “formal” missionary work. However, that change led to wonderful open doors of ministry in our neighborhood and in our local church.
Just before my father died in February 2002, he called Dave and me to come to see him. He asked us if we would consider taking over the leadership of the ministry he would be leaving behind: the Bible Witness Camp, located in a poor, rural community in Illinois. After much prayer and thought, we accepted. That meant an end to those ministries we had had in our neighborhood and church. It also meant that He had different and new opportunities for service for us.
I appreciate Oswald Chambers’ comments about changing circumstances. Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways; we do not know what a day will bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time. (My Utmost for His Highest, p. 120)
Change certainly identifies the current challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. How are you handling the revised plans? Don’t hesitate to donate your spices to the local funeral director and keep in step with our surprising, living Lord!