If there is one thing I have learned over these past three and a half years it is that God and I do not have the same timing for my life, which has taught me that my life is not my own. For the longest time God and I didn’t have the same plans or timeline when it came to the experiences I would have and what I would make of my life. I would plan my life out in extreme detail and work towards that desire for myself and then God would laugh, see that where I was going wasn’t conducive to His plan, and He would then either put an obstacle in my way in order to keep me from reaching my personal want, or He would simply change the direction I was going and redirect me towards Him. I have learned that we may not always understand, appreciate, or welcome a change in direction from God, but we have to believe that there is a purpose behind it. I believe the purpose is usually God knowing what’s best for us, so he is protecting us by changing our direction, or He is wanting to use our lives in a special way and knows that we will not be able to do this if He doesn’t help steer us in the right direction every now and then.
Growing up I loved planning every detail of my own life and what I hoped for myself in the future. I would plan what I wanted to be when I was older, the kind of guy I would want to marry, when I wanted to be married by, and when I wanted to have all of the children I will have. I planned to never leave the town I grew up in or live far from my own family. I planned my own life for myself based on my own wants and desires until after I was sexually assaulted. After my sexual assault happened, I felt like I had had my eyes opened to what my life was meant to be for. I didn’t know what exactly my purpose would be for almost two years after my sexual assault, but from the moment I began to process what had happened to me, I told myself God would use this and something good would come out of something so bad. I held onto this hope for the next two years, not understanding the “why” yet and struggling with time passing and not knowing how I would use what happened to me. All the while learning more about myself and allowing my heart to begin the process of healing.
God’s timing is not my timing. If my timing dictated how my life would unfold and when I would learn the purpose for my hurt, I would have wanted to have known the moment after my sexual assault happened what possible purpose could be behind it. But this wasn’t God’s timing for me. I needed the time in those first two years to begin healing and work through some of the ways I had been hurt. God knew that if I had been able to know the purpose and plan He had to use my hurt in a good way right off the bat that I probably wouldn’t have focused on myself and the heart work that needed to take place. I had refining and equipping that needed to take place in order to be prepared to even begin working towards fulfilling my purpose. Even after I learned the plan God has set in motion in my life, I have had to continue working on myself and have had to face some of my toughest days, and months, since my sexual assault. Even after I learned the plan God has, I still haven’t learned or been told the timing in which His plan will unfold. In the meantime, God has been growing me, challenging me, preparing me, equipping me, healing me, and restoring me to who it is I am to become in order to do His work.
I have come to understand, believe, and trust in God and His timing for various reasons. I have learned that there are things God wants to give us but if given to us too early, before we are mature enough, ready enough, or strong enough, this gift can possibly do more harm than good in our lives. Instead of being the blessing God has designed for this “thing” to be in your life, when given at the opportune time, it may instead cause damage or frustration in your life in different ways, or it may end up not producing the fruit it was designed to bear. If God had shown me the purpose for my hurt right after it was inflicted, I wouldn’t have understood how I was to get to where I am now, nor would I have been able to maturely begin working towards the design God has laid before me as to how my purpose will play out.
I still do not fully understand or know everything God is going to ask of me or has planned for me to do with this deep passion I have for helping those who have experienced sexual assault, or any kind of personal struggle whether this be with their own body, mind, or in a relationship, but I will continue striving to patiently wait on God’s timing and allow His plan to unfold in front of me. What I do know though is that since the night of my sexual assault, my life has been a whirlwind of unexpected blessings, grace, love, and the faithfulness of God like I had never known or experienced before.
After my sexual assault I transferred to a private Christian university in Colorado where I had the most amazing professors and got to actually build personal relationships with them, which wouldn’t have happened had I stayed at Iowa State. I excelled in my new major of psychology and got the best grades I had all of college, and I was enamored with what I was studying. I received the best counsel I could have hoped for while at this university that has made all the difference in the world for helping me get to where I am today both spiritually and emotionally. I found freedom in the mountains and learned how to handle the anxiety I had once found so debilitating. I met the man of my dreams and for the first time experienced love and grace in a relationship that models our relationship with God and His with us. My plan was to stay in Colorado, but God knew this wasn’t going to be productive for me for long. I moved back home to Iowa for two months to enjoy being close with my family again before moving once more down to Mississippi to be where my heart is. And the blessings and provisions of God haven’t stopped flowing since arriving down south. Without a job for two months, we somehow made it by financially despite the stressors of having a tight budget; God always provided for us in one way or another. After two months, I was ecstatic to get my first job, which led me to my present job, which was a complete answer to prayer for us, both financially and schedule-wise. We have been blessed with an incredible church and church family that is overflowing with love and acceptance, and keeps me pushing forward to learn, grow, and live every day with and for God. Life isn’t always perfect and we still face our struggles weekly if not daily at times, and there are still moments when I may begin to doubt God’s faithfulness, when I allow myself to try and plan on my own or worry about the future, but at the end of the day I know God has us in the palm of His hand. He has been providing for us in amazing ways and has been blessing me constantly since the day my heart become on fire for Him and the purpose He has set before me.
Had I had my own way with the timing for my life, none of these blessings that I have experienced may have ever happened. And had I never experienced my sexual assault, I know that these things never would have happened and I wouldn’t be living the life I am now; I most likely would have never left Iowa State, or home, and ventured to the places I have. In everything, God has a plan and a purpose. In every achievement, God has a plan, and in every struggle and hurt, God has a plan. I once heard that He will never give you a hurt without a purpose for it; God will always have a purpose for you pain. God had, and still has, a very big purpose for my hurt. First, my hurt took me out of an environment that wasn’t conducive to my becoming like Christ and kept me from pursuing Him; second, it has given me a life that is so much better than anything I had ever dreamed up for myself; and third, it has given me a feeling of satisfaction for living a life that has a destined and important purpose for God, which is the greatest feeling and gift I could ever have.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
– Galatians 2:20
God will continue to pursue His purpose for your life even if you aren’t on board. He will bring about opportunities for you to realize what He is trying to do, and He will try again if you ignore or choose to keep pursuing your own plan for yourself. But think of what amazing blessings you might be missing out on during the entire time you are fighting for your own way and the life that you want for yourself? Think of the damage that could be done by you not fulfilling the purpose God created you for? What missing body part will the body of Christ be without if you focus only on the life you want? Your choice to pursue your own personal desires in life doesn’t only affect you, it affects everyone. It affects the body of Christ, which can’t function to it’s fullest ability without every member of it doing what they were designed to do, and it affects those who are not yet saved by there being one less disciple of Christ living out their life for Him and reaching those who haven’t heard the Great News. God did not create us to live for ourselves and to plan our own lives, He created us so that the world would know Him through us! Until the day that He returns, we are His physical vessels on earth and we are to be showing love, grace, mercy, humility, meekness, and acceptance to everyone so that they might come to know Him too.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
– 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
– Romans 12:4-8
Our lives are not our own. Unless we are living for Christ, we are merely existing on earth for what is a very short time in the grand scheme of things. Unless I am living for Christ and the glory of God, I see my life as pointless. Anything I could be living for besides Him holds no eternal value and will do nothing for me when I die. There is no amount of money that can satisfy; no car, house, or any material possession worth striving for. My life is not my own, therefore why should I strive for anything with myself and my own personal gain being my root desire or cause? While I am living on this earth, my life, my time, my possessions, they are all God’s. I go where He leads and directs, and I do this with the hope and anticipation of the blessings I know He has in store as a result of my obedience.
“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
– Psalm 16:11
Something that has always comforted me when I begin to doubt God’s provision is that He knows our hearts, so He knows our deepest desires and the things we hope for most in our lives. For a while I began to doubt that God really understood what my heart desired, but now I look back and see how aware He is, and has been, with giving me some of my biggest desires in just this last year. Trust in His timing; trust in His provision; trust in His faithfulness; and trust that in all things, His plans and the purpose He has for your life will lead you to places, people, experiences, and blessings that you couldn’t even wrap your head around if you were told right now what He has in store for you.
If you have been hurt, or you are hurting right now, expect that God is doing a work in you and in your life. Believe that He has a plan and a purpose for your hurt that will be redeeming to what you have experienced or gone through. Be open to Him and don’t only listen for Him to tell you what you want to hear from Him, but listen to all that He has to say to you. When I first heard from God speak to me in regards to the purpose for my hurt, I didn’t understand what he was telling me. My directions were vague and I questioned but why and for what reason? It didn’t make sense to me what I was supposed to do exactly. I wanted to know more; I wanted more direction and answers to my questions. But all God wanted was for me to simply start with the first instruction He had given me, regardless of whether it made sense in my mind or not. Then, over time, He began to give me more instructions and pieces to the puzzle to help me begin putting together what it is that He wants to use my life for. This will all be done in His timing, not mine or yours, so we must try our hardest to be patient, available, and obedient.
Trust that God is always working for your good. In His perfect timing, He will make known to you His plan for your life, and I promise you it will be better than anything you have ever dreamed of for yourself! It may not be exactly what you had thought or planned for yourself, and it may take you away from a life of comfort and security at times, but what a sweet sweet feeling it is to know you are living in obedience to the One who holds all things together and is yearning for you to be a part of making Him known. Allow Him to show you the purpose for your hurt and find redemption in fulfilling it!
“My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.”
– Psalm 119:50