When We Don’t Know What the Future Holds

You’ve probably heard our news that Dennis and I are transferring the leadership of FamilyLife, the ministry we started and have led for over 40 years, to new leaders, David and Meg Robbins. While we are truly excited about this change, we have learned again in new ways what it means to trust God with our lives. His Spirit has kindly reminded us that He had our backs when we started FamilyLife and didn’t know what we were doing, and He will surely do the same in this next season of unknowns.

The providence of God has been the subject of these new lessons of faith for us. Paul said plainly, “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). God is both sovereign, in control, and providential, leading with care.

Dennis and I understand this quality of His character because of our lifelong reading of the Bible. God’s Word has instructed us how He has worked throughout history supplying and caring for those who believe in His name.  Knowing God’s character, knowing Him more intimately every year, grows our ability to trust Him increasingly.

The root word of providence is provide. It reminds me of that part of God’s person that consistently, unreservedly meets our needs because He loves us. He knows what we need before we even ask, even think.

I’ve come to love this old-world term providence. It beautifully sums up God’s paternal foresight and purposeful care.

Seven months ago we were feeling anxious about our future because we had no idea what was ahead, only that we knew it was time to find younger leaders. We wondered if we would still have a voice. We were afraid we might not have steady income. Would God provide? we wondered.

God, in His great kindness, gave me a little dream early one morning before dawn. In my dream, I came downstairs to find our dining room and kitchen floor covered with small white discs, the size of Altoid mints, but very thin. I was surprised for a second then I knew. It was manna. God was reminding me on that important day that He will in fact provide for us as He has faithfully provided for His children throughout the ages. It’s been a milestone ever since that we’ve clung to: a sweet reminder that He will care for us.

I’ve written before about a woman I have admired for many decades, Susanna Wesley, who with the encouragement of her father and her husband broke the cultural barriers of her day by learning to read, write, and study theology.

She wrote many prayers during her life in the 1600s as a pastor’s wife and mom to 18 kids, including John and Charles Wesley.  One of them is about God’s providence.

“I thank Thee, O God,
for the relief and satisfaction of mind
that come with the firm assurance
that Thou dost govern the world…
even the tumultuous and irregular actions of sinful men are,
nevertheless, under Thy direction…Thy Providence,
who art wise, good, and omnipotent…
and have promised to make all things work together for good
to them that love Thee.”
Thank You, My God and Savior.
Amen.

Her prayer brings me great comfort by reminding me God is continually acting, working, directing, and engaging in infinite ways to orchestrate all the events of our world according to His divine purposes.

My seemingly insignificant life, including what our future holds, problems that feel overwhelming, and relationships that are difficult or broken are not too difficult for Him. He is able.

In the not yet finished world in which we live, a world rocked daily by terror, strife and threats, there is a peace available that passes understanding. It’s guaranteed, in fact, when we fix our minds on an unwavering, trustworthy God. “Nothing is impossible with God”—and He will make all things work together for good to those who love Him.

I’m counting on that sure promise.  Are you?

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6 thoughts on “When We Don’t Know What the Future Holds”

  1. While it is hard to hear God answer our prayers with a, “No,” we can never stop conceding to His will like Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane. Often what we think is needful is not what Our Good Good Father knows is best. His ways are higher than our ways and while we long for temporal things like physical comforts, healing of the body and unencumbered living, He longs to give us fullness of life in His presence peace, and spiritual maturity and this may mean blessing us with just enough difficulties that we remain dependent on His grace and help. Sometimes what the culture would have us believe brings joy is not where Christians should be longing to find their joy. I pray that he will give us all grace to understand this more fully and live like we believe it in this watching and hurting world.

  2. I read positive things all the time about how to believe and trust in GOD, and I do. Though I am confused about things and I pray for understanding and I don’t mean to question. But, how do bad things happen to good people that believe and go to church and pray and live right? How is it explained that kids die, get hurt, people suffer in horrible deaths, things that are so awful. Or when someone is dying, even a kid, and there’s tons of faithful people around praying and believing. And I always get this answer when I ask this, “it’s just what’s in God’s plan.” So then I ask, so do we pray for the best and believe but still have to keep in mind, well, just because I’m praying and have faith, doesn’t mean all the sayings just like you said in this story, that believe and trust and he will make all things work, cause if it’s in his plan then none of it matters. So how do you have faith that he will make it ok knowing this stipulation? It’s so confusing. There’s sick kids that people are praying for daily and I’m sure parents trust and believe…but what happens? I have a situation in my life I pray on daily, but I have to keep in mind, I feel, that it don’t matter how hard I pray or how much I trust, that if it wasn’t meant it won’t be. So how do you read everyone’s scripture about just pray and believe and God will answer? So is there rally a reason to believe at all that it can be answered? Please help me understand.

  3. Thank you for this post. I woke up in the middle of the night…read a little…then decided to check my email. Recent days have caused me to be concerned about my future as well. Your words were an encouragement to me.

  4. Barbara,
    I love this. Love the dream of manna. Love it that you and Dennis are people of the word-His all powerful word! We love walking through life with you.
    This comes with big hugs from both of us.
    Susan

  5. Thank you so much for the encouragement today. I’ve been sick this week, my son has been out of work for months and I have an elderly mother who needs care. What a wonderful reminder of Gods sovereignty

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