Have you ever set out with high hopes, only to find things not working out as you expected? Should that happen even in church and in ministry?
Last summer our son Noah and his family moved from the Chicago suburbs where he was a pastor to the front range of the Colorado mountains and a church staff there. Beth and I just visited them, in part to care for our grandson Ezra while Noah and Alyssa took some time off together prior to our second grandson’s arrival in June.
Almost from the outset, the trip we experienced was not the trip we expected. A sore throat and sinus infection left me sluggish and medicated most of the trip. The couple’s departure for their “babymoon” was delayed by an emergency at her workplace. Throughout our visit, cool temperatures and high winds altered many of our outdoor ambitions.
So, a focus of our time together became a home improvement project. It involved replacing the flooring on the main level of their home, and all the moving, sawing, trimming, bending, and cleanup that implies.
To be fair, this was plan B for our week, and Noah had already completed almost half of the project by himself before we arrived. He continued to do all the most difficult and skilled labor, while we simply assisted and lent extra hands and encouragement.
While working together, we talked not only about the change in our week’s plans, but about the unexpected turns that life and ministry sometimes bring. Through a series of circumstances, three ministerial staff from Noah’s church have resigned or retired since his arrival. The needs and challenges of the church and his own job description have changed dramatically, requiring that he adjust, problem-solve, and grow.
During one of our conversations, I recalled for Noah advice from a mentor who told me that you really want to be confident in God’s calling to a place because “the things that bring you somewhere may not be the things that keep you there.”
In other words, things change, sometimes a lot.
People in your life change, sometimes a lot. Circumstances and challenges change, sometimes a lot. And if God has called you to a place, he has called you to face and to help others through those changes, whether they match your prior expectations or not. Sometimes you come to hike and end up replacing flooring.
Amy Grant sang, “I’ve got my hope set high… And I can do my best and pray to the Father, but the one thing I ought to know by now, when it all comes down…if there’s anything good that happens in life, it’s from Jesus.”
Noah had his hope set high when he moved to Colorado. I had my hope set high when I came to IBSA. You had your hope set high when you accepted your current place of ministry. Now a lot of stuff has changed. Will our hope?
When hopes are set based on our plans and expectations, we inevitably get disappointed, even hurt. But when we remember that our hope—our confident expectation of future good—is based on God and his calling and promises, we can adjust and persevere, confident that it is these very challenges to which we have been called.
On the day we headed home from Colorado, we acknowledged that the transformative work we did, and the spiritual conversations we had, were the Lord’s real purpose for our time together, regardless of our prior expectations. It has encouraged me again to keep my hope set high, and therefore my perseverance.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.