What is my Future?

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you.”   Exodus 3:11-12a

Our devotional this week is brought by Mr. Reagan Witten, a student at UMHB’s McLane College of Business.

For many of us, uncertainty over our future careers is a prevailing condition.  Unfortunately, it also tends to be stressful. Should I take that transfer opportunity I was offered? Is it time to polish my resume and test the market?  Should I take a chance and start my own business? Whatever I do, will I regret my decision?

One of God’s greatest Old Testament servants faced this same uncertainty.  Moses’ early years were defined by his Egyptian upbringing and being groomed for leadership.  But after murdering an Egyptian in defense of an Israelite (see Exodus 2), Moses had to flee to the desert and wound up tending sheep for his new father-in-law. There, under the desert sun, Moses may well have wondered whether standing up for the defenseless was the right career move.

God’s next opportunity for Moses would be presented in the burning bush experience (partly recorded in our text for today), producing a whole new round of uncertainty. Moses was being offered a promotion by God. But, like any such offer, the proposition of being given greater responsibility can bring feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure. Moses, however, overcomes his fear with an act of faith.  The Lord doesn’t immediately reveal to him the details of His planned deliverance of the Israelites but Moses proceeds with the task, regardless of the uncertainty.

Though God might not appear to you in flame-engulfed shrubbery, He can still offer us opportunities in mysterious ways, if we are willing to listen. The stress we can feel when we face an uncertain future may bring anxiety with it. But God makes us promises, just as He did Moses.

Take a lesson from Moses. Trust the Lord and His faithfulness when thinking about how your future will look. He will be with you.  Ask the Lord for His wisdom and trust in His plan for you. You may even have your own, personal Exodus, and might even lead some of God’s people along the way.

The Gifts of Our Trials

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:1-4

This week’s devotional is brought to us by Ms. Baylee Smith, a senior at the McLane College of Business. 

Two years ago, my uncle lost a two-year fight with cancer. We knew it was inevitable, but that knowledge didn’t make his passing any easier for our family.

Shortly after he died, a woman reached out to us claiming to be his long-lost daughter. After some investigation and communication, we learned that it was true! My uncle had a child he never even knew about. This discovery added even more sadness to a season that was already painful.

Thankfully, most people don’t face this particular story of loss. But all of us have trials in our lives. Even just as people working in the world, we face trials like termination, furlough, layoffs, on-the-job injuries, or just harsh criticisms that can leave us feeling defeated and produce emotional scars.

Saint James warned us we might face trials. Those trials can take all manner of forms. But, at the same time, James encouraged us to rejoice in the gifts the Lord may give us through those trials. They can build perseverance in us, make us mature, and fill up our spiritual tool bags until we are “not lacking anything”.

So what do we do with those mournful experiences?

The pain of our trials is real. But if we approach them with faith, we can receive great gifts even in the middle of them. We can gain the promised perseverance, confidence in our faith, maturity, and, sometimes, new people to love.

I am still mourning the loss of my uncle. But what was once an experience almost too painful to speak about has become a point of praise in my life. I learned I had a cousin and she has become a tremendous blessing for our family. Although she never met him, she has many of my uncle’s attributes that remind us of him fondly and unexpectedly.

Not all of the gifts of our trials are as tangible as my “new” cousin. But God has something for us in the midst of these trials, and they can help transform us into the very image of Christ.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  Matthew 6:34

Our devotional this week is brought to us by Ms. Alejandra Tristan, a student at the McLane College of Business.

Day after day, many of us remain firmly focused on our next step in life. When can I take my next holiday break? When will this job come to an end? When and how can I move up in this organization? Some of us are so fixated on the future, we completely fail to enjoy our current position in life.

It’s not a surprise.  Many of us were raised in this manner of thinking.  We were taught to go, go, go and to keep reaching for the next rung on the ladder. Few of us received equal encouragement to “stop and smell the roses”.

Our culture of striving for success has produced a new kind of anxiety – uncertainty about what is next for us.  We may be confident that we will be safe, satisfied, and well supported in the future.  But the simple anxiety of not knowing when we will reach a new level of accomplishment can put us in anguish.

While we could be enjoying today, we are instead busy making plans for tomorrow.  Sometimes, our minds are so set on the future that we even fail to enjoy the moment that we planned so heavily for in the past! When that future moment arrives, instead of enjoying it, we are already anxiously awaiting new moments ahead.  

With all its negative consequences, one gift of the COVID-19 experience has been the disruption of some of our plans. During quarantine, some of my friends told me about how their family dinners have made them so much better connected with the ones they love. They met around the table, forgetting the bustle of their go, go, go lifestyle, and took time to focus on family, just being together and enjoying the moment.

Our Scripture today reminds us that, as we walk (not run) through life, we will be blessed to limit ourselves to the anxieties of the day, and leave tomorrow’s anxieties for tomorrow.

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15:4-7

There is no shortage of villainy in our world.  If you have any doubts, just turn on your television.  You will find it featured in the nightly news, fancifully depicted in fiction of all genres, and celebrated in “reality” shows.  Of course, villains are not just on the screen. They are in the office down the hall.  They are in your neighborhood and your church.  Sometimes they even reside at your house.

You can spot the villains in any story.  They are the ones who took something for a small, passing advantage even though someone else needed it desperately.  They are the ones who vented their anger on some very vulnerable people just because they could.  They blamed others for their failures and lied to protect their reputations.  They were lazy when things needed to get done and held progress hostage until they got what they wanted.  They couldn’t be appeased for slights they had received, real and imagined. 

Given the breadth and depth of villains around us, it hopefully would not surprise you to learn that, in somebody’s story, it is you.  You were the supervisor who gave yourself all the best assignments and pushed the hard work down to others.  You were the co-worker nobody wanted on the committee because you somehow made the meetings both long and unproductive.  You were the overbearing father or the needy mother who held back the innocent child. 

If you were never any of those, then you are among the 99 sheep in Christ’s parable.  Carry on as you were and read no further.  The rest of us, however, are the ones who need to repent.  We are the members of Christ’s flock who have lost our way. 

The good news is that we are the ones who can produce the greatest rejoicing in heaven.  We are the ones who can return home on the shoulders of Christ.  But will we?  That requires repentance – admitting that we are wrong, humbly asking God’s forgiveness, and renouncing our villainous ways.  Villainy may be ubiquitous in our world but repentance is rare.  Will you be the one? 

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted. Isaiah 61:1b

Our Devotional this week is brought to us by the UMHB Dean of Spiritual Life and University Chaplain, Jason Palmer.

The recent months have included no shortage of suffering for many. The scope of the painful experiences has been broad and the manifestations diverse. Many of us know people whose circumstances have tested their resiliency. Such tests remind us that the human condition is frail—that none of us are immune from shattering under the right combination of stressors.

We didn’t need a pandemic to show us human frailty.  Every workplace is a collection of x people, with x examples of brokenness.  Every family too.  The brokenness of the people around us may fall into recognized “Human Resources” categories but everybody’s individual hang ups are unique. 

Historical trends predict some of our very best efforts at dealing with our own brokenness will fail.  However, this forecast doesn’t lessen the sting that accompanies the moment of fragmentation. A decision point looms as we stare at the pieces: where do we go from here?

The Prophet Isaiah pointed believers to the One “sent…to heal the brokenhearted” because the process employed by the Messiah is instructive and leaves the object of healing better than it started. There is a Japanese art form called kintsugi that illustrates Christ’s work beautifully. Pottery that has been unintentionally or intentionally broken is skillfully repaired using lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The restored piece is often more beautiful, useful, and valuable than the original—set apart from its peers with a captivating testimony about redemption.

Jesus knows every detail of the hurt that exists in our families and communities. He takes the time to study the intricacies of each fracture and regularly binds up damage others assess to be hopeless. 

Take heart this week as you interact with people and projects that are cracked—that have little resemblance to their five-year plan.  God is still in the business of rejoining broken hearts. He sees with perfect compassion. May we trust that He is working in this fallen world to demonstrate His unique ability to redeem that which seems beyond repair.