Are you feeling off course?
Maybe the destination you thought you were headed for was not right at all.
Did God really direct you on this path or did you take a wrong turn?
If you are anything like me, you have asked these questions at some point in life. Maybe even daily. The journey began for my family in 2006 when we were offered a church in a dream location beside the town we grew up. We were going home! It was a total God thing. Miracles were all over the situation. We gladly accepted and were voted in unanimously by a small handful of people. We poured our lives into the church for six years. It couldn’t have been better. There was growth, life change, salvation, and a real impact in our community. The dream became diluted somewhere between exhaustion and sin. It was then we were blown off course.
Had we ruined our chances? Had we disqualified ourselves from the call God placed on our lives? Proverbs 16:9 says, We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. This is so true. We do not know what tomorrow holds. I would learn this lesson over and over again.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.
After leaving our church we began a two-year restoration process. Although this time was difficult in the sense that we were not on staff in ministry, it was also wonderful as God showed us things we couldn’t have seen without being in this place.
One of the things I learned was loving and appreciating friendship like never before. Have you noticed how ministry can wear you out on the people side of things? Even though I’m an extrovert, I longed for a night alone at home while in full-time ministry. I was worn out.
During the two years outside of ministry I was able to anticipate having guests over and spending time in friendship. It was a time of rest. In this season I learned that taking a sabbatical is so necessary to keep your heart right and eager for the lost and for the work of the ministry.
As God began to do a deep work in our lives and our marriage we knew our story must be told. We had the privilege of speaking in churches all over our state. In my mind, this was our new assignment. After many wonderful months helping others find redemption and restoration in their marriage God was placing us on a friend’s heart. A pastor in another state asked us to come speak. During our visit he asked us to join him on staff. Although I loved his heart and his vision and felt extremely honored that he would want us on staff, was this God’s plan? It was nothing like I thought it would look like. Had He not called us to speak to broken marriages? Did He not want to restore us back to our community where we He clearly called us?
God had other plans. We accepted the position. God has taught us so much in this season. As we stay faithful to the place He has called us, He continues to bless us in ways we could have never imagined. A refining has taken place in our lives. It has produced character and humility. We have seen the Holy Spirit chip away at things in our lives that we didn’t even know needed to be addressed. God knew what He was doing and what we needed. God placed us exactly where we needed to be.
God knew what He was doing and what we needed.
As we walk through this beautiful journey, I think of Paul. It seemed that Paul’s plans were always changed. His journey was always knocked off course by imprisonment, storms, religious leaders, and his own doing. In every moment that looked like a mistake or a bad circumstance, God was at work. As he was imprisoned, miracles happened and people were radically saved. Regions were saved! When a storm shipwrecked him on the island of Malta, it was used by God. It was off course but an island was introduced to the saving gospel of Jesus. An island of people were saved.
Paul was empowered, lives were saved—off course.
In Romans 1, Paul speaks about longing to go to Rome. He says, but I have been prevented from doing so until now. This was not a mistake. God was at work. Paul felt a pull, a calling to the people of Rome, but God wanted to use Him on the way.
My journey has felt very “off course” at times but God has the plan and the course. I want to encourage you today, even though it doesn’t look like you thought it would, trust God. Allow Him to do what He wants in you and through you. I can look back and see that this was His will.
Even if it looks like a mistake, even if you are asking yourself, “how did I end up here?” allow God to be in control. Loosen the reins, let go of your course a little and seek Him. He is a good Father and will not allow you to mess up His plan for you. Trust Him.
I see the fruit my “off course” journeys have produced. They are filled with purpose, pruning, developing, and change in me, as well as in those around me. I’m in the center of God’s will even if it doesn’t look like destination I expected. Don’t look at a difficult circumstance as a mistake. See it as an opportunity to be used even when you don’t understand it. The Creator has the map. Let him keep you on course.
Off Course is Entry Two of our June blog series, Share Your Story. Do you have a story to share? One of God's faithfulness through a difficult time? Or one of victory over a personal battle you've fought? We are looking for stories to share for our fall blog series. Contact us with your information and include a single paragraph overview. Let's connect!
Ashley Simmons has been married to her wonderful husband, Tim, for 19 years. They have served in ministry together since the day they were married. Tim and Ashley have 2 beautiful children, Cole,16 and Kennedy, 14. Tim serves as Executive Pastor at Life Fellowship Church in Olive Branch, MS and Ashley serves on staff at the Guest Services Director. Her hobbies include "having two teenagers! It is quite time consuming." Ashley loves to write, share her story and minister to women. Before coming to Life Fellowship, Tim and Ashley traveled and spoke on the restoration of marriages. The tour was called, For Love For Life. The enemy wants to destroy the family but they have seen God turn ashes in beauty! Read more from Ashley at www.ashleylsimmons.com