Have you ever read one of those “5 things that every successful person does” articles? I have. And it seems like every time it lists something along the lines of “Effective Planner!”, “Powerful Goal Setter!”, or “They Create Their Own Future!”. All of that sounds well and good, but what if you don’t have future-shaping capabilities? What if you don’t know where you will be a year from now? Does that just mean you’re forever going to be a failure?
No. I think it just means you’re more honest than everyone else! Because unfortunately for us, the future is out of our hands. We can plan all we want, but none of us really know what is around the corner.
Conversations about the future happen all the time in college ministry. Students are almost always trying to plan what’s next. What city should I live in post-grad? What type of career is best for me? When should I get married? All of these questions are so important, but many times we aren’t actually in control of the answers! And while that news might sound terrifying, it should actually free us up! God has called us to take care of today and leave tomorrow up to him (Matthew 6:25-34). So if you’re stressed about your next stage in life, here are three things you can do when you don’t know what to do:
Forget the place you want to be, focus on the path you’re on now
When you’re thinking about the questions mentioned above, it can be easy to be overwhelmed with the potential answers. We want to make sure we’ll be in the right place 5 years from now! However, this isn’t always helpful planning because we don’t ultimately control many of the variables. In fact, Scripture tells us to put away our 5-year plan and start much smaller. Proverbs 16:9 says “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” In other words, we’re looking way too far ahead! Have you ever worried about something in your future that never actually came to pass? It’s because we’re concerned about some distant place, meanwhile God just wants us to focus on our path. We can’t control our tomorrow, but we can do our best to live faithfully today. Instead of obsessing over the next 5 years, take a step back and focus on the path you’re on now. Are you currently doing things that will set you up for your desired future later? Forget the place you want to be, focus on the path you’re on now.
Pray more than you plan
I know when I’m thinking about the future I love to focus on what I want to do, when I want it done, and how I want it to happen. The only problem is that there are way too many “I’s” in that sentence! When I plan I like to make a list of things I want and then pray that God would help me accomplish my goals. But that’s so backwards! Rather than starting with our desires, we haveto begin with seeking out the heart of God for His desires. Because if God’s not involved in the preparation, why should we expect him to be involved in the execution? And as we acknowledged earlier, He’s the only one ultimately in control of the future anyways! Don’t plan like the future depends on you. Pray like the future depends on Him. (Col. 4:2, 1 Thes. 5:17)
Make the decision you’ll find the most pride in 10 years from now.
It’s easy to say “forget about the future and just be present”, but there are times in our lives when we actually have to make decisions. We have to choose a job. We have to choose if we’re going to ask that person out. These are all real things that will impact your future. Whenever you have a fork in the road decision and genuinely don’t know what to do, make the decision you’ll be most proud of 10 years from now. Don’t make the safest choice. Or the choice that most benefits you. Make the decision that when you look back you’ll see wisdom. There are two quotes on this topic that have been helpful for me: Andy Stanley says “What feels like a sacrifice now, will feel like an investment later on.” And Christian financial advisor Dave Ramsey says, “If you live like no one else now, you’ll be able to live like no one else later.” When you have to make a choice about the future, make one you’ll want to live with 10 years from now!
As scary as the future might seem, you don’t have to fear it if you are in Christ! Even if you make the wrong decision or if the worst outcome actually happens, you know that God will still be with you and for you. So even if the future is uncertain (which it is!) we can have full confidence that God will have our best interests in mind. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).