On July 19th, 2021, I did something gutsy. I prayed that God would show up.

It was a prayer of faith as much as a prayer of desperation. I was tired of being complacent and thirsting for more. My work, though it paid the bills, left me empty and frustrated. The talents and interests God had given me felt wasted, and despite several attempts to pivot my career, I wasn’t making any progress.

So, I prayed God would show up in ways that were so incredible they could only be attributed to him.

While thankful for my job and God’s provisions, I knew the dangers of complacency. When we’re too deep into our comfort zones, it’s easy for pride to sneak up on us. Pride convinces us to do things our own way instead of relying on God. But the times of my life where I’ve grown most in my faith were those where I was challenged and truly letting God lead. Now, I was ready and eager to follow.

Four days after my prayer, I spoke with one of my college professors about another career shift. I went into the conversation with a plan to a) pick out a master’s program to apply to and b) secure a recommendation for a foreign service fellowship. But, by the end of the video call, I had c) an offer to join the PhD program at my alma mater. 

The program would start in four weeks on campus. Locked into a lease at my apartment, I only had a week to make the decision, complete the formal application, and give—what was supposed to be a 60-day notification—to terminate my lease.

My head was spinning. Was this the incredible work of God that I’d been praying for?


The Courage to Act

Along with my original prayer, I’d prayed a second prayer on July 19th. God, please give me the courage and strength to overcome fear and follow where You lead me.

Staying at my current job and in my current apartment was the path of least resistance. It would be easy to stay in my comfort zone and keep doing what I was doing. Choosing the PhD program though—that’s where everything was messy.

Not only would I be entering a rigorous academic program, but I’d be doing it after 3-years out of school. On top of that, I’d have to find a new place to live, make arrangements with my job, and leave all my nearby family and friends to start school in three weeks.

The PhD program was the hard choice. But that’s also how I knew it was the right choice for me.

Ultimately, God had a purpose for the restlessness I had been feeling. He was showing me my desire to be challenged. I needed to be in an environment where I was pushed and where I was growing. Through the turmoil in my spirit, God helped me know the PhD program was the obvious (yet scary!) answer to my prayer.

Nine days later, I emailed my professor expressing my intent to apply for the open spot in the PhD program. The following morning, I notified my apartment complex I was terminating my lease. Over the next three weeks, I packed up my life, and a day before orientation, I was back at my alma mater.

The choice I made that day to join the PhD program is the same choice I have to make every day. A choice to trust, even in the midst of obvious difficulty and unknowns.


The Land of Promise

A semester later, things are still messy. Going back to school after three years of being in corporate America is a major culture shock. Social distancing and COVID precautions make interacting with classmates and professors stressful. Juggling a part-time job and a full course load leaves little room for breathing.

Several nights, I’ve crawled into my bed and wanted to quit. I’ve wanted to go home, back to my apartment, my job, my extra income, my friends. I’ve missed everything about my old life, not understanding why God wanted to bring me here.

Like me, the Israelites also longed for the familiar. They spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt, and then God did wonders and miracles to free the Israelites from the Egyptians. While God led them through the harsh desert conditions, the Israelites complained, saying they wanted to go back to Egypt since they had more choice foods (Numbers 11:1-20, 14:1-4).

But the root of the Israelites’ request was not hunger; it was fear. Even though the Egyptians were cruel to them, the Israelites desired the familiar—what they knew—instead of the unfamiliar wilderness.

God, in his mercy, still provided abundantly for the Israelites in the desert. He led them to the Promised Land, a prosperous land for them to dwell in (Numbers 11, 13). Yet, once the Israelites reached the Promised Land, most of their spies reported that the inhabitants were too strong and numerous for the Israelites to defeat. But two spies, Caleb and Joshua, encouraged the Israelites to go forward, for God would surely deliver their enemies into their hands (Numbers 13).

 Unfortunately, the Israelites chose to believe the first group of spies. Thus, that generation of Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and never stepped foot in the land God had promised them (Numbers 14:20-38). They chose fear instead of trust in God.


A Choice to Make

 Oftentimes, we’re faced with similar choices.

 For me, I can choose fear and run back to a job that was stagnant and a life that was complacent because it was familiar and comfortable. Or I can choose to trust that God led me to this program.

I can trust that even though I’m drowning in schoolwork, I must focus on faithfulness, knowing God will make a way for me to accomplish my work.

I can trust that even though there’s no community around me now, God will bring the right people into my life at the right time. And, I can look for opportunities to be community to others struggling with loneliness.

I can trust that even though I don’t understand why he brought me here, he is working it out for my good and the good of his kingdom. Maybe I didn’t even come to this program for me, but to introduce my classmates to Jesus? I don’t know.

Yet already, I’ve seen how God has been challenging me in this PhD program by revealing pockets of pride in my life. So many days I’ve been on my knees, asking God for help or wanting to quit. I’ve prayed and sought him in ways I never would’ve in my old job because here in the “Promised Land”—there is no other way to make it through.

I am choosing trust. I’m choosing to walk boldly into the land God’s promised me and trusting him to clear the way. Because if God has placed me here, then he is here, too.

And, he’s with you, regardless of what you’re facing. We all have daily opportunities to choose trust over fear.

If you feel stuck in your job, ask God to show you why you are there. What is he preparing you for and what does he want you to learn? If you’re moving outside of your comfort zone, pray for God to prepare you to follow him wherever he leads.

No matter where you are, trust him to give you the courage to obey. Don’t abandon the Promised Land.