I can’t remember the last time I was really sick. The best I can recall it’s been fifteen or twenty years since I’ve had to miss work because of illness and I’ll admit I’ve been a bit boastful concerning my perfect health record. As they say, pride comes before the fall, and for a week now I’ve been incapacitated by bronchial and sinus infections. I’m been rendered helpless and useless not even having the energy to walk to the barn to feed the animals. Nancy reminded me that last Sunday was the first one I’ve missed in nearly thirty years of preaching due to illness. (I did miss one Sunday a few years ago when I hit black ice and slid off the road into a thirty foot deep ravine in my pickup, but that wasn’t an issue of sickness, just carelessness.)
It’s been an inconvenient time to be taken out of commission. It was my intent to be in Haiti with our first relief team this last week; instead I have begrudgingly sat day after day in my chair gazing out the front windows, giving Nancy constant updates on my sorrowful condition.
As the week slowly passed by I noticed a small bunch of mule deer hanging out in our west pasture every afternoon. There was something natural and peaceful about the way they silently showed up and then, just as mysteriously as they came, they quietly drifted over the distant ridge into the fading western sun. One of those afternoons every single deer laid down as if in intentional synchronization. It fascinated me and made me wonder, not only about the life and habits of deer, but about my life as well. I thought about destiny.
One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is in Ephesians 2:8 where Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”. I love the entire passage, especially the part about God’s grace, but the part I was thinking about that afternoon was where Paul said we are created for good works which God prepared in advance for us to do so that we might “walk in them”. That was a powerful thought that made me believe that being stuck in a chair for a couple of days to contemplate them was worth the discomfort and inconvenience . When I saw those deer so peacefully laying in my field I wondered if God wasn’t trying to speak to me about taking a rest and regrouping before continuing on my journey with Him.
Haiti needs help right now and going there with your sleeves rolled up isn’t a bad thing – it is in fact a very “good work”. As a leader that hopes to send hundreds of willing volunteers there with a strategic work plan over the course of the next couple of years, I wanted to lead the way. I wanted to experience the devastation and analyze the needs firsthand so I could communicate our strategy from personal experience. I have always tried to do that in the past, but this time I had the impression that my desire was more my own than God’s, at least for now. As I thought about it I realized our first team of medical workers was being led by Tim McFarlane, the best person I know for the job – they really didn’t need me. I also started to recount all the new things God was putting on my plate in the coming months. It took a couple of days of isolation and immobilization before I recognized that God was speaking to me about a season of walking out a new work He had preplanned for me to do.
A life with God is a great mystery. It’s often difficult to understand, but one thing I’ve learned through the years is that if you don’t voluntarily stop and take the time to listen, God may well sit you down in a chair Himself. This is another matter of His amazing grace. He desires that every one of us would stop and listen so that we might hear His voice and walk out His preplanned destiny for our lives. There is a lot of good work to do – especially in the times we now live. It is important that we walk in the right work, the work He has called each of us to do. This is where we find meaning for our lives, where we can be the most effective. I would never have chosen to be sick but it caused me to be still, and once again reflect on this matter of destiny – the preplanned purpose God has for each of our lives.