This year is the first in my life in which I have no attachments from the previous year, nothing to continue doing from my past. I graduated from college this recent December without a job (like many college students these days, I have been told by several people), and I am feeling a deficit in multiple areas of my life. Yet one thing remains: God is with me. His Spirit continues to live in me. And in his grace he will continue to provide for me and help me grow more mature spiritually.
This is true. God says it in his book, the Bible. And I tell myself that I trust him, yet my actions show evidence to the contrary, particularly in my attitude toward advancing in life, making a difference, being influential. My attitude towards looking for employment can be summarized in my dominant thoughts of the past few weeks: I need a job, and I need it soon. My college debt is threatening to nullify my efforts to be financially independent. I need to move somewhere else so I can get a new start, and living on my own costs money. I need money in my bank account so I can afford to cover the costs of any emergency that may happen.
These thoughts don’t convey trust–they reveal panic.
For the past couple of weeks I have been panicking, especially when the new year came. I was frantically applying for any open employment position I could find, both in and out of my degree’s career field, afraid that I would be turned down without exception. I didn’t think I could be free from this fearful mindset until I found a job, my solution to my fears.
Then I went running and made pancakes this morning with my friend Kyle (that’s a pseudonym). He is in a similar situation as I am: recently graduated from college, unemployed and looking for a job. Yet when I asked him how often he searches and applies for jobs, he admitted with a shrug of his shoulders that he does it infrequently. If a company sounds like a place he would like to work, he told me, he will apply there; otherwise he doesn’t make an effort to apply anywhere.
This baffled me. How could he be content to not have a job? I certainly am not, and I graduated seven months after he did!
I continued to think about this after Kyle returned to his home. Is that an acceptable tactic to have in our circumstances? We both have college debt. Neither of us have many people our age we know in our area with whom we can spend time entertaining ourselves. Yet he is carefree in his attitude toward securing a job while I am fretting waking up each day with no way to garner a paycheck.
That is my struggle: am I living in the promise and reality of God’s kingdom as I am stressed and fearful about finding employment? No, I am not. Jesus showed and told his disciples multiple times to not worry about anything. And he meant that: not a single thing. He said so in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34); he showed it as he calmed the wind and the waves (Mark 4:35-41); even when he was before Pilate, with his execution mere hours away, he said nothing in response to the claims of the false witnesses (Mark 15:3-5). This shows a level of trust in God the Father that I am not remotely near. Yet, knowing this, I continue to fear that God is not taking care of me because I am not earning regular paychecks.
Kyle showed me that I don’t have to live in fear. And yet, the last I heard from him, he doesn’t believe that God exists, or at least that his existence affects daily life.
In this matter, is Kyle, a non-believer, someone who is not in the family of God (though I want him to be), showing a more kingdom-oriented way of living? I think he is. And as such I have much to learn from him about living daily in the kingdom of God.
This shows me two matters of truth. First, there is hope for all people to enter the kingdom of God, even those who might seem particularly far from it (which, sadly, describes Kyle). Indeed, in some ways they may already be reflecting kingdom-oriented ways of living. This is not the first time that someone in my presence whom I thought was outside of God’s family modeled trust in the Lord when I was failing to trust him. And each time I realize that these people are showing me how to trust God, I marvel at how amazing God is, at his ability to redirect me to focus on the Lord Jesus when I am focusing on other things and am consequently fearful.
God said do not worry. We are in his hands, and he will lead us to an influential, intentional, meaningful life. All we have to do is trust him. All we must do is trust the story that he is composing before us and all around us.
Each day I am finding out that kingdom living is not about impacting the world through self-made opportunities, even if they are motivated by a desire to make God known in the world. Kingdom living is about daily faithfulness. To live in God’s kingdom, we should be faithful each day with the responsibilities and circumstances we have been given. And we should focus on living one day at a time. This will prevent us from troubling ourselves unnecessarily with possible future misfortunes. Is that not what Jesus said all along? “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [for which you worry] will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:33-34).
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*This title is the tagline of a two-year curriculum put together by a dear friend of mine, Marty Solomon. He has a blog with the theme “Know the Text” that I hold in high regards. Anyone who wants to learn about the Bible through a view that connects tradition, academia and the Jewish culture should visit his blog: makingtalmidim.blogspot.com