Knocking 22 years’ worth of dust off a resume stretches the definition of “creative writing” to its limit. After giving my time away for two decades, can I convince even myself that my skills are marketable? Am I still capable of holding my own in the workforce? The questions hang in the air like a challenge.

My job search did not happen at all the way I had planned it. Certainly, I had always expected to return to work someday, but only after the graduation party for son number four, the culmination of my career as a homeschooling mum. Naturally, I would observe a few weeks’ intermission to beautify my future Pinterest-perfect home. Then and only then would I break out the resume and step magically into the job of my dreams—or else … just crank out a runaway best-seller, the smoke rolling off my keyboard from the intensity of its truth-telling.

However, with reality comes the quaint truth that “making ends meet” may simply mean bringing them into the same zip code. With my teacher-husband home for the summer, why not let him manage the family mowing business—and the family? Why not see if I can land a summer job?

Why not?

Whenever the unexpected happens, I’m thrown against the framework of my theology. Will it hold? Does what I believe about the sovereignty of God accommodate a veering turn that was not anywhere on my roadmap? With anxiety over the unknown comes a greater need for and reliance upon a sinewy faith in God’s good intentions toward me in this following life.

In the past, I have found that the disruption of my plans has been a salutary thing—not a sign from heaven that I have disobeyed or ignored God’s direction, but rather, an assurance that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “serene providence” is at work behind the scenes. Listening to truth and remembering God’s record of past faithfulness, I begin to hear that God has said words of promise over me: I have other plans for you, plans which will open a way for you to learn to know Me—which is far better than what you had planned.

Naomi would agree, I think. Senior heroine from the book of Ruth, she encountered the unexpected when Bethlehem, “The House of Bread,” was stripped by famine and left without a crumb. The journey to Moab with Elimelech and their two young sons would have been a desperate act, and it was followed by a decade of every imaginable kind of loss as, one by one, her men—her protectors—died.

Even the comforting presence of devoted daughter-in-law Ruth could not dilute life’s acrid brew that transformed Naomi the Pleasant into Mara the Bitter (Ruth 1:20-21). Naomi’s jarring change of direction leaves me breathless. How does a woman ever absorb the loss of a husband and two sons? One thing she discovered (and I am slowly learning) is that God is the only One who is equipped to recognize a detour while it is happening. While He views time and the span of my days from celestial heights, it is only from the vantage point of the rearview mirror that we mortals are able to verify the truth that, all along, God had in mind our best interest and the furthering of His Kingdom.

With the sadness of mourning still roaring in her ears, Naomi could never have imagined that her slow trek back to Bethlehem would be a journey toward life and joy—and grandchildren! She could not have discerned that her time in Moab, temporary after all, would reap a bearer of strong genes for the making of the Messianic Line. Naomi’s return to Bethlehem with her load of bitterness was the occasion for God’s strategic placement of King David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, the gleaner of barley who gathered grace as well.

With this in mind, taming anxiety over the unknown rests in a willingness to apply truth about God in ways that are both deliberate and unaccountable apart from faith.

*** It goes without saying (nonetheless, I will say it) that clinical anxiety is a medical condition and if you suffer from this affliction, these thoughts about anxiety as worry rooted in unbelief do not necessarily apply to you.   ***

Ironically, for those who believingly follow Jesus Christ, anxiety goes beyond the vexing footfalls of a sleep thief, and stomps into the room as a perplexing theological ogre, for if I believe in the sovereignty of God, the burning question is:  Can God be counted on to protect me and guide me into an unknown future?

My anxiety becomes an occasion to look to God instead of turning from Him as worry is overcome by the expectation of peace from God. I will admit that I would prefer to get peace from circumstances that suit me:  a calendar with no surprise entries, a family that is not subject to the unexpected, and a firm grasp on the aerial view of my days.

Of course, that is not our condition, so in the interim, therefore, we wait; and we pray for grace to trust God’s motives.  For today, I am vulnerable to the murky fog of unknowing. This waiting is something I’ve never been good at, and yet, I can attest to the deep groove that is formed in the soul by waiting, and praying.

Paul Miller in The Praying Life advises:

“Instead of trying to suppress anxiety—to manage it or smother it with pleasure—we can turn our anxiety toward God. When we do that, we find that we have slipped into continuous praying.”

How delightful to think that if I can adjust the angle of all my concerns at each blind turn in the road, if I can move the trajectory away from worry and toward petition, I will “slip into” prayer.

What a mercy.

“Expect delays,” say all the road signs, and while, so far,  my detours have been only the palest adumbration of Naomi’s jarring ride, I am blessed by her words to Ruth:

“Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out.”

And note to Soul: While you’re waiting, let the memory of past deliverances teach you to hope against all hope in today’s uncertainty, knowing that with every unexpected bend in the road you are veering into the loving and wise sovereignty of God.

Michele Morin
Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who blogs at Living Our Days. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. She is active in educational ministries with her local church and her writing has appeared at SheLoves Magazine, The Mudroom, (in)courage, and elsewhere. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy, finds joy in sitting around a table surrounded by women with open Bibles, and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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    1. I wish I could say that I had truly “overcome” fear and anxiety for good. I have a feeling that’s something that waits for me when I see Jesus. Even so, anxiety needn’t have the last word, right?

  1. Hi Michele … There can be peace in those unexpected bends in the road. Yes. But that peace sometimes seems hard won, even though we know with confidence that God has proved Himself faithful over and over. And that the Spirit and His fruit has not left our hearts.

    1. Amen! God has such a great track record in meeting my needs and bringing me through the rough spots. I know that is your story as well. Even so, we need to stay in touch with that record of His faithfulness for every new challenge.
      Thanks, Linda, for your faithfulness in sharing your own story.

  2. ” I would prefer to get peace from circumstances that suit me.” Oh, that’s me exactly. My trust in God’s omniscience and wisdom bumps against my preferences for how it will all work out – as if I know better! It’s usually a process of working from my dismay to rest and trust, but hopefully someday the process will be quicker, Until then, I rest in what the psalmists did with their extenuating circumstances an whirling emotions – I remind myself of what I know about my God and how He has shown Himself in my life previously and turn my eyes away from my circumstances to His love and care.

    1. Hi, Barbara. I suppose our similar response to the unexpected is why that term “serene providence” caught my ear when I first heard it. Emerson was a theologically sketchy guy, and yet he acknowledged God’s actions behind the scenes following the assassination of Lincoln and post-Civil War USA chaos. Certainly my own circumstances don’t begin to compare with that, and, as you say, if I can tear my eyes away from my circumstances and gaze upon His beauty for a time every day, I’m in a much better position to deal with the things that trigger anxious feelings.

  3. Love the reminder, Michele, that it’s only in looking back can we see God was working things out all along. Remembering His past faithfulness helps me face the uncertainties of today.

    1. Yes! I have to be careful about my glances into the rear view mirror, but I’m learning to look for God’s goodness there, not to dwell in regret, but to operate out of a continual scavenger hunt, where all the clues point to God’s sovereign grace.

  4. I love this Michele. I’m battling so many unknowns right now, and I hardly understand any of it with my current “rear view” only perspective. Yet, to know that God, is perfectly placing pieces together to make a beautiful picture is quite comforting. Helps when times get hard. Good luck on that search! I’m ready for my teacher summer!!

    1. Lord, thank you for Brittany’s trustful glances toward You. Please continue your work in putting those pieces together for a beautiful future, and give her patience and grace in the waiting as she casts all her anxieties upon You.

  5. Yes!!! We look to our memories of what God has done in the past to help us find His peace in the present! Beautiful encouragment, friend! Blessings!

    1. So good to hear from you, Liz! It’s amazing that God is present with us, teaching us to look to Him for peace, even when all the circumstances point toward a different reaction.

  6. Michele .. your post reminds me of the saying “hind-sight is 20/20” but more importantly I have the chorus of a song running through my head .. “Look what the Lord has done!” I am so glad God is faithful and that when we look back, we get the confirmation of just how faithful even if we didn’t recognize it in the moment. Happy MOther’s Day to you

  7. Ah, yes, my friend! This area can be a sticky wicket without moving into the clinical diagnosis level. I think whenever I risk moving in the direction of trying something new, it rears its ugly head again despite what I know and where I am in my walk with the Lord. This came for me when I started my website and began writing there three years ago and it haunts me now while I try to complete my first book. Along the way, the negative comments made by a few have stuck like burrs on a pair of socks. I need to retake the territory and stand on the truth. Maybe that is why the Lord has not eliminated it all for me. He likes my practice and knows it is for my good!!

    1. Yes, a “sticky wicket,” and just when I think I’m making head way, I move into a new challenge and have to retake territory and remind my heart of all that my head knows, and yet I’m thankful that I move in this direction much more quickly than I used to– which I suppose means that I’m making progress on this road?
      Thanks, Pam, for sharing your progress, and every blessing to you as you unstick those remaining burrs in your socks.

  8. I’m in a anxious season in my life and I take your words of wisdom to heart, Michele. I will focus on the many ways God has worked in my life up to this point. I know He will continue to protect, guide and empower me. I’m praying He does the same for you in this next chapter of life!

    1. Thank you, Beth, and it is truly amazing how our mindset impacts on our anxiety level. I’m afraid that I suffer from spiritual amnesia and the memory of all my blessings just flies away whenever I come to a blind turn in the road. It’s been helpful for me to make a discipline out of looking for way to be more grateful.

    1. Thanks, Bev. I always appreciate your words of encouragement.
      And we could really ramp up the humor on this post by updating it to include a photo of my present role in the family mowing business, astride a beast of a lawnmower with a perplexing steering mechanism and the ability to travel much faster than I am able to think. Oh, the Lord does indeed have a sense of humor.

  9. This is a great post, Michele! I love the lessons you draw from Naomi’s story. It is always comforting to look at stories from the Bible and get some sense of how God’s plan can work together for good when we see the big picture. It’s a helpful reminder that he is often doing the same in our own circumstances and that even when we can’t see the way ahead he is working for our good.

    1. And after a certain point in life, it’s such a slippery slope into Mara the Bitter. Naomi had no idea where she fit into the Great Rescue Plan of God when she set her foot on the road back home. And, of course, we spend most of our time in the same sort of blind obedience, trusting that the hard journey is part of a bigger story.
      Thanks, Lesley, for putting the spotlight on Naomi’s part in this post.

  10. Wonderful post! Thank you for clarifying clinical anxiety. I wish you the very best. You are such a great example. Thank you for sharing with Grace & Truth Link-Up.

    1. Well, you’ve certainly nailed it, Anita. Our values are so confused and irrational at times. I’ve been studying the Beatitudes lately and we speak of Jesus’ Kingdom as being upside down, but I think you and I would agree that it’s right side up.

    1. Sometimes our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness, and I’m definitely in that category when it comes to planning, Victoria. If you want your even to run smoothly or your class taught from a solid outline, I’m your girl. The problem is that I want an outline for my life, too. I think that’s why the quote from Paul Miller is so meaningful to me. It gives me a visual and almost visceral directive for what I need to be doing with all those choking feelings of anxiety over the murky parts of my future. I’m so glad you found us here, Victoria. Trusting along with you for grace to surrender the need to know, at least for the time being, and to trust in a God who already knows what is best for us.

  11. The looking back to remember what God has done is such a powerful act to calm our worries of the unknown. I just heard (again) the phrase that says something like, “You won’t see ahead when you are looking in the rear-view mirror.” (I know that’s not 100% accurate, but close enough:-)) But I struggled with it for a bit as I thought how untrue that statement is. Although we can’t focus on the past and get stuck only looking that way, when we glance back to see what has been done, we go forward in the reassurance of what WILL be done!

    Thanks so much for your thoughts and faithfulness, Michele!

    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

    1. Yes, I have to be careful about those looks into the rear view mirror, because the past is already past, and I can’t (and shouldn’t try to) re-write it. But there’s a very good reason why God had Moses write down the history of Israel, because embedded in their story of disobedience is a thread of the unmistakable faithfulness of God. When I look back over my shoulder and view my past through that grid, I’m grateful instead of regretful.

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