Closed sign and the words: "Not Forgotten - God Has a Purpose"

Have you ever had a part of your life that seemed to sit unused and useless for a long time? Have you wondered if God has a purpose for it?

At a busy shopping centre I often drive by, there is a restaurant. For many years it was a pizza place. People came and went, enjoying the food and atmosphere. I ate there a couple of times. 

Then one day a sign appeared on the door. The lights went off, and eventually, they took their logo down. They were closed.

For quite some time, the building sat empty, even as other stores and restaurants around them stayed busy.

Then someone bought the place. Construction vehicles started showing up. From the outside, we couldn’t see much change, but inside things were being improved.

They put up a new sign, then announced their opening.

For a while, people came, but soon the parking lot looked empty again. One day a sign appeared on the door saying it was closed.Car parked in empty parking lot

Again it sat month after month with a closed sign. The lights were off and the parking lot abandoned.

Several years went by as the building sat empty. Countless people drove past it daily on the busy main roads, but no one stopped to go in.

True, the building was in the far corner of the shopping centre but it was very visible from the main roads. Why did it sit empty for so long?

Fast forward to March this year. With the coming of COVID-19, many businesses were temporarily closed. Shopping malls sat abandoned and restaurants empty.

One place, however, began to see action.

The parking lot of that long-abandoned building began filling.

First, some work crews showed up, then tents were erected outside.

Every time I saw it, I wondered who was moving in. Were they simply using the parking lot? Had another restaurant bought the place? I watched for clues.

Before long, I saw line-ups of vehicles outside. This particular building was surrounded on all four sides by a parking lot. The line-up of cars began at the tents and wound all the way around the building. What were they doing?

Then I found out. My city had set up several COVID-19 testing drive-through sites. This was one of them.

The long-abandoned building now had a purpose. Its parking lot was beautifully suited for the task.

Now, instead of sitting forgotten and unwanted, this building was helping save lives. 

I believe God sometimes works this way in our lives.

Sometimes He gives us skills and abilities or previous experiences that seem to sit idle and unused for a season. We wonder why they exist. Could it be that God has a purpose for them?

Perhaps one day God will point to that part of my life or your life and say “Now is the time. I want to use you this way.”

The Bible gives some examples along these lines. Examples of situations when something seemed random or worthless, only to later become evidence that God has a purpose in everything He does.

It was some time after Esther was made queen that the king passed the law against the Jews. Only then did Mordecai say to her “Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14b CSB)

Similarly, when David finally became king after fleeing from King Saul for years, I’m sure he found his experience from serving as Saul’s armour bearer useful. (1 Samuel 16:21)

Do you sometimes wonder what purpose God has for you?

Thankfully, we can trust that He knows what He is doing. God has a purpose. We don’t need to worry if there are talents or experiences in our lives that seem forgotten and unused right now. Just like the building, at the right time, God will use them as He sees fit.

As He said to Peter “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  (John 13:7 NIV)

Road disappearing into dark night

Not long ago, I was driving through the Canadian prairies where the world seemed to stretch out forever, with only the occasional farmhouse to break the endless fields.

It was night, and the highway had no street lights to guide me. Beyond what my headlights illuminated, I had no idea where the road led as it wound through the darkness.

The road had many long straight stretches, then suddenly it would turn.

I glanced in my rearview mirror – pure blackness. There was no one in sight behind me.

Not too far in front, the taillights of a truck guided me onward. I appreciated his presence.

His lights showed me when the road ahead turned to the right or left. His continued progress reassured me that there was good paved road for me to drive on. The journey felt less lonely knowing that someone else was driving the same route.

Gradually, however, the truck increased the distance between us. Being on the flat open prairies, I could still see his lights, but he was a long way in front of me now.

From time to time, as I watched his lights so far ahead of me, I was surprised to see him turn sharply in the darkness. In such vast prairie, shouldn’t the road continue straight? But, no. When I finally reached the place where he’d turned, I found that the road did indeed turn.

I was sad when the truck finally outdistanced me so far that I could no longer see his lights. I felt more alone and the road was far more unknown.Left turn road sign

As I continued along, I quickly became grateful for the road signs warning of upcoming turns. Without those bright signs reflecting the beam of my headlights, driving at such speed would have been dangerous. I don’t know if I would’ve spotted the turns soon enough to steer safely around them. They would have come so unexpectedly that I would have continued straight off the road and into the nearest field.

Eventually, as I drove along, I glanced in the rearview mirror again. This time I spotted headlights! No longer was I the only one driving that way. Now it was my turn to be the one venturing into the empty darkness to show the vehicle behind me where the road led. 

What can I learn from these observations, I wondered. Is there a life lesson for me here?

Yes, I believe there is.

More often than not, as I go about my life, I do not know where or when the road is going to turn. I can see no further ahead than the few meters my headlights show me.

Thankfully, in such times, God provides guidance. He has said, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8 NKJV)

One of the ways He guides, is by planting road signs along the way. Those road signs reflect especially brightly when I have my headlights on, or rather, when I am being intentional to stay in the Bible and prayer. 

Sometimes those signs are black and white in clarity, screaming, “turn now or you’ll end up a wreck!”

At other times, those signs are harder to understand. “What is the best way to love God in this situation?”

Thankfully, there are many times when God brings someone into my life who has gone ahead. Someone who is further along on the path I am currently driving and whose example, or taillights, helps me know when and where to turn. 

Paul understood that God brings people into my life to help guide me. He said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV)

Having said that, I must be careful who’s example I follow. It is possible that someone may ignore the signs and veer off the road, continuing straight through the fields. Or perhaps they might turn left when I need to take a right to get to my desired destination.

Ultimately, it is Jesus’ example I must be led by. As Hebrews says, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Heb. 12:1b-2a NIV) 

Through all life’s twists and turns, He guides me. He will never leave me.

Praise the Lord that He has gone before me, and that He sends people and warning signs to help guide me along the way!

Disgruntled boy - Not wanting to trust the Lord - S. J. Little

 

Have you ever seen a child having a temper tantrum? As a preschool teacher, I’ve seen countless. Thankfully, the children in my class typically learn quickly that a tantrum won’t get them what they want. Have I learned that having a tantrum against God doesn’t help?

Child crying. Tantrum or meltdown

Did you know? While they may look the same, there’s a difference between tantrums and meltdowns? A meltdown is when a child is overwhelmed or over-exhausted to the point of breaking down in tears and frustration. A tantrum, on the other hand, is a controllable action. It is a decision (though potentially subconscious) to behave a certain way in hopes of getting something. 

Not too long ago, little Tommy, a 2 year old, had a tantrum. 

He had just arrived in class, and wanted something he wasn’t allowed to have. Upon being informed that he couldn’t have it, he started crying and declared even louder that he wanted it. Pretty soon he was lying on the floor screaming.

I tried to talk him out of it (without giving him the forbidden object), but he wouldn’t quiet. I tried distracting him with exciting toys, but he cried harder.

Therefore, I moved to another part of the room, though still watching him out of the corner of my eye. I gave him space to scream it out while I went about my morning with the other children.

Finally, after a considerable length of his crying on the floor, I noticed his tantrum beginning to lessen. As his crying decreased, I came alongside him. I gave him a toy and reminded him that we’d soon be cleaning up for our next activity.

It took him a few more minutes with a teacher by his side, but soon he got to his feet and joined the other children with the toys.

He yawned a few times and, indeed, appeared rather sleepy. That tantrum had taken a lot of energy. He was mellow, though happy now and engaged with the activities.

His tantrum left him tired and didn’t get him the thing he wanted.

Not long after that day, I happened to be reading Proverbs chapter three in my morning devotional time.

Prov. 3:5-6 is a beautiful passage that I’ve been encouraged and challenged by many times in the past. In fact, in my post “My Cat is Bad at Following” I use these verses. In case you need a refresher, Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV says:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

I continued reading. At verse 8, the image of Tommy on the floor crying, then being so tired after, came to mind.

Prov. 3:8 NIV says:

“This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

Because of a health issue I deal with, anything saying it will give health catches my attention. I want to know more.

What is the “this” that will increase my health? I had to look back to find it.

At verse five, which I quoted above, a new paragraph starts. Verses five and six talk about trusting God rather than my own understanding. Verse seven is straightforward. It says, “Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”

Trusting the Lord and not being wise in my own eyes sounds like the opposite of a tantrum. Tommy wasn’t trusting that I knew best. He wanted what he thought was best and wouldn’t listen to my reasoning.Girl feeling unhappy - Not wanting to trust the Lord - S. J. Little

Sometimes I’m like Tommy.

Sometimes God says no, but I still want that thing. Sometimes God says move, but I want to stay. Sometimes God says wait, but I want it now.

In the past few years, I’ve gone through seasons of having a form of tantrum against God. Times when I am frustrated because He hasn’t taken away my health issues. Times when I remind God of all the serving opportunities I’d be thrilled to be involved in, but have had to turn down because my health isn’t good enough. Wouldn’t it be better if God took away my health issues so I could serve more?

Yet whenever I get into that mindset, I am not trusting God. It steals my contentment. I find myself frustrated and joy-less.

After seeing how clearly Tommy was exhausted after his tantrum, and after reading Prov. 3:8, I realize that these seasons of tantrum in my life only burn me out, rather than convincing God to change His mind.

While it doesn’t take away my health issues, being content to trust the Lord’s understanding rather than my own does make a noticeable improvement for my physical health, and even more so for the health of my soul.

Oh, that I would learn to always trust the Lord rather than tantrum against Him.

*Note: details of this allegory have been altered to preserve confidentiality
River with ice melting along the banks. God is working to melt the ice in me. S. J. Little

Autumn, my favourite season of the year. The leaves turn colours, the air is crisp, and the first snow coats the ground.

I was recently blessed to be able to spend a few days in the Rocky Mountain foothills. I enjoyed the opportunity for quiet morning walks and time to reflect and press deeper into my relationship with Jesus.

Although it had snowed a couple of days before I arrived, the temperatures during my stay reached above freezing.

As I strolled through the forest on my second morning, I followed my footsteps from the previous day to a rocky beach along a nearby river where I’d sat the day before.

I looked up at a sound, not quite sure what it was. River with melting iceAfter watching and listening for a time, I concluded that the sound came from the ice on the river as it melted. Indeed, the ice lining the edges of the river was far smaller on this second day than it had been the day before. No longer was the ice threatening to span across the river.

As I ran my gaze over the melting ice, my mind wandered back to the things I’d been pondering and praying about at this beach the morning before. They were painful thoughts rather than pleasant. Thoughts of some challenges I’ve been facing in my life recently. Thoughts which, at times, inspire tears.

Looking at the river, I recalled a common allegory. It pictures me, a Christian, as a channel through which God’s love can flow. The love doesn’t come from me. Rather, God is working through me.

Sometimes, however, things in my life hinder the flow of God’s work through me. In the same way, the ice on this river hampered its flow. Indeed, the ice had constricted the river to a mere half of its typical width. Yet now, as the ice continued to melt, the river flowed more freely and fully.Cracked ice on a river - S. J. Little

Using this allegory, God reminded me of a different perspective on the challenges I’ve been facing. God is using them for good. 

In my life, I have areas, just like the ice, constraining the flow of God’s work through me. In order to melt that ice inside of me, God is allowing these challenges. They hurt and throb, perhaps like fingers thawing after a snowball fight. Yet, somehow, the end result will be good, as I lean into God during this time of challenge.

These challenges are melting those troublesome areas of ice within me, that I may more fully be available for God to work through me.

Is this an easy thing to remember? No, but what a burden it lifts when I do remember.

Indeed, I write this post as a reminder to myself to keep my eyes on the end result, rather than the current challenges which threaten to overwhelm me.

Romans 6:3-5 is a good reminder for me along these lines.

“We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts…” Rom. 6:3b-5a CSB

In reflecting on these things, I have found A. W. Tozer’s words to be true.

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.” – A. W. Tozer

Oh, that I would remember that God is working in me when challenges come.

Am I following God, rather than trying to lead Him? My cat isn't good at following me! - S. J. Little

How well am I following Jesus?

Meet My Cat  

I have a cat named Midnight. He is quite the character and has become very social.

My cat looking to the left. - S. J. LittleWhen he was younger, we had his brother as well. Midnight would always let his brother do the talking. I remember watching my siblings try to coax even the tiniest mew out of him with little success. In the years since his brother passed away, however, Midnight has found his voice. Now he often shares his opinions loudly, though at times he merely squeaks.

It’s funny how cats have their own personalities. If you’re a cat lover, you may understand. Midnight’s favourite human food to beg for is the milk left after cereal. His brother, however, was far more interested in ice cream. When Midnight begs for a bowl, he’ll sit a distance away with his back towards the person. As they reach halfway through their meal, he might move a little closer and peek at the person. Only once the spoon is scraping the bottom of the bowl, will he sit at the person’s feet peering up at them. His brother was the opposite. He would boldly sit by the person, staring at them as they ate. With his old age, Midnight is beginning to pick up some of his brother’s boldness.

My cat rings a bell when he wants more canned food. That way it doesn't dry out when he isn't hungry - S. J. Little
Midnight ringing the bell for food.


Midnight is also a very smart cat. He’s learned to open doors. At one point, we had to devise a lock for the cat food closet so he and his brother wouldn’t break in. We’ve trained him to ring a bell when he wants canned food, and I’ve taught him to find some place other than my keyboard to lay down when he wants to cuddle but I’m busy on my computer. Yes, he is a smart cat… most of the time.

He’s Not Good at Following

The one thing he has never seemed to learn is how to follow well.

It has happened often that, when I head down the hallway, he gets excited and wants to come along. I start down the hallway at a decent clip, and he hurries just ahead of me, as though trying to lead me. As I turn to enter a room, I trip over him, because there he is, right where I was planning to step.

It gets worse. Sometimes he will zig zag directly in front of my feet! Not only that, but, looking from above, his coat appears entirely black – not a helpful thing in a dark hallway at night.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve accidentally kicked him because he dodged directly into my path. That’s not including the times I’ve managed to avoid him by stumbling and almost falling myself.

What a silly cat. He’s so eager to go with me, and even lead me, but doesn’t know where I’m going. How can he lead when he doesn’t know the direction? He could have saved himself many a bump if only he’d learned to follow.

Following God

Following – that’s what God calls us to do. We are to follow Him.

As you read through the Gospels you’ll quickly see that Jesus often called people to follow Him. Most times there is no record of Jesus telling them where He would lead them, or what their life would look like, but the call to follow is there.

How to Not Follow God Well – Like My Cat

Did you know there are examples of people in the Bible who tried to get ahead of God when it felt as though He was taking too long? 

Abraham and his son Ishmael are a blatant example of this. God had promised that Abraham would have countless descendants, but many years passed without Abraham having a single child. Abraham and his wife Sarah were old. They decided that rather than waiting for God any longer, they would help Him out by taking matters into their own hands. Abraham took Sarah’s maid as his wife and had Ishmael by her. That was not following God’s plan, and later their actions led to trouble in their family. You can read the story for yourself in Genesis, especially chapters 16-17, 21. My black and white cat sitting on an orange chair. How well are you doing at following God? - S. J. Little

Another way to not follow God is to run in the opposite direction as Jonah did. That never turns out well in the end! (Jonah 1)

Am I trying to get out ahead of God, or running in the opposite direction, instead of following Him?

Thoughts About Following God

So much could be said about following God, but this is just one blog post. There’s no way I can fit it all in! I’ll try to stay brief. 

Throughout the entire Bible, we see God leading people. Sometimes His leading made sense to those following, but there are also many times when it made no sense at all! Take Jericho for example, or Naaman. (Joshua 6; 2 Kings 5)

Sometimes following God means waiting, such as in Acts 1:4, when they waited for Pentecost. However, waiting doesn’t mean sitting idly. In Acts 1:14-26, they spent the time praying and they chose a man to replace Judas. They were doing what needed to be done, while seeking and waiting for God. I’ve long loved Psalm 37:34: “Wait for the Lord and keep His way…” Yes, we must wait for God, and that time of waiting often includes going about our daily lives in a way that is honouring to God.

Are You Following God?

My cat trying to help me study the Bible. - S. J. Little
Midnight trying to help me study the Bible.

I wish I had some concrete formula for discerning whether or not I am following God well. If I had such a formula I would gladly share it with you, but I don’t.

Following God can look very different in different people’s lives. Even in one person’s life, following God may appear very different in each season.

What I can say is keep seeking after Jesus. Read the Bible often, spend time in prayer, and be in fellowship with others who know Jesus deeply. Then He will guide you, and if you’re not following Him, He will reveal that to you and help you change course. Sometimes His leading will be loud and unmissable, but other times it may be a quiet door opening that, after prayer and consideration, seems good to step through.

Final Thought

Let me leave you with a likely familiar verse from the Bible.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

in all your ways know Him,

and He will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Are you following God today?