Prayer and Hard Work

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for evil! Plans to give you a future full of hope.” –Jeremiah 29:11

Being from a small city, I grew up believing I would one day move away and live somewhere exciting and amazing. My friends and I all had big plans for college and our future. We spent a lot of time looking at schools and applications and trying to decide what we wanted to do with our life. When my senior year of high school came, I had narrowed down my choice to two possible universities: UT Austin and UTPB. I sent off my application to those two schools knowing that I was going to go to UT because it would take me away from home and to a new life. After all, I had only applied to UTPB as a requirement for a program I was in. However, by the time I received my acceptance letter in the mail from UT, I knew my plans had changed, and I would be staying home.

Most people did not question my choice because they saw it as the more practical one, but a few people thought I was crazy to give up the chance to leave home. They questioned my decision and thought I would waste away in this town, never accomplish my goals, and never truly experience life. At the time, I told everyone I was staying because it was what I wanted…but really, it was what God wanted. I had prayed about my choice, and I truly believed God wanted me to stay home, and He would let me leave when the time was right.

It has been six years since I made the choice to stay, and I would be lying if I said there hadn’t been times when I wished I had left when I had the chance or times when I wondered what my life would have been like if I had left, but even then, I don’t regret staying. God continues to keep me here and, as long as I keep letting God take charge of my life, I will be happy. He has given me so many experiences I would not have been able to have if I had lived anywhere else. I’ve travelled to different countries, been a missionary and helped lead teens closer to Christ, finished my Master’s degree, made friends, and learned about love and life.

I stayed home not really knowing if I would ever leave or be able to get a job here, and I have allowed God to take me to different countries and states without knowing anyone there. Both of these risks not many people would take. I have also spent my time and money applying to 16 different universities over the past five years just to be rejected and end up exactly where I am now. At this point, I feel most people would just stop trying and put their energy into something that would bring more immediate results. I have even thought of doing that myself because it is not easy to deal with so much rejection, especially not when every dream you have depends on the decisions of others. You can’t be one of the 5 out of 500 to get into a psychology PhD program without someone else’s acceptance; you can’t start a family by yourself, and you can’t do either without money.

It is easy to compare your life to another’s life. We see others succeed in areas we would like to succeed in, and we see others make things that are so difficult for us seem so easy. I constantly have to remind myself that my life is good and God knows what He’s doing just so that I won’t become so preoccupied with what I want but do not have. It’s not easy wanting something that seems so out of reach…it’s not easy to see the finish line but not be able to cross it.

With the odds of getting into grad school being so low, it would be so simple to just stop trying now and settle for what I already know I have…but if I do that, I would not be honoring God’s promise to me (Jer 29:11). I have trusted God to get me this far, and even through the disappointments, He’s never failed me.

I always tell others that fear is not of God, but once again, I have forgotten to take my own words to heart. I keep letting the fear and the hurt of not getting accepted keep me from trying again. I keep putting myself in situations that make it harder for me to leave, and I keep focusing too much on what I want right now. I keep waiting for things to change, but if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that some of the only things that get you anywhere good in life are prayer and hard work.  

I see so many people give up on or lose track of their dreams, and it makes me sad because I cannot imagine a world where I would do the same. It won’t be easy, and I know it is not in my power to decide the timing of everything; but if I just keep working hard and never give up on God’s promise, I will eventually accomplish everything at the right time for me.

I don’t pray for patience, I pray for strength.

Originally Written and Posted: January 4, 2012