Proverbs 16:9 states: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth His steps.” I have been telling my friends that this past year was nothing like what I had planned, but was exactly what God wanted. I have now moved from Michigan to South Carolina and want to declare God’s marvelous work to His glory.
I had been pastoring a small church for twenty years and had no thought of retiring or leaving when a number of difficult events and situations arose making clear to my wife and I that our time to leave had come. Because I was also teaching at a nearby Christian School connected with a different church, I had to make arrangements with the school as well as the church. I made arrangements to teach one more semester which ended in December because the principle knew of a young man who would graduate then and could replace me. At the same time, I worked out a general plan with my church as to leave by the following March. That is when things began to get really interesting.
First, the young man with whom the school was hoping to replace me decided that the Lord was not leading him in that direction, and the situation in my church became more complicated producing a lot of soul-searching and praying seeking God’s leading especially since I have trouble trusting my own decisions. My wife summarized our thoughts well saying that she wished God would just write out instructions on a piece of paper. Well, God took that prayer quite literally as the church then gave me a paper with arrangements and timing for my leaving. The arrangements were generous, but unexpected and different in timing from what I had planned. Around the same time, a former student of mine who had graduated from a good Christian college and was in a ministry unexpectantly left that ministry and returned to the area. He was qualified, ready, and willing to teach. God had me teach one extra semester based on an assumption that turned out to be wrong because God knew the right man would be coming by the end of that semester and not before.
By then, we were planning on leaving my church after my mother-in-law’s ninety-fifth birthday in early February. We were looking on-line for a place to rent in South Carolina and soon found that affordable housing for us had an average waiting list of one year. We could stay with a sister and her family, but would need to arrange storage for our possessions and be a bother to my sister for that amount of time. Then my brother who lives in South Carolina discovered that a friend from his church was renting out a trailer. We made arrangements with the owner of the trailer who graciously allowed us to pay rent while we were still in Michigan so that we would keep the trailer until we could actually arrive.
My mother-in-law then had a major heart-attack just before Christmas and was sent home on hospice in need of special care. Since we were already told that we would leave the parsonage at the beginning of January, we moved to my mother-in-law’s house. If we had not, then Mom would likely have had to go to a care facility of some kind. My wife is not strong enough to have physically cared for her without my help and so could not have lived with her Mom to care for her while I remained in the parsonage. However, this situation left us in a position of having no income while paying rent and electricity. But God again provided. My other sister and her family were renting Air BnB in the area to which we were moving. They found renting our trailer better than what they had been doing and so we made arrangements with our landlord for them to live in the trailer and pay rent while we remained in Michigan caring for my mother-in-law.
In the meantime, my wife and I, along with my sister-in-law and a very good hospice team cared for my mother-in-law at home until she died holding the hand of my wife in early April. I had the service. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law’s work situation changed enabling him and my sister to rent a home close to his work. They could leave the trailer for the rental home just as we were finally ready to move to South Carolina.
This set of amazing “coincidences” does not even tell the whole story. There were many other smaller ones and the amazing strength and wisdom beyond what we would naturally possess given to us during this whole time. Although these events are open to a number of interpretations, yet there is no doubt in my mind but that God was acting in my life and directing even as Proverbs 16:9 declares. The assumption of God’s existence and care makes better sense of all that happened in this past year than any interpretation that leaves out God. This activity is a way God reveals Himself to me assuring me that He exists and is keeping me even as He has promised to do.