God's Ever-Present Guidance

What happens when you don't get what you want? God has an even better plan for you!

By Sally Johnston, VA

Categories: Guidance, Safety

I was supposed to go back to Africa this summer with CCS (Cross Cultural Solutions) to help where they needed me, most likely with the group of women with AIDS or with children in a school or orphanage. But It didn't work out as expected. I never got to Africa.

My transportation was a combination of using stand-by passes and regular tickets, but the first flight was too full, so I didn't make it. The second flight didn't look good either, so I bought a ticket for the first flight so I wouldn't miss the next flight. Then a picture popped into my head. It was of Moses with all the children of Israel standing behind him and a large mass of water in front of him. He didn't tell the crowd that they'd build a bridge or tunnel. I'm always trying to out-think a problem or think outside the box. Moses didn't do either. He just turned to God and listened to what God was telling him.

The image came and left. God was trying to tell me something, but I didn't like what He was telling me, so I didn't want to listen. While I was on the plane, I kept praying for peace, but peace didn't come. The only thought that kept coming to me was, "Sally, you do not have to go to Africa to give." But I ignored the thought. When we landed, I went to the airline agent and realized that I would not be able to make the next flight. God was yelling at me that this was not the time to go to Africa.

I cried all the way home. I couldn't understand why God didn't want me back there when my only motive was to help, and my past experience had been so wonderful -- a time of deep spiritual growth. A couple days later, I was out in the woods still praying about the whole situation. One thought that came to me was that I can't limit a good experience or a good feeling to one place. I can't think that I can give in Africa more than I can give anywhere else. I should be able to give of myself through God anywhere and all the time.

I continued studying the Bible for inspiration. What struck me was a beautiful passage: "The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD" (Prov 16:1 KJV). I thought: Okay, before I am ready to go back again, I need to take the feeling that I felt over there and learn how to do that every day here. Once I've done that, then I'll be ready to go back. Otherwise, I'm not learning and growing. I'm just repeating the same experience.

If we're only inspired by an experience for one day and do nothing more, then we haven't really learned or grown from that experience. We have to practice what we've learned every day. And that's what I realized. My first trip to Africa has been my inspiration. Now I need to apply it wherever I am to whomever is in front of me. That was my "aha" moment, which came as a result of not being able to return to Africa that day I missed the flights. It's not a human justification for why I missed my flights; rather, it is a spiritual understanding.

After my "aha"moment, I learned that there were violent national strikes in Johannesburg, and that people flying standby, which I was doing, could have easily been stuck in Johannesburg for four or five days at that time. I was grateful that I had been kept from taking a flight, which could have resulted in being in an unsafe position. But the best effect of this is that my husband, who has really wanted to go with me to Africa and could not go this year, will be able to go with me next year. We will be able to share the experience. For this blessing and for all that I'm learning, I am grateful.