Truth be told, the struggle is always real. We—at least I—generally take the path that leads to what we want. However, it usually doesn't work out the way we think it will. No matter how smart, logical, or well organized we are, things simply don't turn out the way we envision. The outcome is usually better for us, but we don't always see it that way. Every time I find myself looking in the mirror wondering where my plan fell apart, I refer myself to 2 books: Jonah and Job.
Not only did I just finish rereading Job (I'm working to get it posted, I promise!), but I've been in need of reminding myself about this exact lesson. This past December, when I was laying out my reading plan for the year, I found it fitting that around the time I would be finishing up my dissertation and defending, I would be in the books of Job and Psalms. God already knew I would need these passages at the time.
When this Spring semester rolled around, I started heavily pursuing job opportunities only to find that suddenly, it had become hard. Only a year ago, I impressed plenty of people, secured and nailed the interviews, but a monkey wrench in my dissertation saw me postpone graduation and lose these opportunities. My first interview opportunity of the Spring fell apart the moment our newly inducted president signed an executive order placing a hiring freeze on the government. After struggling, I secured a second interview, which has turned into a passive-aggressive disaster.
When this second opportunity appeared, I was thrilled. It ticked off all of the boxes on my list: in a good location, with a stable company, pays well, in my field/area of interest. I thought I had struck gold and things were finally coming together. However, I'm well aware of the lengths the devil will go through to lure us away from God. Remember, Jonah? God told him to go to Ninevah, but Jonah got on a boat going in the opposite direction! Cue tempest storm and getting swallowed by some sort of sea creature. I'm not trying to get to God's end game the hard way, like Jonah. When God says "go to Ninevah," I want to pack my bags and go to Ninevah. Since, I don't like cold weather and 90% of the jobs in my fields are in places like Oregon, Seattle, and Boston, it seems highly likely that my Ninevah will be an opportunity in a place I'm not gung ho about moving to. And since the devil's goal in life is to get us to do the opposite of what God wants, it seemed highly likely that temptation would come in the form of an opportunity right here in warm, sunny, South Florida. So, before I went in to the interview, I told myself to make sure I looked for God's plan.
The interview itself went fairly well. I thought, "maybe I'm in the place Job was at the beginning or the end of his story; maybe God is about to give me exactly what I asked for." Then suddenly, God pulled the veil from eyes and revealed the devil's scheme. The post-interview follow-up has been enlightening. The company has contacted me three times since the interview. None of these conversations were to collect more information or to inform me if I did or did not get the position. That wouldn't be so bad if the supervisor of the position didn't keep reminding me that the position was meant for someone with more experience, that the deck was stacked against me, and that if he "gave me the position" I'd need to prove myself because he could have hired someone with more experience... *Side eye*
While this experience opened my eyes to see that this wasn't the job opportunity God intended for me, and got me searching for my "Ninevah," It left something heavy on my heart. When I hung up the phone, I felt like Job. Doing the "right" thing, working hard, and putting in the extra effort seemed like a waste of time. Here I am, after years of putting in hard work, on the brink of a PhD, and the one company that had followed through with an interview, convinced me that I don't want the job before they even told me the outcome of the interview. This is the low that bugged Job; he had done everything right, yet things weren't going the way he wanted. Job makes note to his friends that the wicked people around him prosper while he writhes in agony. I think we can all relate to Job's observation. You have drug dealers, strippers, and mobster making tons of money—of course, we see the risks associated with these lifestyles and know that the stakes are high. Yet, you have celebrities, politicians, and crooked businessmen that we see as successful and don't see any harm come to despite ungodly practices or lack of experience...
Think about it, we elected a man who has no government experience, no military experience, and failed business experiences as president of the United States. Meanwhile, after 3 internships in computer science, a research position for the past 4 years, and a PhD, I "don't have any experience," "need too much training," and "would be better off trying to get an internship first." Despite the fact that I was raised not to compare myself to people—after all, you never know what's going on behind the scenes in someone's life—it's a sobering reality that really does make you relate to Job. You're going to wonder if you did something wrong and why God let others succeed. We have to remember all that glitters isn't gold. God has a wonderful plan for us, but it doesn't always match our plan. It's precisely then that we need to cling to the lessons in Jonah and Job.
I woke up this morning with lyrics from a song off Chris Brown's 2005 album (I'm not even a Chris Brown fan, and it wasn't a single off his album, what are the odds of those lyrics popping into my head?) The lyrics that I woke up singing are shown to the right. That's God pushing through my subconscious. That's Him saying, "I have something better for you."
Job felt like God had abandoned him. He kept wanting to "plead his case" before God. However, God never left. God always knew Job's case. God spoke of Job to the devil like a proud parent. "Have thou considered my servant Job?" (Job 1:8) As things became progressively worse, Job became self-righteous. He was so focused on the fact that he had done nothing wrong that he missed God's voice, as Elihu explains.
I think, God will give you someone
Much better than me, trust me
Your eyes will be okay, it will be alright
You'll be just fine, just fine, just fine 🎵 Chris Brown - “Just Fine”
No one is perfect; I'm blessed to have come even this far. I don't deserve even half the blessings God has given me, so who am I to say what should happen next? As we go through these experiences, we have to humble ourselves before God and wait for His instruction.
As it would happen, before I could finish this post, or get ready to go to work, I received a phone call to set up the next steps for another exciting opportunity. I know that God has not abandoned me; He is just preparing me for the right opportunity. The more I feel I need to reach out and take matters into my own hand, the more likely I need to be praying and listening. If you open your heart, God will open your eyes and ears. That still small voice will come to you, and you will know which path leads to Ninevah versus the eye of the storm.