As a 23-year-old with big ambitions, I thought I had found my God-given purpose when I moved to South Africa for a job with a well-known missions organization. It seemed perfect. I was doing what I studied, I was living in a place I loved, and the purpose of the organization aligned with what I thought I wanted to do with my life. I was given the opportunity to literally live my dream.
What I didn’t plan on were the difficulties I experienced that ultimately led to my resignation.
Just a year after starting, I resigned from what I had originally thought was my “dream job.” Feeling like a failure was just the beginning of the emotional roller coaster following that decision. I felt as though I had failed as a missionary and was suddenly without purpose. I felt as though I had let down my co-workers, church, family and, worst of all, God.
Looking back, I realize that through that experience, I learned five key lessons when it comes to withstanding and even flourishing through life’s unexpected challenges:
1. Don’t Blame Yourself, God or Anyone Else.
Life is full of unexpected and difficult transitions.
During tough times, it always seems easiest to place the blame on someone or something outside of your control. However, that only leads to bitterness, resentment and helplessness. Instead, realize that there will be times in life when God places you somewhere for a season. He may be trying to teach you something or need you there for a specific reason, but ultimately you were never meant to stay.
Recognize the impact you did have and be thankful for the experience. Be content with moving on, and be comforted by the knowledge that there is a reason for the change far beyond your understanding.
2. Be Honest with New Employers and Others.
Never try to hide a big unexpected transition from your professional history. It will come up. It is better that you are upfront and honest about it, rather than avoid it. Most people will understand.
When explaining the situation, make sure you have a concise explanation prepared that clearly explains what happened. Then move on to your optimistic vision for the future and what you want to do next.
3. Keep Good Relationships With Your Previous Co-Workers.
Keep up as many of the relationships from your old job as possible.
It will ease the transition and make things less awkward. You may even find yourself helping with their recruitment for your replacement or making connections for them as your are searching. Also, regardless of your situation, no company or organization needs someone badmouthing them.
If the job wasn’t a good fit, it may be better to simply become a supporter and help promote their cause from the outside. You never know how mutual relationships may work out in the future.
4. Be Confident That God Has A Plan For You.
It can be unnerving when you don’t know what to do next, especially if the change is unexpected. If you’re anything like me, you like to have a sense of control. However, in these situations, this is likely not the case—but realizing you are not in control can be a healthy thing. Lean on God and remind yourself that He still has a plan for you.
This time can be what you make of it. I have been able to explore new ideas, learn about new topics, spend time in self-reflection and pursue new dreams. I have rediscovered passions I let slip into the background and have found a new sense of direction.
As it says in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Let this time be one of relying completely on God for direction and provision.
5. See This New Free Time As An Opportunity.
When unexpected things happen in life, try not to dwell on the negative. Instead, look at this time as one of opportunity to discover what God has in store for you.
Learn something new, start training for the marathon you never had time for before, go back to school, start that dream business. Just do something different! You never know the opportunity that may be waiting for you.
You never know what God has in store for you. As upsetting as these unexpected transitions can be, they can also be a blessing in disguise. As I have moved through each day purposefully and prayerfully, I have slowly but surely seen things come into clearer focus and I can now say that I am thankful for the transition.
As it says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Sometimes the only thing you can do is trust God, and that is just fine.