Michelle Kelly: Navigating the Unknown
We grew up on a large cattle property in Central Queensland. I seem to never be able to remember how many acres the property was, even though Dad’s told me close to a hundred times. I just know it was big, really big.
As a young girl, I had the opportunity to go mustering with my Dad. On these days we would wake up early, grab our packed lunches that we’d made the night before, load the horses on an old red truck and head out for the day. We would drive up a dusty dirt road, for almost an hour or more, and arrive at these cattle yards that felt like they were in the middle of nowhere. My Dad always seemed to know exactly where we were going. I had no real sense of direction, and still don’t, but he knew the country like the back of his hand. We would unload the truck and head out on horseback to find the cattle and bring them into the yards for drafting.
"..to me, it made perfect sense to stick with the one who knew the way to go."
I loved being out in the wide-open spaces. There wasn’t a whole lot that you could see, usually just trees, grass and blue skies for miles. At times we would ride down steep gullies. Before starting, Dad would stand at the top and point out the best direction to take on the way down and what parts to try and avoid. I remember at times feeling so small beside the towering trees and river banks, and I recall always having to make sure my Dad was in clear eyesight. Why? Because he knew stuff. He knew which way to go, and which way not to go. So, to me, it made perfect sense to stick with the one who knew the way to go. I found a sense of security in knowing that Dad knew the way and always seemed to know what to do.
As I’ve grown in my own personal faith in God, I’ve learnt that I’m not just directionally challenged in a geographical sense, I’m also directionally challenged in my spiritual walk with God. There have been many seasons that I haven’t known which way to turn or clearly know the right step to take. On more than one occasion, I’ve been caught off guard and not expected the things that were coming around the corner.
So how do we navigate the unknown seasons we face? How do we navigate the seasons we didn’t expect to ever walk through? How do we navigate the seasons when things aren’t going according to the plan we had mapped out in our head. In seasons where things change suddenly or unexpectedly, or even the seasons where we simply don’t know what is next, what can we do?
1. Still yourself and know
"I’ve found that if I intentionally decide to get still before God and focus my thoughts and attention on who God is, instead of trying to figure things out in my own strength and limited understanding, peace and rest come."
Just take a minute, or if you’re anything like me probably more like thirty minutes, to get still before God. It sounds easy, right? Stilling ourselves in the midst of racing thoughts, overwhelming emotions and multiple questions certainly isn’t easy but it certainly is good for us.
Psalm 46:10, says, ‘Be still and know that I am God….
So when we find ourselves in seasons where we don’t have clarity about what’s next, don’t fill the void with unnecessary activity. Take a moment, or as many moments as you might need, to be still and just become aware of who He is. I’ve found that if I intentionally decide to get still before God and focus my thoughts and attention on who God is, instead of trying to figure things out in my own strength and limited understanding, peace and rest come. It’s in one of these moments that God spoke so clearly to me, when I was in the midst of a very unknown season, reminding me that ‘I could trust my unknown future to an all-knowing God.’
2. Knowing Jesus is the greatest goal.
My husband often says to me, “You ask a lot of questions”, and he’s right. It’s because I want to know the details! My favourite time of the year is when the end of one year is drawing to a close and we can start to plan the new year. It’s a time that I get to sit down with my diary and plan out the year, filling the pages with details. I love a good plan!
I’ve recognised that at times my desire to know the details and the plans ahead has been greater than my desire to actually know Christ. I’ve recognised that sometimes, possibly more often than I’d care to admit, I’ve found peace in the plans, instead of in Jesus.
Philippians 3:10 ‘I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings’.
Participating in his suffering is a part I’m not really excited about but the knowing Christ part is something that stirs my heart. One of the greatest things we can do when we are navigating unknown seasons is to let our desire to know Christ become greater than trying to figure out the details. Let the desire to know Him be what drives you into His presence.
3. Live out what you know
"It’s in these seasons, when life doesn’t look pretty, that we uncover the raw and real convictions that we hold."
Unknown seasons are a great opportunity to live out our convictions, or in other words, to practice what we preach.
A simple definition for the word conviction is: a firmly held belief or opinion.
If you find yourself trying to navigate through an unknown season, this is an opportunity for your convictions to shine. What are your firmly held beliefs and are you living them out? Unknown seasons can help bring clarity to what convictions you firmly hold.
I have a conviction that God is worthy of praise no matter what circumstances I face; it’s been through the times where I’ve been in uncharted waters when this belief has been challenged. Am I giving God praise because I feel like it today? Or am I giving God praise because I believe He is worthy of all my praise in every season! It’s in these seasons, when life doesn’t look pretty, that we uncover the raw and real convictions that we hold.
So the next time you find yourself in the middle of what feels like nowhere, like I often did on those mustering trips with Dad, a great thing to remember is if you stick with Jesus, He knows the way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ps Michelle Kelly is the campus pastor (along with her husband Mike) of iSEE CHURCH Townsville and a genuinely lovely lady! Her life pursuit is Jesus, His Word, and seeing His Church built. Mother to three boys and no stranger to challenges, she speaks with grace, wisdom, and faith, and enriches the lives of all she meets.