For months my husband and I had been praying and pleading that God would show us the next step for our lives. He was serving as a student minister, but had felt the call to pastor for the last couple years. We had been at our church for seven years, and so much was good. We had great friendships, our boys were well cared for and taught in an incredible children’s ministry, and we were near both of our families. But there was so much turmoil. Instead of feeling supported, I watched as Scott was beaten down by someone he had looked at as a mentor. I watched as he transformed from a confident and excited leader to someone who was struggling, discouraged, and ready to take a break from ministry to get away from the dysfunction.
How could one little email change our lives so dramatically? It wasn’t the first one. Scott had been in touch with several churches over the last couple years. Some seemed hopeful, only to have the door shut. I tried figuring things out on my own, praying really hard that whatever opportunity presented itself would keep us closer to my family. When he got an email from Southwest Florida, it might as well have come from the other side of the world.
For years I accepted the possibility of being away from home. I spent time in Africa seeking God’s call to possibly go on the mission field. So much had changed since then. I’d finished a Ph.D., been in a career pointing to a teaching position, and lived on my own. Fast forward a few years, I was a 36 year old stay-at-home-mom with two kids we had already registered for school the next year, and we were 45 minutes away from my parents. I had at least the whole next year planned, and I thought we could tough things out another year. Every time Scott talked about this church in Florida, I kept thinking “Do you know how much this is wrecking my plans?”
I chose to ignore the emails and the increasing excitement I would hear in Scott’s voice as he updated me on the conversations he would have with the committee. Throughout the phone interview and then the quick decision to fly him down to meet with the committee, I just knew that something was going to end this process. God would end it, because it could not be His will. In the middle of all this, the turmoil for us continued. Scott was increasingly pressured and attacked, and even though he had served faithfully for so long and had seen a lot of fruit in his ministry, he was told he would be forced out soon. Through the tears, God began opening my eyes. “Carrie, you’ve asked for a way out of this. You’ve begged for the painful moments to end. You have interceded for your husband, asking for the next chapter. This is it.”
Faith for me has always seemed like following what felt like common sense. When something was in front of me, I figured if I trusted God, it would simply fall into place and it always had. Until now. Now I had to fully trust Him for His plans for our lives. As He opened every step that brought us to paradise, where we are now, it’s been refreshing seeing the joy when my life isn’t based on my plans. In the middle of all this, God would remind me of His care with songs I’d sung since I was a little girl--Trust and Obey, Have Faith in God, and more. He also used Colossians 2:6-7 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught…”
I recently heard something that grabbed my attention: When we do what we want to do, we end up exactly where we don’t want to be. It’s a life that chooses comfort over holiness, contentment over obedience, and satisfaction in ourselves rather than resting in Him. Every time you see faith lived out in the Bible, it’s not a stressful or pained response. It’s full of concepts like healing, eternal life, righteousness, salvation, moving mountains, love, forgiveness, overcoming, and our adoption as God’s children. Why wouldn’t we want to put our trust in God? Why wouldn’t we live out our faith?
Being away from family is still hard. Remembering the dark days is still difficult. It took some of the hardest moments in our lives for us to be ready to accept what it meant to follow God and trust Him with all of our life. I tell people we live in paradise, and we do. We’re thirty minutes from the beach, the weather is perfect, we have palm trees in our backyard, and I have a year round tan. It’s paradise because it’s been a picture of God’s provision, His kindness, and His love for Scott, for our boys, and for me.
And all of this from one little email.
Carrie Beth Douglas and her family live in Parrish, Florida, where her husband serves as Pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church. Carrie graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Ph.D. in in Leadership/Higher Ed. She is a stay-at-home mom of two boys, is active in ministry in the church, and writes curriculum for LifeWay Kids.