About a year and a half ago I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. I knew what I wanted, I had a plan to get there, and I put in the hard work needed to make it happen. I wanted good things, I took it to God in prayer, and guess what happened. I failed. I failed, and because I did, it changed my perspective on life, who I am, and my relationship with God.
I believe God gives each of us gifts or natural abilities. Mine was the ability to perform. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved to perform, and I have a natural flair for making people laugh. In college I turned that gift into a talent when I became a stand-up comedian. I loved it. Performing felt like me. I was Stephen Jones the entertainer.
But then I got married. And life started to get real, real fast. As my wife and I started talking about having kids, I started stressing about having an “adult” job, getting insurance, and being able to provide for a family. I felt like to be a grown-up, I needed to say goodbye to carefree, funny performer Stephen (this part of me that I really loved) and say hello to a 9-to-5 desk job that I took because the pay was good and it would give my family health insurance.
So I took a job for health insurance. And I hated it. It wasn’t me. That first day I went home and literally cried. I remember thinking, “Heavenly Father, what in the world am I doing?”
I believe God cares about what we do with our lives. I believe He wants to help us. But what I learned through my experience is that He expects us to act. He expects us to do something about our dreams.
And so I did. After bouncing from four jobs in four years, I decided I needed to act bigger. I needed to figure out who Stephen Jones really was and what I should be doing with my life. In the process of thinking and praying about this, I came up with a question that helped me focus my search. It’s a question I now live by.
“Will this matter in 1,000 years?”
As I thought about that in terms of a profession, I decided that for me, that job I was holding down just for health insurance, the one that left me unfulfilled, wasn’t going to matter in 1,000 years. So I quit. And I focused on my dream to be a high school religion teacher. Surely, that’ll matter in 1,000 years, right? I went through the arduous process of applying to the program, threw myself into student teaching, and at the same time did acting and entertainment gigs on the side so that I could keep paying my bills at home.
I felt like everything was going well. I was feeling blessed. And then when it came time for them to hire, I got an email that began, “I regret to inform you . . .” I was crushed. After months of putting my heart and soul into student teaching and praying to God that I would get a teaching job, I wasn’t hired.
In this program, when you get a “no,” it’s usually pretty final, and you shouldn’t try again. But for me, there was still a glimmer of hope. Even though I hadn’t been hired, they said I could continue to student teach and wait to see if something opened up. So I taught. And I loved it. A few weeks later I got a call from the director of the program asking to speak with me and my wife. I thought, “This is it. It’s going to happen.”
We met with him, and he extended an offer to teach religion—out of state. This was not what I was expecting. It was not what I thought my wife and I would need to think about and pray about over the weekend. But we did. We asked God, and it just didn’t feel right. Days later I found myself calling up the director and saying, “I am so grateful for the opportunity, but it just doesn’t feel right. I have to do what’s right for my family, and I can’t accept the job.”
In my heart I thought, “Well, that’s it. This dream is done. Here I am choosing something that will matter in 1,000 years, it’s a good desire, and it seems like God is not making it happen—or at least in the way I wanted or expected. Why?”
Hindsight is 20/20, and you could say that now I understand why. After I said no to moving out of state, they said I could keep student teaching. Choosing that path would put a financial burden on my family, and I needed to put them first, so initially I said no. But then, on the last day of class, I realized that this was who I am—this is what is going to matter for me in 1,000 years. I need to teach. So I acted in faith, saying I’d be back to student teach even though financially I didn’t know how that would work for my family. But it felt right. And I trusted that if I acted, it would all work out.
I taught. And it was hard. It didn’t seem like things were working out. As soon as I said no to moving out of state, the acting gigs stopped coming in, which meant money stopped coming in and bills weren’t getting paid. My job situation caused stress on my family, and within my soul I was starting to wonder if my faith and hope in God were even working.
And then, the answer. Two months after saying no to an opportunity that didn’t feel right, two months of struggling financially, the phone call came. A teaching position had opened up near my home, and they offered me a job. It came right when I needed it, right when I was at my lowest. And after that call I looked up and said, “I trust you. I trust you.”
God knew me. He had answered my prayers. But He made me wait on it. He made me stretch. And sometimes He does that—even when we want good things, even when we’re focused on things that will matter in 1,000 years. The point is, if you trust Him, He will never let you down, because He looks out for us today, tomorrow, 1,000 years from now, and for eternity.
So, what are you worried about right now that’s not going to matter in 1,000 years? And what are you going to do that’s going to matter in 1,000 years?
Answer those questions. Ask God for help and clarity. And then trust Him.
God knew me. He knew the purpose of my failures. He knew the purpose of my wait and how I would grow because of it. I just needed to learn to act and to trust.
Because sometimes the greatest “failures” in life turn out to be just what we needed.