What comes next?

Graduation was just around the corner, and I was feeling the pressure to figure out what I was going to do next.

Or rather, I was aware of the pressure to figure out what I was doing next. But was I really feeling it? Actually, not really. I’d been learning a lot about the importance of putting first things first, and I’d discovered that other people’s expectations of me were not on my list of priorities.

Let me explain. The previous year, during a study abroad trip, I’d had an experience that left me deeply and forever convinced of God’s perfect love for me. You can read more about that here, but one of the many wonderful effects of that experience was a conviction that I didn’t need to do something to deserve God’s love. And this complete freedom and peace in the sense of God’s love being right here, right now, helped me realize that my real priority was to devote time to knowing God better and to serving others as a way of honoring God and His love for me and all. 

I didn’t always do a perfect job of either. But I found that honoring God’s presence and love each day in what I did and how I did it just didn’t leave time for things that detracted from feeling loved by God and from truly loving others—things like the pressure to have a certain plan or timing for events in my life. 

Well, graduation was getting closer, and while I had a few ideas for things I wanted to do further down the road, I still didn’t know what my next step was going to be. So I prayed. What I mean is, I considered what it really meant to be in the presence of divine Love. And when I did, I came to the graceful conclusion that since Love, God, was indeed here and loving me perfectly, I didn’t have to wait around to experience God’s goodness at some point in the future; I must already have everything I need right at hand. This was obviously a very different sense of things than what those around me were seeing about my life. But I’d learned that this spiritual perspective was actually the most accurate—and reliable—one. So I trusted it.

In this case, my prayers moved me to see what I had literally right at hand, which happened to be a copy of The Christian Science Monitor. I flipped through it and landed on an article about a wolfdog sanctuary in New Hampshire. Right then, I felt a flash of sweet love for that sanctuary and decided to give them a call to see if there was anything I could do for them. Long story short, a few days after I graduated, they flew me out, and I got to spend three wonderful weeks helping to care for these amazing animals and their environment. The steps after that, such as working at an outdoor education center and helping my family begin to build a new home, all came together clearly and easily, without any forcing on my part.

And that was the crucial piece: not to force the “next.” Because I didn’t have to. None of us do. We do have to go forward, but that inevitably happens because of  what God is doing for us and because of our ability to follow God’s leadings.

The Bible records God as saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3, New King James Version). So, since divine Love, the God of all, really does love all of us perfectly, our future must already be cared for. And while each step may not immediately feel easy or clear, if we prioritize knowing, trusting, and following God’s love, we can rest assured that we’ll find our own, perfectly tailored way forward—without stress or pressure.

Originally appeared online in the teen series: Trending - March 9, 2021. 

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