As much as I tease him and pretend to be smarter, my big brother is a pretty wise guy. Since an early age, I’ve hung on his every word as my mentor and guide. When I was sick, he was the only one who could make me smile again; when I was scared, he was brave for me; when I felt lost or confused, he was there with me in the darkness. I don’t think he realizes the great effect he’s had on me, but I also don’t think any younger sibling wants to admit how much they admire the older.
One of the most memorable pieces of advice my brother ever shared with me was a quote he relied on heavily, attributed to St. Augustine:
“Pray as though everything depends on God. Work as though everything depends on you.”
I don’t even remember what problem I was hashing out with him when he first shared that quote with me at the onset of college. What I do remember is the encouragement it has given me in taking on each new challenge I’ve faced since.
Discerning what God wants us to do with our lives is a difficult task, to say the least. With the start of college, I only found each of my decisions to carry more weight and have a greater impact in subsequent situations. I often felt lost in what I felt I should be doing or where I was going in life.
I’ve always been a planner. I set goals for myself and do everything I can to reach them. But I’ve found it’s so very true that “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” My plans, more often than not, don’t turn out how I envisioned them.
In following my brother’s advice, though, I’ve learned to be at peace and even find joy in the moments when things turning out differently than I’d originally intended. I search for the path that brings my heart the most happiness, I work as hard as I can towards it, and I pray that God will direct my steps.
Most often, that leads me to something even greater than I could’ve imagined.
In discerning an important decision, prayer is absolutely necessary, but it is useless if we aren’t willing to put in the work. We often use the excuse of waiting for the perfect time to do something, or the right time for something to just magically appear and hit us over the head with what to do next.
It’s quite the opposite actually. Prayer requires action, and a lot of it. In the discernment process of life, you can’t possibly have one without the other.
We are meant to be people of action. We can’t just sit idly by and wait for the perfect timing. Life isn’t served on a silver platter.
So here is what I suggest: “Write your plans in pencil and give God the pen.”
Find what brings you the most joy. Does it lead you closer to God? Do you feel peace, or are you filled with anxiety? Our hearts know what we truly long for; we need only to listen. Once you’ve found peace in a plan, work as hard as you can towards it. Make every effort as if no one can help you reach your goal but yourself.
And as you work, continue to pray to God and rest in the knowledge that He is always there to guide you and bring peace in your heart.
He may change the plan you made. By the time you reach your goal, it may be unrecognizable because God may throw some twists in your story you couldn’t have predicted. But my favorite part is how those twists are always (in the end) exactly what you wanted or needed most.
God knows you better than you could ever know yourself. Why not trust Him?
College is the time for working hard and finding God’s greater plan. He has something wonderful and exciting in store for you. The adventure is in figuring it out with Him.
It’s not about waiting for the right time. Everything will happen, just as it should, in the timing it is meant to. God’s perfect timing is often not ours. But that doesn’t mean we can just sit back and wait for it to happen. Perfect timing doesn’t just happen: it’s strived after.
So then the question becomes, do your actions match your prayers? Be a person of prayer and action. Everything will be made perfect in God’s time.