As my graduation date drew closer and rejection emails began trickling into my inbox, the uncertainty grew more and more.
With journalism degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and Northwestern in hand, I had my sights set on landing my first full-time gig at a big-name publication like The Washington Post or ESPN. Thing is, those places weren't hiring at the time, and of all the applications and networking notes I sent out, only one had come back with an offer: a high school sports reporter at The Beaufort Gazette in South Carolina.
No way was I going to spend my first years out of college on a three-person sports desk at a tiny newspaper tucked away in the swamplands of the Lowcountry. I had much bigger, better plans.
Or so I thought.
As I often tell people now, I ended up going to Beaufort kicking and screaming with an exit plan in mind well before I even stepped foot in the town. Little did I know that a decade later, even after God had elevated me to jobs at ESPN and The Washington Post in His perfect timing, I would look back at that two-year stint in Beaufort as my greatest season of professional and spiritual growth.
God's favor positioned me to make my mark as a sports reporter while learning valuable lessons. And more importantly, He placed me in a strong church home with pastors who poured life and wisdom into my wife and me during the critical newlywed stage. (Shout out to Love House Ministries!)
It was then that I saw the reality of Romans 8:28 - “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” - that God's plans always do work out better than my own.
I've been reminded of this as we start 2017. Like everyone else, I've got plans for this year, and the wheels in my mind are turning to map out just how those goals will come to pass.
Thankfully, God in His mercy, has shown me through multiple sermons and Bible studies in these first days of 2017 that the only way for my plans to succeed is by first committing them to Him (Proverbs 16:3).
But what does God mean exactly by "committing" our plans to Him? Sure, I've prayed about them and written them down, but what's the difference between simply telling God our intentions and actually placing them in His hands?
One key to seeking God is having genuine concern for His response - and then waiting on Him to deliver that answer.
Pride tells us that we are capable of making our plans outside of God. After all, we do it every day in the "little things," like deciding what to eat or what to wear. But that habit can place us in a vulnerable position with the "bigger things."
Rather than making a decision and then asking God to bless it, first seek the blessing of, and confirmation from, the all-knowing Lord, who determines our steps and has the final say (Proverbs 16:1, 9).
It's also wise to seek counsel from your closest friends in Christ and/or your pastor for further wisdom.
I often used to read Proverbs 16:3 ("Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed ") and wonder, what if I do this and things still don't go my way?
Then one day, God brought my attention to those last two words: "my way." If I'm worried that the plan won't go as I envisioned and use that as my measure of success, then have I really committed my plan to God?
God has promised that His plans will prosper us (Jeremiah 29:13), work out for the good (Romans 8:28) and that they are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). That doesn't mean everything will go perfect in our eyes, but it does mean our purpose and plan will be perfected in the end.
Typically, our plans stem from our desires, so they will always seem right and profitable to us. But as I found out in South Carolina and as life has a way of showing us, our wants can never be greater than our loving Creator's best interests for us.
My friend recently enlightened me to the fact that while we as men often think women worry more than us, truth is, men worry plenty; it just manifests in a different way.Rather than showing the emotion of worrying, we tend to display the act of worrying by immediately seeking a solution. By "fixing" the problem, we can make both it and the worry go away.
The enemy will often use this to tempt men to fix or course-correct when our plans seem to be going awry. Hardships don't always mean we made the wrong choice or plan. But they can certainly make us doubt.
Our comfort, however, rests in our commitment. If we have placed our plans in God's hands and received His blessing, rest assured that He is committed to seeing us through. And just when we are ready to throw in the towel, God will often send a sign of confirmation that He's still there and still working for our good.
By trusting the process, not only will our plans succeed, but our faith will be boosted in ways that will benefit us down the road.
Seek, submit, and remain steady in 2017 and you will succeed, just as God intended!
Brandon Parker is the Communications Manager for the NFL Players Association. Formerly a sports journalist for The Washington Post, he has a passion for impacting young men and women through writing, mentorship and outreach rooted in God's Word. Brandon lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter. You can follow him on Twitter at @brandoncparker.