Finish what you’ve started.

Sounds like solid advice, right? 

But what if sometimes… it isn’t?

Now once upon a time, I was working on a PhD in Scotland. I took a six month sabbatical to welcome our first born, but when it was time to start back, it somehow just didn’t feel like it was time to start back.

I prayed and thought and prayed. And I felt it was time to set the PhD down. It was hard — but still, it seemed there was a whisper to my soul: This is the way. Walk ye in it.

A month later, my primary supervisor passed away unexpectedly. No one else in the Divinity School was a good fit to oversee my thesis. 

I deeply grieved the loss of such an amazing woman, but was grateful the decision was made before she was gone — so that I felt confident the decision was right.

When it comes to learning a new skill, starting a new thing, or braving a new venture, I often want to tell my kids to finish what they start. But sometimes it takes wisdom to know what projects were an opportunity to learn something in the process, and which are the things that need to be seen through to completion.

Give a moment to these words from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Proverbs 16:3.

The only way to have our thoughts established is to commit our works to the Lord. […] all our outward concerns must be committed to the providence of God, and to the sovereign, wise, and gracious disposal of that providence. Roll thy works upon the Lord (so the word is); roll the burden of thy care from thyself upon God. Lay the matter before him by prayer. Make known thy works unto the Lord […], not only the works of thy hand, but the workings of thy heart; and then leave it with him, by faith and dependence upon him, submission and resignation to him. The will of the Lord be done. We may then be easy when we resolve that whatever pleases God shall please us.”

Do you love that word choice as much as I do? We can roll the burdens onto Jesus.

This is where it all gets established — when we roll our works and roll the burdens we care about onto God. When we set our hearts and minds to do the thing we believe we are meant to do, and we give it our all, to the glory of God, because we’ve been instructed that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we do it fully for His glory.

So we do those things we believe we are supposed to do, but if it goes well, or if it goes poorly — that matters so much less than just having followed the Lord’s leading.

Isn’t it interesting that our thoughts will be established? Whatever happens with the efforts that we make, God will establish the way we rightly understand it.

So I attempt to do a PhD, following His leading into it, and then I perceive the time to finish has come to an end before I expected it, and I follow His leading out of it — but wasn’t this all the Lord?

Without the scholarship, I would not have stayed in Scotland. Without staying in Scotland I would not have married Mr. Collie. 

Continuing the PhD, we would not have spent those two God-ordained years of ministry in South Africa. God closed those doors just as clearly as He had opened them, and it was all in His timing, so clearly… We returned to the US and I had eighteen months before my Dad passed away, which I so often give thanks for.

We did what we felt led to do, even when it didn’t make sense. Even when turning down a full scholarship seemed nuts. Even when two years were all the time we had in South Africa, though we were hoping four.

We committed our works to the Lord by doing what we believed He was leading us to do. He established the way we thought about all these things in hindsight, and we have such a sense of peace that we were walking according to His leading. 

So is it time to quit… or is it time to stay the course and finish what you’ve started? 

We can roll this burden onto Jesus. Commit your next step to Him. And then the step after that. Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture. Instead, look for the next right thing and do that.

Maybe it is time to quit. Maybe it’s time to press on and press in. The wisdom you find in committing your ways to the Lord is where you’ll discern the difference.

P.S. I’m launching my first ever online course, “How to Crush it as a Newbie Homeschooler” very soon! You can click the link below to be notified when it’s time to enroll. Have a friend considering homeschooling? Please let them know this two week course will truly be worth their time!

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