believing that you can’t

Not too long ago, I red-inked a journal entry. Yup, the girl with OCD-tendencies regarding permanency wrote a very long and personal note on a circumstance that was happening in her life in red ink. That’s how confident I felt in it (note: every other page is written in pencil).

I can sense God laughing with me now at that entire situation because shortly after the red-inked entry, everything I wrote about took a 180 spin. A part of me really wanted to rip those pages out, but an even bigger part of me is joyed to leave them there. They serve as a reminder that God, and only God, can red ink our lives. Nothing is that bold and permanent unless He has allowed it.

I was so confident that the answers to prayer, the signs, and the undeniable calling I felt was also a stamp of approval from God. I believed that He wouldn’t have brought about this circumstance unless it was much more meaningful than a temporary, short-lived experience.

What I desperately needed and have been remembering is that I don’t know how God is using that in other ways that I can’t yet see, or may never will. I recently heard that there can be 10,000 things God is doing in your life at any given moment, and we may only be aware of three of them.

The red ink entry is therefore not a permanent reminder of something that didn’t come to fruition. It’s not an embarrassing, emotionalized string of words. Rather, it’s a symbol that I am not in control, God is. It’s a reminder that what I think I want or need is not always what I actually want or need. Most importantly, it’s a symbol that God is immeasurably faithful.

I can wrestle with Him all I want, but at the end of the day my questions, doubts, and fears are diminished by the fact that my trust and hope is in the Provider, not the provisions.

When things don’t go as I wish they would, when my plans fail, when all the “yes” answers result in a dead-end, I am not shaken or disheartened. I know that God’s “no’s” are not Him withholding from me, they are Him drawing me to a place of surrender and humility. It’s a call to hold fast and stand firm while God works on my behalf.

For me, knowing this and letting it permeate my heart were very different things. I could preach to myself all day long, but I also knew deep down that the disappointment and confusion that accompanied this ‘let-down’ would begin to rust in my heart if I didn’t address it. I also know that I feel most near to God when I’m on my own. Sometimes I question whether or not I’m too independent… but I do truly love being by myself.

As a result, I took a thinking trip to Toronto (big surprise) and let God do the talking. While being in nature definitely fills me with awe and wonder of God, so does walking around a giant city on a beautiful February day.


With this view to my back, I sat in the warmth of the sun. It’s as if the rays wrapped me in a hug, bringing a peace I still can’t describe. I sat by the water with my journal in hand and worship music playing in my ears.

I thought I’d have a breakthrough, that God would speak to me and give me all the answers I was searching for. I wanted to know why He allowed all that had happened in my life recently to take place. It’s not like I was mad or angry, but I wanted to know so that it all felt more worthwhile.

To add to that, I wanted some miraculous revelation of what He wanted my life to look like. I wanted to walk past an apartment building in Toronto and see either an,

  • “Oliveah, I want you to live here. Peace and blessings, God” sign, or an
  • “Oliveah, I do not want you to live here, but rather in _____. Peace and blessings, God” sign.

I wanted obvious and immediate knowledge – but He had something much better in mind.

No, I didn’t get answers to my questions, but I got an answer nonetheless. In that moment, in the stillness and in the expectancy, I felt more confident than ever that God was with me on the deepest most sincere level possible. I don’t know what my next two days look like let alone the next month, two months, or year. I’m scared and nervous, excited and hopeful, and I’ve never felt more overwhelmed with the weight of all that will happen in a short amount of time.

But it’s like He whispered, “My child, I know where I’m taking you. You don’t need to see, you don’t need to know, you just have to trust. Hold onto me, I’ve got you and I’ve got this.”

Ironically, in front of me were uncharted waters and behind me was where all the work of the city happens. It felt symbolic of my looking forward in anticipation while my heart is at peace trusting all that God is doing in the background.

So I’ll let go in faith. I’ll take one step as I see it and I’ll trust. There’s a quote that says, “she believed she could so she did”, but I heard someone change it to, “she believed she couldn’t, so God did.”

Praise God my hope and confidence is not in myself because that would be a horrible let down. I can honestly say that He is the glue that holds my hot-mess together. Only He could take a red-inked journal entry and use it to draw me towards Him in the uncertainty and unknown.

My human ways got the better of me and I thought I knew what God was doing, but I didn’t. That’s why approaching life from a place of believing that you can’t meet God’s level of brilliant orchestration is so fundamental.

When we start off believing that we can’t, God does.

And when we look back on our lives, I believe it’ll often be the things we recognized we couldn’t do on our own that God did out of grace, love, and mercy.


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