Twelve years ago, I made the difficult decision to stop coaching wrestling at the Christian Academy of Japan. My love and passion for coaching wrestling was still there, but I knew the Lord was leading me to begin a new season of ministry. It was one of the most gut-wrenching decisions I have ever made. I didn’t know if I would ever have the opportunity to coach wrestling again, which made it even more difficult.
You know what it’s like—it’s easy to give something up when you know you’ll get it back, but so, so hard when there are no guarantees.
If we’re honest, most of us rarely understand God’s ways. Why does he close one door and open another? Why do some doors never open? Why does God fulfill some dreams and others seem to wither on the vine? What about timing—why does God move quickly sometimes and other times, it seems like an eternity?
Questions like these have often consumed my thoughts during the course of my walk with Jesus and especially in this particular situation. I wondered why the Lord didn’t open a door for me to stay involved in one of my passions.
I’ve often reflected on Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
This verse isn’t much comfort if we relate to God as some kind of great, cosmic Santa Claus who exists only to answer our prayers in the affirmative. But, if we trust him and can honestly pray, “Be it unto me, according to your will,” there is incredible peace and comfort. For unlike us, God does nothing out of character. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). When we realize God is using all of the circumstances of our lives to produce the hope of glory, Christ in us (Colossians 1:27), we are able to release our dreams and give them back to God, knowing that our times are in his tender, loving hands.
Turning Dreams into Reality
In 2010, the Lord led our family out of Japan and into a new mission field—Cambodia! We deeply grieved leaving Japan but the Lord had planted a new seed of hope in our hearts and we eagerly looked forward to what he had in store.
After arriving in Cambodia in 2012, we dived into language and culture study and I helped start a soccer program as part of a ministry for street children who had been trafficked or were at risk of being trafficked. Ministry was thriving but my heart still had an ache in it… I longed for an opportunity to coach wrestling again. I asked God to take the desire away or give me back my dream.
Then, suddenly, the Lord answered my prayers in an amazing, unexpected way.
A chance meeting at the Rio Olympics between the head of the Cambodia Wrestling Federation and my friend Terry, the U.S. National Team Wrestling Coach, led to an open door and an invitation.
Lord, Use This for Your Glory
In July, I was officially hired to coach the National Youth Wrestling Team and coordinate grassroots development for wrestling in Cambodia. This has been an incredible opportunity to build relationships with a segment of Cambodian society that has had virtually no previous contact with Christians. The kids I work with are young high school boys and girls who are future leaders in Cambodia. They are sponsored by the Ministry of Sport in Cambodia to live and train at the Olympic stadium full-time with the hope that someday they can become world-class wrestlers.
In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that God would give me back my passion to coach in such an amazing way. Now, I am coaching children, developing leaders, and building relationships between people and organizations (public and private) at the local, national, and international level. It’s far bigger than I ever could have imagined!
As I look back on those years when God seemed silent, I can see how he was using this “waiting period” to deepen my faith and trust, to refine my character and help me to more fully surrender my will to him. I’m so glad he took me through that process! If you have had to surrender a dream in obedience to God, I can’t predict how your story will end. But I can tell you that God is able to do something good through it.
Questions for Reflection
1. What dream(s) is God asking you to surrender?
2. Are there any dreams that you’ve given up on that God wants to “resurrect"?
3. How has God grown your faith and your character as you've practiced the discipline of surrendering something that you have really wanted?
4. Is there a time when you have sacrificed something in order to honor the Lord that he has returned to you in an unexpected way?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sean Collier and his wife Alice live in Phnom Penh with their three children. They work with young Khmer leaders and invest in little ones who they believe are the future leaders of God’s Kingdom in Southeast Asia.