Are you willing to be part of the uncommon shaped-by-God team?

Then abandon hope in this:

In the middle of confusion, waiting, regret, and hopelessness, you want an arrow.

A straight, pointy, solid arrow. An arrow that connects your troubles to wonderful “it’s all worth it!” results.

An arrow would help you endure. When you sacrifice and save cash for a down payment on a house, you know exactly what it’s for. Savings on the left, house on the right, straight arrow in between.

You don’t get an arrow.

Oh, things are definitely connected. But it’s more like the dotted line between Billy’s start and finish.

Billy knows where he’s going. He just likes to take the long way to get there.

When you’re in the middle of trying to make sense of your family, or your circumstances, or your junkie stuff, you DON’T know where you’re going. You say you believe that God knows, and has a purpose, but without the arrow pointing right at the purpose, you’re not sure what it is. You feel lost somewhere on the endless dotted line.

You’re not alone. This is normal. The long way home is how you get on the shaped-by-God team.

Expect the long dark night

The day Oswald Chambers told God he wanted a more intimate relationship with Jesus was the beginning of the worst years of his life.

From that day on for four years, nothing but the overruling grace of God and the kindness of friends kept me out of an asylum.

God used me during those years for the conversion of souls, but I had no conscious communion with Him. The Bible was the dullest, most uninteresting book in existence, and the sense of depravity, the vileness and bad-motiveness of my nature was terrific.

— from Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God

You sincerely ask God for intimacy and you get misery! Where’s the blessing and reward? Why ask for more of God if you know you’ll end up half-crazy?

You have to go way down before you go way up. Apparently there is no shortcut.

When Oswald Chambers came out of those 4 years of the dark night of his soul, he became the Oswald Chambers the world needed. Friends called him, “the greatest demonstration we had ever seen of the Sermon on the Mount fleshed out.”

During his life he spoke to dozens and hundreds. Today, because of the man he allowed himself to become, God’s purposes in the lives of millions have been advanced. Every morning his words still speak to me.

I see the arrow from Chambers’ struggle to God’s purpose as straight and pointy. To Chambers at the time, it was the dotted line tracing a kid’s meandering to the school bus.

Expect confrontation with your own insufficiency

Bill’s wife was sick wife for a long time. One day he came home surprised to see her working in the garden. “You’d better stop and go rest, you know what’s going to happen.” He knew she had very little energy. She said she felt fine.

She was fine. Her illness had left her. And something else happened. A peace beyond understanding had been born in her.

Bill was awed by the supernatural change in his wife. He grew to want the same thing. He began praying that God would change his life, too (uh-oh). He knew that the struggle and hopelessness of her illness was key. By faith he made preparations at work and financially for a long incapacitation.

Instead, his wife asked him for a divorce.

This began his own dark night of the soul, where he was forced to confront what kind of man he must be to cause his godly wife to want to divorce him. Like his wife, and like Oswald Chambers, he was squeezed into confusion, waiting, regret, and hopelessness. Like them, he came out the other side into humility, grace, and peace.

Bill ended up with a Bible study attended by hundreds – at work. And, he mentored Harold. Harold mentored me. Through Harold my whole family has been shaped.

In heaven the arrow is straight. On earth you get the crazy dotted line.

Expect to go down so others can go up

Jesus came to earth on a mission of selflessness. His father had plans to rescue people and creation. Jesus was the plan. We know what Jesus went through to accomplish those purposes; suffering, rejection, death. But then it gets scary when he says things like

Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them, so they can be made holy by your truth

– John 17.18-19

Yikes. He’s talking to his father about me (and you). I’m on the same mission of selflessness. No, I can’t go through what he did, but I’m still put here for God’s purposes, not mine.

That takes shaping. The shaping is not fun. If I could just see a straight arrow connecting the pain of shaping with the purpose for it, the shaping might be more bearable.

My arrow can’t be straight because all the stuff needed to make me usable for God’s purposes is crooked, confusing, and painful. It can feel like death.

For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross. He knew that at the end of the dotted line everything fit.

I’m willing for someone to take the long, mysterious, dotted-line journey to accomplish God’s purposes for me. But, am I willing to do the same for God’s purposes for others?

Who (besides Jesus) has paid the price to be on the shaped-by-God team for you?


The Everything Fits affirmation:

Everything about my life, everything that happens

– the family I was born into

– the circumstances I have experienced and find myself in

– my personality and DNA and wiring and gifting –

is engineered or permitted or governed by a sovereign, just, loving God who always has three good things in mind

1) to develop my personal relationship and intimacy with him

2) to accomplish his purposes in the world, and

3) to further his own awesome, unmeasurable aims that are bigger than my ability to understand.

Therefore, whether it’s past, present, or future, I can have confidence and peace that somehow, someway, Everything Fits Even When It Doesn’t, and I will trust and cooperate with God in the fitting.  

About the Author


Gary Morland helps you feel better about your most challenging family relationships, and helps you actually improve those relationships - all by adopting simple attitudes, perspectives, expectations, and actions (the same ones that changed him and his family).


  1. M

    My Mom has G…she has sacrificed her whole life!!! With Jesus, she is resposible for all that is good in me:) Thank-you for another wonderful part to this series!!! God has blessed you with being able to write so eloquently! Blessings & <3 M

  2. Oh, wow. This series just seems to get more and more relevant to me each week. I’m definitely guilty lately of trying to find the nice, straight arrow. And I think God has been trying to get me to see that that’s not how things work. I’m trying so much to surrender the questions, the hopes and the pain. Slowly, I’m realising what I need to realise, but still, I know I have so much still to grasp. Thank you for this, and especially for the Scripture (John 12:24). And if anyone reading this feels led to pray for me in this, please know how much I appreciate it.
    God bless,

  3. lyricpdx

    Gary, you have the wonderful gift of being able to take very complex abstract concepts and break them down into understandable digestible parts: “In heaven the arrow is straight. On earth you get the crazy dotted line.” Thank you for sharing your gift and for being part of that God-shaped team for us. You are an encouragement and bring peace to our souls!

  4. Pam Cason

    I forwarded this to my husband this morning, Gary, because I know he feels like he’s following a dotted line to . . . where? Yeah, your words are a reminder that God has a plan and will use all of this somehow and in someway. Thank you for your encouragement. God is using you.

  5. Brooke

    Thank you for giving me something to grab onto today. Almost thru the 2nd of two of the hardest years of my life…didn’t think I was going to make it this morning :) This series is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your gift.

    • I hope encouragement and hope grow more and more in you Brooke

    • monkey tamer


      So glad you made it through another day, another week. Almost through 2 years of the hardest years of your life! Praise God for your perseverance and transparency. I see the arrow in your life, bless your brave heart.

  6. Janet

    Gary, I so enjoy your writings. I hope after this series is done you will have more for us. There can’t be too much positive Bible teaching around.

  7. Robin in New Jersey

    Hey Gary! You need a share button. :) I wanted to put this on FB. I would also like to print it out and mail it to a family member who has no access to email.

    I am really learning a lot through this series. Thank you for taking the time to write!

  8. Rebecca

    thank you for such an insightful post. this has been a really great series. yes, I mostly want an arrow and not a dotted line. It seems so much easier and more comfortable. But there is a reason and a purpose for the dotted line. I want to trust and start walking it. I do want to be shaped by God. You really brought clarity to the dotted line and the example of it in other’s lives. thank you.

  9. Lisa Gasper

    What happens when you pray for many years for God to direct your path and still just seem to be nowhere? I trust in His Goodness and Faithfulness always and I pray constantly for His intervention and direction but truly I’m nowhere. Makes zero sense to me. Seems like all that praying was wasted.

    • Well Lisa, I’m with you on that. You’ve asked a wonderful $50 question, but I’ve only got a fifty-cent answer. So I hope this is not insulting.

      Maybe you’re not ‘nowhere.’ What if his goodness and faithfulness means he has answered your prayer in a way you don’t expect? What if he has answered it in a way that you haven’t seen or understood yet? If you always trust in his goodness and faithfulness, what would that look like right now?

      I prayed for over ten years for a certain thing that I was convinced was from him and was for his glory. It has never happened. Not even close. For the most recent thing I’ve been praying about five years. Even if that is a ‘no,’ my conversation with my Father is never wasted. But I sure do like ‘yes’ better than ‘no’ or silence.

      Thank you for reading and for caring enough to ask.

      • I think change, even with prayer takes time. We also need to do some work ourselves.

  10. First visit. Nice blog. Good story. We have some things in common. I spent a number of years on the wrong road myself.


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