Have you ever been in a situation where you weren’t sure what you were supposed to do and someone says to you “well pray about it and see what God says?” How’d that work for you?
I often joke about how I wish God would just put what he wants me to do on a billboard:
“OK LOIS – HERE IS YOUR JOB TODAY.” Then I would know exactly what I’m supposed to do and I could go do it. I am GREAT at executing a plan. Like, I’m an Olympic-level planner and get-things-done girl.
God’s not renting billboards
But God is not like that, is he? He’s not renting billboards or sending us to-do lists to check off. We’re sometimes left fumbling along through life as if we were walking through a fog, trying to find our path and purpose and not really sure if the way in which we are walking is the way in which we should be walking. Sometimes we don’t know we’re in the right (or wrong) place until we bump into something – and we’re either pleasantly surprised or sadly disappointed.
Then there are those times where we are absolutely certain that this, this is the path we are supposed to go down. This has got to be it, right? It’s the right thing to do, surely God wants me to do this? Or is it? Is it really us wanting something so badly that we decide that it must be God’s will for us? How do we know? How can we know?
I once had a situation where I felt like God was urging me to do something different in my personal life – to step into a new area that I’d never gone before. I was really not sure I wanted or should be going there – even though I felt this nudging in my heart.
So I prayed about it. And thought about it. And talked to family and trusted friends about it. For a long time. Like a year or more. The answers I kept getting were “You’d be great at that!” “Yes! You should definitely do that!” I thought, “Well, gosh, if everyone thinks this way it must be what I’m supposed to be doing.” So I did it. I jumped in with both feet.
It was not quite what I was expecting. I had visions of everything being great – and feeling like I was making a difference and people seeing value in what I was doing. I was. And they did. To some degree. But it was hard. And I mean REALLY hard. At first I thought, “well, this is new. It will be hard at first.” But it didn’t get any easier. It was like I was slogging through mud.
That is when I knew something wasn’t right.
Still no billboards
God will not get in the way of us having our way. He will not put up a big billboard and say “Stop, do not pass GO. Do not collect $200” He values our freedom so much that he will not get in the way – even if it means we sacrifice our own happiness for short term gain, rather than long term joy with him. Even if it means we take a wrong turn somewhere along the way and we need a course correction.
How do you know what you are doing is God’s will?
So, if we don’t get a billboard, how do you figure it out? How do you know what you are doing is God’s will?
Well, for me, I figure out when I am outside of God’s will because things are hard. I don’t mean hard like “oh, I’ve got so much to do, how am I going to get this done?” or that something is a challenge for you to overcome. I mean HARD – like you are swimming upstream, pushing a 2-ton block through rapids, wearing chains in the pouring down rain HARD. When you think “WHY am I doing this?” — That’s when I know I’m outside of God’s will.
And sometimes that is even in the middle of doing something that I originally thought was doing God’s will. Sometimes, I think we try to make our own agenda God’s agenda.
So, back to my story. I’m slogging through the metaphorical mud, doing what I think I’m supposed to be doing – working where I think I’m supposed to be working. And I feel like a square peg in a round hole. And one day I think, “It shouldn’t be this hard! WHY is this so hard? If this is where God wants me to be, why is everything so difficult?!?”
I was talking to my oldest daughter one night about it – one of many conversations I’d had with her about the situation. She is just like me. My “mini me” and we think alike, act alike, some would even say look alike. And because of that (and many other reasons) I value her opinion. It’s like asking myself a question but without my own inner rationalizations and justifications. And she is honest, y’all. Brutally, uncompromisingly, unapologetically honest. (I love her for that.)
And she said, “Mom, maybe this is NOT where you’re supposed to be right now.”
Um, excuse me? What?
Not where I’m supposed to be? I beg your pardon? I thought about this for two years! I prayed about it! How in the world could this not be where I’m supposed to be? Every sign pointed to this exact place I was in. I’d followed God’s prompting – I’d stepped out in faith. All the things a good Christian follower of Jesus is supposed to do.
How in the world could it be wrong?
Had I mistaken what I thought was God’s will but was really my will? Had I misinterpreted the signs? Or was it that I had done as much as I was supposed to do and now God was pointing me in a different direction? Maybe what I thought was the “job” I had to do wasn’t really the “job” at all, but merely a stepping stone on a larger path that I didn’t yet see the end of.
Reading the signs … or stepping out in faith
I think, sometimes, we don’t know the answers – or we only figure out in hindsight if we are lucky – that we were on the right path.
That’s where faith and trust come in. Not having that big sign pointing “THIS WAY” and telling us where to go. I think that is where we have to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit – our inner guide – telling us where we need to be and what we need to do.
In the New Testament Jesus doesn’t say “Okay guys, here’s your step by step plan to go out and share the Gospel. I’ve broken it down into twenty-seven steps and we’ve got checkpoints along the way.” No, He simply said, “Follow me”
As much as we’d like billboards and carefully planned out timelines, we don’t get that.
But what we do get is the assurance that wherever we go and whatever we do, God will provide for us. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus sends out the disciples saying: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.”
He didn’t tell them to pack a snack for the walk, or some extra sandals in case the ones they had wore out. He didn’t give them an itinerary or timeline. He just sent them. And they went.
I think, sometimes we hide behind all the things that we think we need to know or prepare for before we step out into the unknown. It’s human nature, I know. We want to be prepared. We want to feel safe. We like our cozy comfy places. But God doesn’t call us to a life of comfort and ease.
He calls us to a life that requires us to stretch and move in ways we’ve never done before – to live our lives as a living testimony to His glory. If we never step out of the comfy places, what stories do we have to tell? How can we become living testimonies of God if we never open ourselves up to opportunities to let God shine in our own lives?
As I’ve gotten a little distance and perspective on the situation one thing I have come to realize is that maybe I was exactly where I was supposed to be for that point in time. But it may not have been where I needed to be forever. And that is OK. I learned a lot. I did new things, shared in new experiences, and I can promise you that every step of that journey was filled with little prayers of “Ok, God, I sure hope that you’re there because I don’t know about this.”
When things changed, and that situation ended, I found myself once again in unfamiliar territory. Reaching again for my Heavenly Father to guide me, to lead me to the next path, and to help me to continue to grow and learn from my experiences past and present.
When we surrender to God, He takes over the outcome of our lives. In the end, one way or another, our lives will reflect the will of God – and our obedience (or disobedience) to that. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather reach out in faith to follow my Heavenly Father than set out into the unknown without any guideposts along the way.