If you’re a Christian struggling with a decision right now, you may be asking a lot of questions about what God wants you to do next. But are you actually expecting to get answers or just going through the motions? This post is the first of seven in which I share some secrets I have learned about discerning God’s will for our lives when Scripture does not give us clear direction.
In my book A Story Worth Telling, I share the story of how we decided to move to Atlanta after nearly four decades of living in Northeast Ohio. I had sensed a pull in the direction of Atlanta for well over a month before I even mentioned it, first to my wife and then to my life coach Dick Savidge (I highly recommend him if you are in need of Christ-centered life-coaching.)
I’m not one to naturally put a lot of confidence in feelings. It’s just not how God has wired me. Nor are feelings all that reliable. But I learned through my years as a pastor and school principal to pay attention to the internal voice that might be the Holy Spirit or my subconscious trying to help me to see something important.
I had made a few trips to Atlanta. I had made a few connections in Atlanta. And I had another sound reason for considering the move — location. My friend Hugh Hewitt drilled the importance of location into me through his essential book In, But Not Of. I had taught the book for years and even partnered with Hugh on the revised edition.
I was stepping out to serve God’s kingdom-at-large as a writer, speaker, and content strategist. There are few locations that rival Atlanta for Kingdom-related opportunities and no better travel hub with direct flights to everywhere so I could minimize travel time and maximize family time.
Sure, we would be leaving family behind. But Kingdom priorities always trump family loyalties.
We had reached an intersection, a point in life where a decision needed to be made — to stay or to go. My friend and mentor P. Andrew Sandlin was one of my prayer supporters who encouraged me to pray specifically for God to give us great clarity while I was on a trip to Atlanta. And so we did. We prayed for direction — and expected to receive it.
After the trip, I was pretty certain the wise move would be to relocate. I discussed it and prayed about it with my wife. She gave me the green light to go either way. And so I prayed the prayer of Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant listens.”
You might call it more of a waiting than a listening. After asking all the questions I shared in my eBook What God Wants You to Do Next, the move to Atlanta seemed to be a wise one. I asked God to show me what I was missing, a question I got from John Maxwell.
I sensed no nagging concerns, no suppressed voices I was trying to ignore. And I still recall the moment of decision when I told God, OK, Lord. I don’t know how this is going to happen or what it will mean for us. But I am willing to go. I sensed tremendous peace alongside the fears that always accompany such a step. And so we stepped out. [You can read more of the story in A Story Worth Telling.]
I have never questioned whether we made the right move, partly because these decisions are not right or wrong decisions. They are wise or unwise decisions, and that decision was bathed in every source of wisdom I could find and aligned with the leading of the Spirit within me.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
The First Secret You Need to Know
I learned a valuable lesson at that time about God’s will. It’s one I should have understood already. It’s the first secret you need to know when trying to discern God’s will for your life:
Secret #1 — If you don’t expect to hear God’s voice, you won’t attempt to listen.
Scripture tells us we have not because we ask not. I would suggest that when it comes to figuring out God’s best for our lives, we often hear not because we listen not.
We pray for direction, but we don’t actually expect to receive it. It’s more about checking the task off our spiritual emergency list than expecting to get an answer from God.
But when we truly expect to hear from Him, we become more aware of the many ways He may be leading us. We hold all of them up to Scripture as our final authority, but we become more sensitive to God’s nudges and prodding that could come from any number of directions as He sees fit. After all, He delights in using the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.
God guides each of us differently because — news flash! — He wired each of us differently. But none of us can be led by God in any direction and by any means if we’re not first expecting Him to guide us.
Question: Have you ever struggled to hear God’s voice when making decisions? What challenges have you faced to receiving guidance from God? Share your thoughts by clicking here.
Next: The Second Secret You Need to Know about God’s Will
Photo credit: Paul Jarvis