Panic! It’s what we do when we don’t know what to do. It’s understandable. It’s common. But it doesn’t have to happen when we don’t know what God wants us to do next.
The fourth secret in this series of posts sharing 7 secrets we need to know about God’s will is one I learned — and continue to learn — from coming face to face with uncertainty every day. My first instinctive reaction almost every time, no matter how many times God has provided and led me in the past, is to panic and try to figure it all out on my own.
Maybe I’m the only one to fall into this trap of self-reliance. But I doubt it. When we’re face to face with adversity, our worry clouds our view. Panic sets in. And we tend to miss what is right in front of us — God.
We see what we can do in our own strength and we freak out. Rightly so. If it all depended on us and our wisdom, we’d be in trouble.
If anything, when I get hit by something unexpected in life, I start looking for an escape, some supernatural intervention to free me from my worry. It’s as if I expect God to text me His plans for the day, or at least give me on-demand guidance. I mean if Google can do it, why not God, right?
“Ok, God…. ” And we hear nothing. “Hello, God?”
We presume He is silent because he isn’t speaking to us in the narrow way in which we want to listen.
We’re so conditioned to expect instant answers in our information age that we struggle to recognize the value of a daily walk that is wholly dependent on God. Yet that is what living by faith is all about.
God hasn’t left us to figure out His best for us on our own. It’s not as if He knows but He’s not telling us, like some freak who enjoys watching us suffer. He leads us through seasons of uncertainty to draw us closer to Him, to cause us to rely on Him more.
God is preparing us for eternity, not just the immediate future. He is interested in our soul transformation, not merely a superficial makeover.
Which leads me to Secret #4: If you want God to direct you, use what He’s already given you.
6 Directional Gifts We Commonly Ignore
It’s not that God has left us in the dark. Not even close. It is we who insist on waiting in the dark for a flash of lightning to reveal His best for our lives. It is we who refuse to use the light we have been given because we want something flashier, something more personalized.
When we demand immediate clarity instead of pursuing the process He has put in place, we miss the directional gifts He has already given us:
- His Word. We know the Bible is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, but that doesn’t mean we use it well. Many Christians think they know the Word because they understand the basics of the Gospel and a few fantastic stories. But when it comes to knowing God’s will, they expect something more. Like the little neighbor kid in the Disney Pixar film The Incredibles, they’re sitting on the sidewalk looking for “Something amazing, I guess.” But God has already given us amazing. His Word promises to supply all we need to be complete, “thoroughly equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16)
- Wisdom. The Bible contains wisdom, to be sure, but wisdom is more about applying the truths we discover within its pages. The best part is that it is freely available from God to all who ask. “He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:35) But we have to ask expecting to receive it.We have to humble ourselves before Him and search for wisdom like hidden treasure. If we drift through uncertainty expecting a bolt from the sky to give clarity, we’ll likely get a jolt of a different sort when we run into the brick wall we should have seen coming. Don’t just wait for wisdom, search for it. It’s amazing what you can discover when you expect to find it.
- Counsel. You do not know everything. Neither do I. And to make things worse, we each have blind spots that make it impossible to see what we need to see about the situations we face. We need others’ perspectives to give us clear vision. Speaking of the fool, Solomon says, “He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.” (Proverbs 5:23) The fool is wise in his own eyes; the wise Christian knows his compass is defective and stops to listen to counsel from those who’ve been there, done that.
- Personality. You have been uniquely wired to be at your best when you are doing certain things in specific situations. But most of us do not know our strengths and our struggles. We do not know the circumstances in which we would thrive and those in which we would be out of our strengths zone. But this knowledge can be invaluable when making decisions about life direction. For example, I recently had an opportunity come my way to lead an organization. There was a lot to like about it, including the money. But it was outside of my strength zone. I knew that after the newness had worn off, I’d likely be miserable. And that wouldn’t be good for me or them. But I have that clarity because I’ve invested a lot of effort into figuring out how I am wired and when I am at my best. [ See Chapter 7 of my book A Story Worth Telling. ]
- Opportunity. We dreamers have to be careful about focusing on what God wants next. Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given on the subject of discerning God’s will came from my friend and mentor Daniel Buell. When I was pondering the possibility of a change in direction in the future, he said, “You can only hit the pitch being thrown to you right now.” So many of us daydream about what it will be like to be at the plate in the ninth inning with the bases loaded. Meanwhile, we’re striking out and making errors early in the game because we’re not paying attention to what’s happening in front of us. If you identify the opportunities in front of you right now and ensure they are done well, additional opportunities often arise as a result of your diligence.
- Strategy. Thinking gets a bad rap these days, especially in the Christian church. Our focus has tended to follow that of the rest of culture, which is to say we’re driven more by feelings than rational thought. Consequently, we end up waiting for an emotional cue that we’re headed in the right direction in life. We don’t have a plan. We haven’t devised a strategy. And then we wonder why we don’t get anywhere. God has given us the ability to reason for a reason. He expects us to use it to figure out the wisest path forward. When we ponder His ways and use all He has given us to devise a plan, He will direct our paths, provided we are not “leaning” or relying solely on our plan to succeed. If we hold our plans loosely, we let Him lead after we have done the due diligence He expects of us.
We have not because we ask not. I know. It sounds too simple, too easy, to give up depending on ourselves. But isn’t that the point? All too often when faced with uncertainty or a challenge, we reach within to summon up what we need instead of acknowledging we can’t handle it and reaching instead for what God has already given.
God has given us what we need to walk with Him — sometimes only what we need to walk with Him today. It’s up to us to use what He has given instead of demanding He package it for us and schedule a delivery at our earliest convenience.
Question: Do you share this tendency to ignore the obvious when panic sets in? What other directional gifts has He given that you have found helpful in your journey? Share your thoughts by clicking here.
Next: The Fifth Secret You Need to Know about God’s Will