When you’re trying to figure out God’s will for your life, where do you start? I shared seven questions each of us should ask to figure out What God Wants Us to Do Next here. This post is the second in a series of seven in which I share some secrets I’ve learned the hard way about discerning God’s will for your life.
In the previous post, I shared Secret #1 — If you don’t expect to hear God’s voice, you won’t attempt to listen.
Secret #2 comes from an understanding of how God led Moses and the Israelites when confronted by the challenge of the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. And from what we learned from selling our house and stepping to the unknown with six kids in tow.
A Lesson from the Desert
When Moses faced seemingly insurmountable barriers to carrying out God’s mission, God answered his cry. God’s answer gives us a simple pattern by which our faith can move us to move mountains as well. God’s instructions to Moses can be summed up in two parts:
- Stand still and see my salvation.
- Keep moving forward.
Here’s what Moses told the people as he received it from God, and how God responded to their needs:
Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand your ground, and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never ever see again. The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to get moving. As for you, lift your shepherd’s rod, stretch out your hand over the sea, and split it in two so that the Israelites can go into the sea on dry ground.” (Exodus 14:13-16 nkjv)
Wait. What?! Stop and go?
God’s instruction to Moses would seem to be counterintuitive, even contradictory. Stand still and move forward at the same time?
Yes, at the same time, but not in the same way.
The faith required to move mountains calls us to let go of what we want without letting up in pursuit of what He wants.
God’s Counterintuitive Call
As we wrapped up the sale of our house in Ohio a few years back and the calendar pages turned toward moving day, we faced the reality that we would be soon be homeless. We did not have another place to go, nor did we have much money with which to get there.
Although we were confident God had called us to Atlanta, we didn’t have any stable income lined up yet. The proceeds from the sale of our home would give us a few months’ rent, we hoped, but that was it.
Yet in the midst of this chaos, opportunities arose for me to write and fulfill my calling.
Here’s how I described the situation to a good friend at the time:
I feel as if I am being asked to sit in the middle of a road at the bottom of a hill with steep mountains on either side. As I look up, there is an eighteen-wheel tractor trailer barreling down the hill toward me. It has no brakes. There is no way for it to avoid hitting me, and I could never outrun it. There is nothing I can do but sit in the middle of the road and wait. But God has handed me paper and pen; he has asked me to write. And he has promised that if I will ignore the truck barreling toward me and keep creating for his purposes, then he will save me from what seems to me to be certain destruction.
And so, to the best of my ability, that is what I did. I stopped trying to do God’s work for Him by scheming and manipulating the situation and instead focused on faithfully writing and creating as He had called me to do, while still moving forward toward Atlanta.
We had to first let go of what we wanted to be ready to receive whatever God wanted.
My wife began packing. I reached out to help friends in and around Atlanta through various writing and creative projects. We even had a garage sale to thin out our stuff. By letting go of what we could not control but not letting up where we did have clear direction, we positioned ourselves for God to move a mountain on our behalf and for the good of His mission.
We discovered, as the Hebrews did at the Red Sea, that God already had a solution in mind—we just didn’t know what it was yet.
The solution God had in mind for the Hebrews removed both obstacles: opening the Red Sea and destroying the Egyptian army. It was an option far beyond anything Moses and the panicking Hebrews ever imagined. But then what would we expect from the One “who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20 nkjv)?
Likewise, the solution God had in store for us came out of nowhere, but it would not have even been an option had we not remained diligent in the meantime, moving forward in the midst of tremendous uncertainty. [Read the rest of the story here in Chapter 8.]
Be Still and Know
God’s first instruction to the Hebrews was “Stand your ground.” We might easily think, With the Egyptians behind and the Red Sea in front, what other option did they have? Evidently, God thought they needed to be told to stop their panicked flailing and just stand still.
Think of how you react when you face a mountain, some unexpected obstacle that threatens to throw your world into chaos. Don’t you try to come up with some way around it, over it, under it—anything to make it go away as quickly as possible?
The problem is, our frantic, faithless efforts are just like those of a panicked drowning swimmer, making it nearly impossible for God save us in the way He most loves to.
The truth is that we will never see God’s salvation until we stop trying to save ourselves. This is why the psalmist famously called us not to fear but to “be still” when surrounded by the chaos of life (Psalm 46:10 nkjv).
When we reach for anything and everything within our power to fix it ourselves, we usually only make it worse. We’re best positioned to see God move mountains when we stop trying to move them ourselves.
Which leads me to Secret #2: If you want to know what God wants, let go of what you want.
That doesn’t mean God won’t give you the desires of your heart. In fact, He delights to do so. But we often frustrate His plans to give us His best because our hands are already full of our best.
And, let’s face it: our best usually isn’t all we thought it would be.
It is only when we stop trying to do God’s work for Him that we can “see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13 nkjv) or as the psalmist put it, “know that [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10 nkjv). The Hebrew word translated “know” contains the idea of knowing by observing.
In other words, “Be still and know who I am by watching me work.”
God doesn’t move mountains for you when you’re already trying to move them in your own way. To put it another way, you are not God’s opening act — no matter how much applause you may think you’re hearing.
Question: Do you struggle to let go of what you think should be done so you can lay hold of what God wants for your life? What do you most need to lay down so you can be open to His leading? Share your thoughts by clicking here.
Next: The Third Secret You Need to Know about God’s Will
Photo credit: geralt