Are you there God? It’s me, Sarah.
During my figure skating years, I would strike deals with God. If I landed the next jump I would take it as a sign that I should talk to a certain boy. Or I would cut a tight circle with my blade on the ice and if I could keep my spin scratches within the boundaries I’d drawn, it would be a sign that I would pass the test I had tomorrow. It was not a particularly accurate system, but I did it more than once, evidencing a confidence in what was little more than an 8-ball in action.
Deciding for myself to be a Christian at 17 didn’t seem to make the direction of God any more clear. I looked for signs and wonders to make it clear for any and everything from where to go to college to where to eat dinner. What path should I take? Which way should I go? What does it all mean?!?!?! While I considered myself to have at least a modicum of discernment, while I thought myself to be right about more or less everything, at the end of the day, just like so many other people, this was a question that plagued me.
When I felt direction, was it God talking or was it me?
Was I just making up the answers to my own questions about His will for my life?
1. Be prepared to shut your mouth. We all know that famous phrase from the backseat, “Are we there yet?” Does it speed the travel time at all? No, of course not. Neither does nagging God. Another well known line is “God gave you one mouth and two ears, so you’ll listen twice as much as you talk.” This is true with our relationship with the maker.
God will listen and it is right to tell Him what’s on your mind, but if you never stop and sit still and quiet, you’re not going to hear anything. Tell God your thoughts and opinions and your hopes and your plans, and then be quiet. Be still and know, friend, know that He is able.
Job lived through some horrible situations and he didn’t curse God, but he got pretty down. He had some friends give him some advice and Job talked and talked and talked. By the time God shows up on the scene to have a word with Job, God has to tell him to Just. Shut. Up. Now of course, God didn’t say “shut up,” because God is more polite than me, but the message was there.
Job 38: 2-3 says God spoke out of the storm and said “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” Now I know that message, because I’ve heard it loud and clear. I have the tendency to think I know best and there have been more than one occasion where God has in essence said “Who do you think you are? Do you know who I AM? Get ready, because we’re about to have a talk.” That is not the way you want to start things off with Him.
If you want to hear God’s voice, the first thing you have to do is be quiet.
2. If you want to know what sort of things God will be saying, get in the Word. God will not tell you something that conflicts with what He’s laid out in the Bible. Read it with respect, look for the historical context, look up the original meanings of words, look for the application in your life today and look for the broader meaning for the church at large.
Let’s say you get home to find out your significant other is out. They left you a note on the table that reads “Ran to Food Lion. Getting milk. Be back in 15.” After 10 minutes, you wonder if he can pick up your dry cleaning. You know from the note if he is close to the dry cleaners or far away. You also know that he’s probably already left the store and is almost home since so much time has passed. Because you were given important information and you can use the knowledge you have of the area and the time, you are able to figure out you’re probably going to have to pick up your own slacks.
God gave us the Bible to be a resource, a tool. Though you might see someone decorating their yard with an old plow, or displaying their grandfather’s old saw proudly on the wall of their shed, but that’s not it’s purpose. Tools are made to be used to help us build things. The Bible is a tool to help us build our lives. Use it.
3. Keep a journal. Or some method of documenting that allows you to review what God has done. In high school I heard a youth pastor say, “If it is important, right it down.” That was when I started my first journal. and there have been many years where I didn’t journal with any regularity, but having picked it back up, I’ve been reminded of how important it is.
I have discovered that I am a word hoarder. If I’ve emailed it, written it down, blogged it, or read it, I don’t discard it, I hold on to it so that I can review it again and again and gain from it all over. Keeping a journal, keeping a little hoard of words the documents your days enables you to recognize patterns of His faithfulness as you revisit what God has done for you, taught you, taken you through. And eventually you’ll start to anticipate that God will do these things again and again.
If it is true on a grand scale that “those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it,” it is also true for our own lives. There is no historian but you for your days and nights. Perhaps, you will grow up to be well known and influential on the course of the world and someone will right a book on you in retrospect, but that author will be digging through research to discover who you were. You are in your life now. Who better to write it down but you?
While God authors your story, put pen to paper and document it.
Live your history.
Learn your history.
And leave your history behind ready to move on to what God has for you next.
4. Be prepared to accept what He says. Even if you don’t like it.
Seeking after God when you are facing challenges or difficulties or decisions is not the same as chasing Santa. God loves you and wants you to live a life beyond your wildest dreams, but He is most interested in His glory and our gain. And our gain might not look like we think it should.
Our gain may look like a broken car so that we can build a friendship with a mechanic.
Our gain may look like going without so that we can know provision by His hand.
Our gain may look like failure so we are inspired to try harder next time.
Our gain may look like devastation, utter decimation, so that we are hands are so empty they are ready to be filled by His.
Our gain isn’t always new things, promotions, accolades and skinny thighs. His glory IS our gain. When you are ready to do what brings Him the most glory, you will, despite the circumstance, see the most gain where you didn’t expect to find it in the first place.
Knowing where God is leading is possible. God is no created method for predicting the future, like my figure skating 8-ball attempts to divine answers to silly questions. God is ready to walk you straight through your life into His glory and He has a Plan A for your life. He will not be thwarted by a Plan B, but He has a best plan, His plan for you. The best way to walk that path is to tuck in so tightly to His shadow that the only thing you can see are His feet in front of your own, His track before you, and walk therein.
His leading will never disappoint.
His ways are good.
His paths are worth the journey.