I remember sitting in Adams Park in Kennesaw, Georgia, with my husband back when we were teenagers and telling him that I knew I would have a hard life. I knew that I would never have the white-picket-fence life or be the soccer mom, because God had another plan for me. Let me stop here and say that I am not criticizing those who do have a comfortable life — I just have always known I wouldn’t.
But that’s about where the life-plan clarity ended. None of the specifics of my life — having children, making ministry decisions, and seeking job direction — have seemed to follow such a defined path. They’ve been hard for sure, and yet I haven’t had that moment where the sky opens up and God gives me clarity on a specific issue.
In all of my recent seeking for the Lord’s will, I’ve come across two schools of thought about finding it. One of them, proposed in the book What Am I Supposed to Do with My Life? by Johnnie Moore, says that we should, when faced with two equally good decisions and no clear word from God, choose what we feel and trust that God will bless it. The other school of thought, which I find myself leaning toward, says that we should hear a clear direction from God before we act. I may not be quite as specific as Gideon was when he laid out the fleece before God in Judges 6, but I am still looking for big and small signs of God’s will in the world around me and wondering if each one is God’s divine voice of direction.
Lately in our lives, Dusty and I have been trying to make a major decision. I wish I could say more, but then I wouldn’t be the woman of mystique and mystery that I am. It’s not that we haven’t tried to figure out the Lord’s will. Of course we have. We have, in fact, spent thousands of dollars and have taken some special adventures to try to figure out what God’s will is.
We’ve prayed and we’ve fasted, we’ve listened to podcasts and sermons, and we’ve gotten advice from wise and well-meaning friends. However, we both know what it is to hear clearly from the Lord for ourselves. I don’t mean that we are waiting for His audible voice, but we want to feel a down-deep assurance of what we’re supposed to do. In this situation, we don’t feel clear about one way or the other, but we feel like we need to make a decision soon. We don’t want to bang on a closed door, but we don’t feel like it’s totally closed either.
Anytime I don’t know what to do, I feel that there’s only one place to go, and that’s God’s Word. If anyone knew what it was like to have to wait for a really long time, it was Abraham and Sarah, and so their story really inspires me not to give up hope that I will hear from the Lord. Let me share with you three lessons I learn from their waiting story.
Three Lessons on Following God’s Will
1. Sometimes we have to follow without knowing our destination.
We first read Abram’s story in Genesis 12. The very first recorded word from God to him is to leave his country and everything he knows and go to a country that God will show him — as in, show him after Abraham starts walking toward it. That is so scary! I can’t imagine getting up and going without knowing the destination, but maybe that’s exactly what God is asking me to do with my spiritual journey. He is asking all of us to trust Him when we can’t see what He’s gotten us into.
2. God is merciful even when we get sidetracked from His perfect will.
When we read about biblical people, we have the tendency to think of them as characters, and not only that, but we think of them as heroes who always made the right decisions and saw the supernatural. Abram seems like such a hero because he was willing to make a journey into the unknown, guided by only a word from God, and an incomplete word at that.
However, he missed God’s will at times. In a later section of Genesis 12, Abram pretends that Sarah is his sister and almost causes her to be violated by Pharoah, thus bringing disaster upon the people who are offering him refuge during a famine. In chapter 16, he listens to his wife’s poor advice to try to conceive his promised heir through a servant instead of his own wife.
Like the plagues that came because of Abram’s earlier deception, heartbreak came when Abram had to send his son Ishmael away. However, like is always the case with our great God, Abram’s promise of inheritance did come, despite his missteps. I don’t want to miss a step in God’s plan for me, but I am happy to know that we serve a God of mercy who will see our destiny through to completion when we trust Him to get us back on track.
3. We will be blessed when we obey God’s will.
One of my favorite songs to sing in worship a few years ago was Hillsong’s “None but Jesus,” specifically because of the line that says, “When you call, I won’t delay.” It’s one thing to say okay to God’s call, but it’s another to go with it when He asks. Immediately. Without overthinking it. Abram followed God’s call way back in Genesis 12. However, it’s Genesis 17 when God appears to reconfirm his covenant of Abram having children, through renaming him Abraham and asking him to be circumcised.
By this point, Abraham is 99 years old, and to his wife Sarah, having a child is literally a laughing matter. But a year later, as God had promised, Abraham and Sarah give birth to Isaac. God may have seemed to delay the response they were waiting for, but they never delayed their obedience to His will, and for that, they were rewarded with the child of promise in God’s time.
I think I’ve come to this conclusion: some decisions are OK to just go with if God doesn’t speak, but others are such that we need to make sure we hear clearly.
When Abram went, it was because God told him to. He didn’t just have an unction or a feeling; he knew that God had spoken. By using Abram’s story as the template for my upcoming life decisions, I will do this — seek God actively, listen to what He says, obey without delay, and try not to get sidetracked. And because I believe what He says in Galations 6:9, I know that His promises for me and my husband will come to pass in every way.
Even if we have to wait 99 years.
Are you trying to make a difficult decision? Do you feel like you can’t hear God’s voice? Have you been waiting forever? Are you paralyzed with inaction? Please leave a comment below so that we can pray together. God wants us to know His will, and there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.