Life Is Not a Template

Some are blessed to see clearly, from the beginning, the life path they were made to take. Some are blessed to fit naturally into the conventional expectation that “everyone” should earn a college degree, get a well-paying 40-hours-per-week job, get married and settle down.

Then there are those of us who receive the “blessing” of feeling strongly that we were created for a path different from the “sensible” one everyone urges us to pursue–but of seeing that path “through a glass darkly,” being able only to say “I want to write books” or “I want to travel,” and left bewildered when others reply, “How do you expect to make a living at that?” when we aren’t even sure which of a hundred possible steps is the first one in that direction.

Many such people successfully pursue their creative calling as ministry while also holding down a “day job” for essential expenses. Others of us aren’t made too well for the “day job” path either, and may spend years fuming in frustration because, however our daily needs are actually met, we expend so much emotional energy resenting the tedium that we have nothing left with which to pursue our primary path.

But whether you are a natural full-time worker, a proud maverick, a minister/tentmaker, a frustrated creative, or a confused beginner, it’s inevitable that sometime in life you will confront a situation where everyone you trust is saying “Go this way, anyone can see it’s the best choice”–and you keep feeling that God is telling you to do something completely different. Faith has its hardest test at the point where it contradicts all obvious logic and you can’t really explain why you feel so sure that God wants you to take the “illogical” path; the temptation is to think “They can’t all be wrong; there’s a dozen of them and only one of me, so the odds are heard wrong; and they’re good Christians, so surely God wouldn’t let them give me bad advice.”

While there are certainly enough cases of Christians rationalizing “God must want me to do this” simply because they want to do it–in the face of a mountain of advice to the contrary–and living to regret it, there are also many cases of Christians who followed–in the face of a mountain of advice to the contrary–what they were confident was God’s leading–and turned out to be right. Even godly and loving advisors (to draw on J. B. Phillips’s memorable phrasing of Romans 12:2a) can become part of the “world” that is trying to squeeze a fellow believer into its own mold instead of freeing him to pursue God’s best for him; the idea that “surely God will reward His loyal followers with easy and profitable assignments” can blind the most sincere among us.

As a longtime member of the “frustrated creatives” mentioned earlier, I empathize with the wish that God would just hand everyone an assignment list (or at least a detailed template) and do away with all the agonizing, arguments, and uncertainties. Nor can I explain, beyond pointing out the annoyingly vague fact that we grow stronger through walking by faith rather than sight, why He so often prefers the inefficient, tension-generating approach of giving us an indefinable “feeling” for the right direction.

However, if you presently happen to be in one of those “I’m sure this is God’s will for me but all advice and circumstances are saying different” situations, I can offer you a couple of suggestions for nurturing the confidence to go forward in faith:

First, have you prayed about it–really prayed, in full sincerity and surrender and humility and willingness to hear what God has to say? If you have, then it’s extremely likely that the path you are seeing is His will for you.

Second, does your feeling that this is the right path go deep: are you looking at it in sincere desire to do what is right, regardless of how “easy” or immediately rewarding it is? Is there a restlessness in you that gets stronger whenever you seriously consider giving up the idea (cf. Jeremiah 20:9), as opposed to simple “what if” anxiety that can attack any decision? If the answer is “yes,” then you have every cause to believe that the calling is genuinely Spirit-generated.

(Quick note to those who belong to the “loved ones/advisors of the person struggling with such a decision” group: serious prayer and looking deep won’t hurt you either, especially if the decision-maker is your own offspring or the decision will otherwise affect any of your long-held hopes and dreams. When God calls someone off the “obvious” path, loved ones often have more difficulty accepting the fact of God’s hand in the call–and are more likely to let their emotions rather than God be their guide–than is the called one himself.)

Ultimately, though, there is rarely any benefit in waiting for “absolute certainty” one way or the other. All we can do is accept that as the One in ultimate control, God knows best and will work it all out for good.

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3 Comments

  1. janetanncollins

     /  May 15, 2015

    I’ve often wished God would hand down a scroll from the sky telling me exactly what to do, but if that did happen it would probably be written in Hebrew so I couldn’t read it anyway. 😉

    Reply
  2. Jerrie

     /  May 18, 2015

    Your heart flies higher in the sky. Beautiful thoughts.

    Reply
  3. Jo Swank

     /  May 18, 2015

    Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice saying, “This is the road!
    Now follow it.” Isaiah 30:21 (CEV)
    Thank you, Kathy

    Reply

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