“God, what is Your will for my life? What is it You want me to do?”I wonder how many times I‘ve agonized over these questions. There have been seasons of doubt, of waiting, of impatience, of panicking, of confusion, of anticipation, of putting my life on hold. Of just wanting God to drop the answer in my lap.
Our original plan when we left for the Philippines in 1986 was to serve for three terms and then return home to use our experiences as missionaries and our spiritual gifts in the local church. Twelve years passed, three terms under our belts, and we were back in Akron, anticipating what God would open up for us. The next twelve months brought the weddings of two daughters, our third daughter started college, ANNNNDDDDD . . . . nothing. No open doors. No ministry opportunities available. What should we do? Should Steve look for a secular job? Does God want us to return to the Philippines? Can I leave again? Will I survive another term? These questions led to a family meeting and lots of tears along with Steve sensing strongly that God wanted us back in the Philippines. We prayed. Our family prayed even in their tears. My prayer circle prayed over me knowing that returning to the field was a difficult decision that I didn’t particularly like. In fact, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I was downright angry.
So we went – for four more years. I was devastated. My heart had been ready to stay home. BUT – much to my surprise, God gave us four AMAZING years! Not only that, but during our time away, The Chapel began the process of building a new campus south of Akron. Does anyone want to guess when it was finished? In 2003 – the end of our fourth term! An invitation came for Steve to join staff. And we were actually sitting in the pew at the very first service on the very first Sunday in the brand new church building!
Chris Tiegreen, in my daily devotional, wrote: “When God speaks, He usually does so in a way that requires faith to believe it really is His voice and in a way that requires us to dig for the treasures of wisdom and guidance He has hidden for us. Finding His will for us in personal decisions can seem like a cosmic game of hide-and-seek.”
Where exactly does one even begin in this “cosmic game of hide-and-seek”? When I asked my husband this question, he responded with “living obediently to God’s known will”. That’s the starting point – walk in obedience to what we already know – that which is revealed in Scripture. Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. Have no other gods. Love one another.
Okay, so what’s next? This is where I can get tripped up. Why? Because I am prone to doubt. It‘s astonishing to me that I, as a Christ follower, sometimes find it hard to believe that God, the One whose Holy Spirit lives within me, would “speak” to me! Why is it so difficult for me to accept this? I am quick to spout off Bible verses, but slow to believe them for myself. 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells meI have the mind of Christ. If this is true – if the Holy Spirit dwells in me and I have the mind of Christ – then as I passionately pursue God, as I seek to know His heart, as I am obedient to His commands and faithful to His call on my life for this moment, as I talk to Him about my hopes and dreams and desires, as I pray for wisdom and discernment, as I solicit the counsel of godly friends, I should not be surprised, in fact, I should expect, that He will speak to me – not with an audible voice, but with a stirring in my heart. That stirring should energize, awaken, challenge, inspire, spur, stimulate, urge. Or might even make me faint in fear, wondering if maybe He chose the wrong person.
Sometimes God makes it very clear what direction He wants us to go – so much so that there should be absolutely no hesitation on our part. Other times, He asks us to step out and take a leap of faith. And then there are those times that He simply asks us to be faithful . . . and wait. Pastor Jim recently wrote: “As a church right now, we are living in the wonderful tension of both waiting and walking. We are waiting on God to lead us into the future and a new senior pastor. And yet, we are also moving forward with the work of the gospel in the here and now. How can we be both waiting and walking—both resting and moving? It’s a beautiful antinomy. It’s what we often call the radical both. We need not choose only one option—to either wait or to move. We get to, and indeed must, choose both. Isaiah 26:8 says, ‘Yes Lord, walking in the way of Your laws, we wait for You; Your name and Your renown are the desire of our hearts.‘ This verse expresses for us the radical both of walking while waiting. We press forward by actively walking in God’s ways while simultaneously having an attitude of waiting on Him. These two seemingly contradictory things are expressed and experienced in beautiful partnership. And this is the call not only for us together as a church, but it’s also to be true for your own personal life of faith. To be fully at rest in Christ and yet pressing onward to bear fruit and ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling‘ (Philippians 2:12).”
I may be stepping on some toes here, but I’ll say it anyway – God even honors our reluctant obedience. He did mine! In retrospect, I can see that His timing and choice for us was right and perfect. I can’t even imagine what our lives would be like or where we would be living today if Steve hadn’t been willing to pray, listen, obey – regardless of how tough the decision was for him to make. “We know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Seek Him. Obey Him. Be faithful with what He has given you and where He has placed you. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Ask for counsel. And . . . “The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).