Here's some truth... i have been a picky path-chooser, an obsessive decision-maker, and a fearful do-er.
But some good news: I am changing.
A few years ago, I went on a trip where I learned how to hear God's voice. I can honestly say that it has been the biggest blessing in my life to sense God's truth in such a way...but if I'm holding nothing back- hearing God has also been my biggest burden (well- until recently).
I determined that the mysteries of God were a puzzle that I was entrusted...no, RELIED UPON... to solve. I felt a huge weight in any decision-making, determined that, if I wasn't careful, I would get the plan wrong, ruin His will, and work for Satan to destroy the world. Maybe this sounds silly (and a part of me hopes that it does sound silly to you) but this was my mindset for the last three years.
I remember before Semester at Sea asking God to SHOW ME A SIGN. Was I supposed to go abroad? Was I supposed to stay here? Who would disciple to some of the communities I was in? I felt a personal obligation to be in every spot all at once, and until I got an answer, I determined not to move. I became a fearful servant.
I would ask for sign after sign. And I did recieve some. I recieved clarity and signs...on occasion. But I was asking for signs and directions for every aspect of every-day living. I started noticing a problem. God's voice was supposed to bring freedom, not fear. God's voice was supposed to be clear, not confusing.
I listened to a sermon last week. It was an old one and I think finding it was a God-sent gift in itself. The sermon was titled "What Is God's Will?" http://costamesa.rockharbor.org/message/what-is-god-s-will/ ...I thought, well THIS should be good. I was pessimistic. Every insight into God's will that I had heard so far either said to listen harder (because God has a definite, specific will and you gotta catch what He's throwing)...or that God really didn't care (do whatever you want!).
I KNEW God cared about my decisions. I have had times in my life where I was amazed at how specific God was: who He wanted me to live with, where He wanted me to go on a certain day, etc. I determined that He must care about decision making...probably more than I care. He cared in the Bible and He cares now. And as for the 'listen harder' messages, I wasnt sure if I could possibly obsess more than I already was...and I didn't think it was very healthy to obsess anyways.
But this message was different. It talked about Ruth and Naomi and Boaz.
Ruth and Naomi were a mother and daughter-in-law that were dirt-poor, without husbands and sons, and off in a foreign land. They needed food, so Ruth went to pick up the extra food in the field (that was purposely left for the very poor). When the pastor explained this next part, my stomach sunk.
"Did ruth fast and pray about which field to go to? nope"
The rest of the sermon explained that so many of us try to con God and figure out His will. We look for formulas to try and find it, believing that doing His will is like playing Hide-and-Seek with God.
This could not have convicted me more. I think there is definitely such a thing as discernment...but what I was doing was not really discernment. I believed that God wanted me to know His will, but that He wasn't capable of making it clear to me.
This is the part that I want to work on: BELIEVING that if God wants me to know His will, then He can show it to me. The pastor continued, "If you faithfully walk with Him, He will guide you"... "Hearts that are open to being led will be led."
I have never fully believed this. I have seen God as a taskmaster. I thought that even if I try to honor Him, I have to work to figure out how. 'If I can hear Him perfectly, then He'll give me more words...but if I get it wrong, I'm toast. He won't use me anymore...I've done too much harm.'
With Ruth's story, I feel that God has healed my heart a little bit. Ruth had an open heart. She may not have fasted about which field to go to, but she knew her present responsibilities: that she needed food for her mother-in-law and for herself. She saw the ways that she could honor God in the moment and she attended to them.
Likewise, God does make some parts of His will very clear. He tells me to honor my father and mother, He tells me to love others, He tells me that "Whatever (I) do, work at it with all (my) heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters" (Colossians 3:23). He tells me to not be sexually impure, to not steal, to not hate. There are plenty of things that I KNOW God wills. Ruth knew that loving her mother-in-law in that moment meant gathering food for her. She focused on the present and trusted God to provide for her in life.
I want to be more like Ruth. I am much too focused on the end result of who I will marry, where I will live, and what I will be doing. I am so future-minded, but there are many things in the present that need attending to. Am I loving others as myself? Am I honoring God with dating? Am I being an honorable employee, friend, daughter, etc?
My mindset has changed, and life seems so much more beautiful. I understand now that when God says not to worry about tomorrow, He doesn't just mean the 'bad stuff' like bankruptcy, sickness, and heartbreak…He means not to worry about the future: including where I will work, what I will do, who I will marry, if I will marry/have kids. If He wanted me to know those things, I would know them.
Living in the present is a beautiful thing, but a part of me still fears choosing the wrong things when there isn't a WRONG choice (i.e.: move to Seattle or Denver). Believing that He is good and faithful and SOVEREIGN means trusting that He can also shut doors. Believing that He is sovereign means believing that He will redirect us as we go. We dont have to have it figured out before stepping out in faith. I guess a part of faith is believing that He can redirect.
In Acts 16, Paul said twice that He was going to go somewhere and twice God shut the door. Then Paul went to sleep and God told Paul where He wanted him to go. I want to believe that God is sovereign and trust that He isn't trying to trap me, that He wants me to have freedom- in choice making, but also from the fear of 'doing it wrong'.
I want to enjoy the journey and have the Hands Up Living that I wrote about more than a year ago.
And I think that kind of living is possible-- We have the freedom to act. With Ruth, she acted in the present will of God, and a divine coincidence happened. Boaz arrived. He happened to be a relative of her former husband's, which was convenient because that meant that Boaz could marry her…which He did. Ruth trusted that the Lord would provide while honoring Him in her present conditions… and Ruth and Naomi were taken care of by God.
By trusting, we can know that God is good enough to shut doors and He is good enough to provide these divine coincidences. I don't want to be paralyzed in indecision waiting for future answers. I can live a God-honoring life in the present and be willing to be corrected when I get it wrong. I don't have to be afraid of messing things up. God is not trying to trap me and He doesn't want me to be afraid of failure (even when I'm afraid because I care about His plan). Trusting Him means that I don't have to be perfect in hearing Him to act on His will… in fact, trusting Him means that I am imperfect, but I am not reliant on myself. This freedom comes when we trust that He is good enough to redirect, that He does care, and that hearts that are open to being led will be led.
I may not have the answers to future questions (that (true) cheesy saying: sometimes God doesn't tell us the destination because He cares about the journey), but I can act in the way I see smartest and best, and pray that God redirects me if I'm wrong.
(if you struggle with this idea, I strongly suggest listening to the sermon I mentioned earlier…link above. I wish I had heard it earlier!)