A few days ago I received an email from a gal in our congregation who was struggling with a major life decision – whether to move to her hometown to make double the money at a dream job or to stay here in Denver making half as much at a job she’s not quite as passionate about but continuing to enjoy a good life she’s built for herself here.
Her vexation was over the issue of not being clear on where God was leading her. She’d sought the advice and counsel of friends, mentors, etc., but still – no clarity.
So she turned to ME! Ha! The guy who wrote the blog post a little bit ago about the road veering off in a dozen directions and being totally uncertain where to go… haha. Life is funny like that.
Anyway, this was my response to her. I’m posting it here because I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with trying to figure out the age old question of how God leads us. Comment away! (PS – I’ve changed her name.)
Hey Sarah –
Thanks for writing, and for thinking enough of me to share this, even though we’ve never met. Means a lot to me 🙂
So… couple things:
First, if I were you I’d try to take this out of the “what is God saying” conversation and put it in the “what do I really want out of life” conversation. Not that you’re not still concerned about following the will of God or fulfilling God’s plan for your life or whatever… it’s just that, sometimes in Christianity we put too much emphasis on our ability to intuit the will of God as the crucial factor in whether the will of God will get accomplished in our lives or not.
In other words, we put too much of God’s plan on our shoulders, when the reality is that GOD is the one who makes good on his “plans” for our life… often (mostly?) DESPITE and sometimes even THROUGH the wacky decisions we make. Believing that should take the pressure off. At least it does for me.
Secondly, if you’re having trouble “hearing” God’s voice, it’s quite possible that’s because he’s not saying anything about it (ha!). It may be that he’s putting the decision into YOUR lap, asking you, “What do you really want out of life, Sarah?”
I’m constantly amazed at how, in the Gospels, Jesus often asks people “What do you want?” or “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s crazy. And the REALLY crazy thing is that he almost never responds to people’s requests by saying, “Yeah, actually, I can’t do that for you.” Usually it’s – “According to your faith” or something like that.
I tend to think that, especially as we grow and become more mature, God puts more of the onus for decision making on us. We submit our hearts, thoughts, motivations, etc to him… and he looks back at us and says, “Lovely. Here is life. It is yours for the taking. Let’s make something of it together. How would you like it to be?” And because our hearts have been molded for his purposes, he really can give us the freedom to put brush to the canvas of our lives…
That’s also a liberating thought, and a scary one. I know for me, I’ve spent the majority of my life living in the uber-specific “what does God want for me in each and every situation” frame of thought… which worked when I was younger… God was often VERY specific and obvious in how he led me… but as I’ve gotten older and noticed God’s way of leading me changing (that is, it’s often less obvious and more tied to the “what do I want” question), I’ve sometimes felt insecure. How can you possibly put this decision on ME God??!?! It would be so much better if you just made it for me!
But that’s not maturity. Maturity is the willingness to take responsibility for your own being and destiny. Sometimes I think we want God to show us exactly what to do so that we don’t have to take full responsibility for our choices. But then we negate a beautiful growth process in our lives – namely, the joy of coming into full self-possession, where we’ve taken risks, failed and succeeded, and have discovered much about ourselves and the world around us that is beautiful and surprising.
I’m not at all saying that we don’t seek God’s guidance for our lives, as you’ve done. Rather I’m saying that when it’s not obvious, then it’s time for us to man- or woman-up and make some decisions! And trust that God is in that… leading us in ways that are beyond our comprehension.
So having said all of that, I suppose the question becomes a bit more pragmatic. What do you want, Sarah? What is your vision of the good life? Which choice moves more thoroughly in that direction?
That’s maybe not an easy question to answer. Career advancement, working a job you’re passionate about – that’s a really good thing. And so is friends/environment/etc. Maybe create a list of what’s most important to you and try to weigh the decision out that way.
One thing that does strike me about your decision is that if you DID take the job and it didn’t work out, Denver’s not exactly going anywhere. You could probably come back. Chances are you might keep some of your friends.
But who knows… 🙂
Hope that helps. Let me know.
Grace and peace,