To Follow God’s will is a beautiful thing – or at least we know it must be. It is supposed to make us happy, make us great, bring out our strengths and strengthen our weaknesses. It is supposed to bring us closer to God and make us the person we are meant to be.
But, if it is so wonderful, why it is often equally frustrating, enigmatic, and confusing?
We have dreams, good intentions, inclinations, aversions, and so many varying talents that seem to take us in so many different directions. How do we know what to do? How do we know if the path we choose is the right one? How can we be certain we aren’t missing something that was meant to steer us in a different direction?
Is it bad if I do one thing and realize later that I was supposed to be doing something else?
I’d like to share a small bit of my story with you…
10 years ago I planned to be one of 3 things:
- A renowned, but spinster, Spanish Professor with 3 doctorates living in a loft space somewhere back East with nothing but my million books (yes, in my mind, my loft space looked a lot like living in the the Beast’s castle library), reading constantly surrounded by candles and an extensive collection of red wine (in addition to the stacks of books).
- Married to a dreamy brown skinned, brown eyed Latino in a foreign country, speaking Spanish to our 2 adorable brown skinned, brown eyed babies
- OR, a cloistered Carmelite nun hiding away in some abbey deep in the Spanish countryside never to speak to or hear from “modern society” ever again.
Those were my three dreams. I was certain they would come to pass because they were so real, so tangible, so practical, and completely possible.
(I had toyed with the idea of writing a book but I thought it was not nearly as probable of one of the aforementioned items – little did I know…)
I pursued these dreams – and experienced great peace while doing it!
I got a Master’s Degree in Spain with grades and recommendations that could easily have gotten me into any doctoral program I wanted with a full ride scholarship. But, at that point I lost that “gut” peace with studying and felt I needed, almost desperately, to come home and sort things out for a while before committing myself.
I was practically engaged to 2 great guys (at different times) in Mexico and was convinced that I would marry one of them. But, things just didn’t work out.
The convent I visited on a daily basis while in Spain tried for over a year to recruit me to join their ranks. I considered it in a very serious way and spent considerable time with them but just couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow I was running away from something, instead of towards it.
This whole time, I had an uneducated, atheistic, very white, guy friend at work who, unbeknownst to me, “just knew” that we would be married one day. This, however, was so far off my radar that the possibility never even occurred to me – even after he came to Spain to visit me and proposed! (I thought he was joking!)
And yet here we are, 10 years, 3 books, a blog, a budding business, totally new dreams, and 5 kids later, pursuing a mission I never could have seen coming, with greater peace and conviction in our hearts than ever before.
How did I figure out what God’s will was, when my plan was so far off where I was meant to be?
In hindsight now I can reflect on how my dreams played a role in what I am doing now.
My education allowed me to feel very competent and strong in my ability to analyze, learn, and write. My education afforded me the ability to teach Spanish for 5 years as my husband and I began our family. This experience not only taught me how to teach in person and online, but also gave me strength and confidence in my public speaking abilities and completely paid off my student loans.
My “South of the border” escapades taught me what relationships WEREN’T supposed to be.
And, through the whole roller coaster of trying to figure out what I was meant to do, my relationship with God grew to such an extent that it was the only constant in my life, the one thing that I could always count on, and the one thing that mattered most.
Do I regret pursuing what I wasn’t meant to do?
Absolutely not! I truly believe that I WAS meant to do those things for the time that I did them. Without them I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now, equipped with the tools I have now to do this blog, these courses, and this ministry. Even though I couldn’t see it then, God has always been preparing me for His will for me now.
4 specific tips to Follow God’s Will – even if you don’t know what it is
1) Develop a strong relationship with Him
You need to get to a point in your relationship with God that you trust Him enough to accept whatever His will may be, even if you don’t understand it.
- How to know if you have a genuine relationship with God – 10 diagnostic questions
- What does a true relationship with God look like?
- 6 Steps to a Practical Friendship with God
2) Develop a spirit of silence
So you can hear His voice. He will talk to you if you listen.
- How to Cultivate a Love of Quiet
- Called to Be Still – Giving God the Gift of your Presence
- How to Listen when it Feels like God is Silent
3) Get to Know His Voice and How He speaks to you
How He speaks to you will be unique to you! Be sure to learn how He communicates with you best so that you can recognize when He is letting you know what to do!
Yes, dear reader, at some point we have to stop discerning and just try something. We have to act! We might not ever be certain of what we do but we have to do SOMETHING!
Often we “pray and pray” and do nothing. We “pray” and expect some angel to come out of the sky and do everything for us…or, fix everything with some kind of magic wand.
Newsflash: Magic does not exist! We do! We are His hands and feet! We have to step out of the boat!
Listen to: Walking on Water – NeedtoBreathe
We have to stop blaming God for problems and start getting our hands dirty. We have to “meet God halfway”.
But what do I do?
How can we know if the actions we do are the right ones?
- Trial and error.
Green light :
If you try something and it seems to be working out (even if it is difficult) or going in the right direction, (ie. no “red or yellow lights”) then keep doing it!
If you find yourself being challenged or growing into a better person or coming closer to God through what you are doing, then KEEP doing it!
If you experience great peace in what you are doing (even if you can’t explain why), then keep doing it!
There will be times when you try to act and everything “goes wrong”. You may think you are trying to do something “good” but there is just no peace in your heart or spirit in your work,.
This may be a sign that the whole decision was wrong, but often it is only the method, means, or timing that is off (since our intentions are typically good). For example: You’re pretty sure you want to study medicine but the school you chose doesn’t feel right, or you know you want to be a parent, but you need to find the right mate or the right circumstances first, or, you want to write a book, start a blog, etc, but you haven’t found the right publisher or niche yet.)
What to do if this happens:
- Take the problem to prayer.
- Ask the right questions: What is the root of the problem? Is it the idea itself? or is it HOW you are doing it? Or WHEN you are doing it? Have you given the idea enough of a chance to see if there is even a problem at all? Maybe you are just looking for too many instant results when that is unreasonable. Could it be WHO you are doing it with? Or without? Are you trying to hard to do it yourself (your way, your plan, etc), or do you think asking for some guidance might be helpful? Etc…
- Then, make adjustments to how you are doing things. If you found no true “red lights” – Don’t scrap the whole thing or give up. Just try something different, and reevaluate after a trial period. (Make sure the trial period is long enough to be sure).
Or “red flags” – These are major, genuine obstacles, concerns or issues with your plan that seem to encourage you NOT to move forward. When you encounter these you should probably completely stop whatever you are pursuing and reevaluate your life. (It is extremely important to pay attention to these in major life decisions, such as a choice of spouse or career.)
If something is clearly leading you away from God or your other first responsibilities such as spouse, children, or church: this should be a definite, obvious and immediate NO.
There are other “Red lights” that aren’t quite as obvious.
If what you are doing isn’t challenging you or encouraging you to grow, then you are probably settling for less that what you are called to.
If lessons learned from experience or consistent advice from more experienced persons than yourself who are genuinely invested in your best interest signal you toward something else, even if that something feels less “impressive” an undertaking than your first reaction. At the very least, these things should be taken to prayer and genuinely taken into account.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes,
If you realize something was wrong even when you thought it would be right, just stop and try something else. Don’t worry about time “wasted”, think of it as time spent well, discovering “what not to do” as Thomas Edison put it. It’s never too late to set out on another path time to start acting again in a different direction.
Also, Listen to Hilary Scott’s “Thy Will”.
- Trust that He truly is leading you
and that He wants you to succeed.
Just don’t forget that what you are envisioning might not be His idea of success. 🙂
Remember, if He doesn’t answer, it’s ok! If it is really important HE WILL TELL YOU (if you are listening). We truly do have the last say over what we do and how we live our lives. Sometimes, He just gives us freedom to choose, simply and completely.
What kinds of things should I be discerning about?
The short answer to this is anything and everything. This can be anything from the ordinary mundane – such as, which book to read, or which route to use to travel home during rush hour (yup, He’ll even answer that) – to much bigger things – such as, what job to take, where to live, what to study, which career path to purse, whether to try for another baby, etc.
I asked Him the other day if I should tell people about baby’s gender or keep it a secret… He told me the choice was up to me because it truly didn’t matter. Yes, sometimes, the choice is truly and completely up to you. It is nice to have that balance. It is freeing to know that God will often take the pressure of making difficult decisions off our shoulders by letting us know what we should do… but, our life is still freely given and completely ours. Sometimes, we simply get to choose.
And, never forget:
- Nothing is too trivial for God – everything that is important to you is important to Him (because you are important to Him).
- Nothing is impossible for God – He can fix any mistake and make any seemingly impossible dream come true. Thus, you have nothing to lose by trying.
- God always has time for you – Nothing is more important to God than you. He is always ready and waiting to help. He is just waiting to be asked.
Guidance: G = God, U and I Dance! (Author Unknown)