No matter how independent we consider ourselves, we all follow something — a philosophy, religion, or school of thought — and we’re always in pursuit of something — comfort, notoriety, pleasure, financial security, love, etc.
Some time after being lifted from the black hole of depression by the touch of the Great Physician in 1972, I realized I wanted to follow Him in every aspect of my life, and I made that my primary pursuit.
Easy to say, but not so simple to do. One of the most difficult things is seeing where He’s going in order to follow Him there. You hear people say, “The Lord led me to do such-and-such,” and I’ve said the same thing myself. But how does a person know this? It’s easy to lose sight of His lead car in the snarled traffic of life.
I contemplate this frequently, but especially so over the past few weeks.
A person who doesn’t acknowledge the existence of God, or who might accept the idea of a spiritual force of some sort but doesn’t believe we can have personal interaction with it, honestly can’t understand how this works. I can see how such a person would think this whole topic ridiculous.
But for those who do know God, His leading is a very real thing. The tough part is discerning His leading from our own desires. “Follow your heart” is the worst advice ever dispensed. As God said through the prophet in Jeremiah 17:9, the human heart is deceitful, desperately wicked, and unknowable. That’s not the sort of entity a wise person follows! So how can a sincere Christ-follower know when it’s the Spirit of God speaking, and when it’s his own deceitful heart?
The first criterion, of course, is if the “feeling” compels us to do something that goes against the clear teaching of the Bible. God will never contradict Himself, so (for example) if we feel drawn into an adulterous relationship, we can be certain it’s our self/flesh compelling us rather than the Holy Spirit. But not everything is so cut and dried. How can we know, definitively, Who or what is calling to us?
I’m not sure there’s any one answer to the question. God knows each of us intimately, and He operates in the way for us personally and for our particular situation. Sometimes He speaks gently, sometimes we need a swift kick in the pants. In one case, circumstances might confirm the rightness of our decision, and in other situations we must wait a long time to see things fall into place. Occasionally a person “just knows” immediately what she must do, and other times she must pray about it for days or weeks before she’s sure.
My personality is as non-confrontive as water, so I’m inclined to take the path of least resistance. If I feel led to a particular action, I’ll pray about it, make a decision based upon my understanding of God’s will as expressed in the Bible as well as practical considerations, and then move forward, allowing circumstances to confirm I’m on the right course. I continue to pray about it, remaining open to the Spirit’s urging as to when to continue and when to take a different route, and thus go with the flow. God doesn’t always work that way in my life, but for the most part, this “water” method has stood me in good stead.
Beware the guilt trip, however, which can send us on a detour. Somebody asks us to help him out, take on a responsibility, or attend an event, and makes us feel that if we don’t agree, we’re shirking our Christian duty. God convicts us of sin when we’re truly in error, but He never uses guilt to motivate us; that’s the devil’s tool. It’s important to analyze what’s compelling us to action.
Months ago, I believed I should start writing the fourth and final book in the Gateway to Gannah series, then move on to something else. I thought I knew how the series should wrap up, and I was confident one more book would complete it neatly. I also assumed I’d be writing fiction the rest of my life.
But from the time I started writing this book, I’ve run into roadblocks. The recent flood of family issues requiring my attention has kept me away from my WIP for weeks. Is this God’s way of redirecting me? Is it time to put Gannah behind me? Or is this a test of my persistence? Perhaps it’s just a delay; maybe the Lord wants me to complete the book, but to take it in a different direction from what I’d originally planned. It’s even possible my fiction-writing career should end after the release of the third book in the series.
As I write this, it appears the flood is receding and I might soon have the opportunity to get back to writing again. So I’m praying for direction.
I’m confident He’ll lead me along the path He wants me to follow, just as He has all along. But as of now, I have no definitive answers as to what that path will be.