Oh yes! Be still in the presence of the LORD! What great advice to heed. We often worry, fret, and become anxious when we are trying to understand the Lord's plans for our lives. We might get an inkling of this or that or we might be blessed to receive some word or testimony in order to show us the way to go. The Lord might send a messenger to us, some sign or even an open door so that we can see where to go, see which way to walk. Other times, we find ourselves waiting, sitting still, and looking around as if we are lost in the shuffle of the huff-and-puff of life. There are days when I feel as though I have everything figured out. I just KNOW what the Lord wants from me. I feel His presence, I understand His will, and I am certain that I am right where He intends for me to be. I am in the moment, so to speak. There are other days, days like today, when I am consumed with doubt, with fear, and I feel immobile, unable to move because I do not know which way to go. I don't want to make a false move, so I tarry. I don't want to miss an opportunity, so I hesitate. I don't want to do something outside His will for my life, so I sit still and I wait for perfect confirmation. Sometimes, confirmation comes, and sometimes it doesn't. If we sit still and wait and wait and wait, we often let good opportunities pass us by. I think we do this out of fear mostly, but I have found that waiting, while a good thing, can also keep us stuck in places for longer than the Lord desires. Let me explain...
Understanding the Lord's Will
A couple years ago, I had a conversation with the Lord about this very thing, about waiting for too long before stepping out in faith and moving forward. I remembered the conversation today, I guess, because I feel stuck, I feel like I might be waiting for perfect confirmation when the Lord has already given me His "go ahead." I was stuck a few years back while I was waiting for confirmation of graduate school. I was working on my Masters degree, about midway through my program, and I felt the call from the Lord to start applying to Doctoral programs. I had several choices in front of me, and they were all good. They all had good points about them, but each one led in a different direction. I kept pressing the Lord for His "right choice" because I didn't want to get into a program that wouldn't align with His will nor one that wouldn't take me to where He wanted me to go. I remember stressing over the decision because, as I said, each one led to a different path.
- PhD in Higher Education Administration at UOPX - this was a degree that I seriously considered. I was working at UOPX and the school provided tuition assistance. It seemed like a no brainer. I could work and do school, get my tuition waived, and in the end, move into a position at UOPX or another college.
- PhD in English at Old Dominion University - this was a degree that seemed to align with my desires to study and to teach. It was online, and it seemed like a good fit. Tuition was reasonable, but the program required two foreign languages and about five years to complete.
- PhD in Communication at Regent University - this was a degree (my current program) that seemed to align with the Lord's will most closely. It was more expensive, but still online. I felt it was a long shot to be admitted since I didn't have a background in communications.
These were my short list of degree programs. Each led to a different type of career. I was concerned about the Lord's will, His plans, and in choosing the "right program." I remember the Lord telling me that as long as I was in His will for my life (meaning I was seeking Him first, aka Matt. 6:33), then these paths would all fulfill His call on my life. I didn't understand how this could be, I mean, wasn't there one RIGHT WAY TO GO?
After spending time in prayer and in the Word, this is what I came to learn about the Lord's will, and how it functions in our lives.
First, the believer must be in the Lord's will. This is the most important criteria for understanding the Lord's will and purpose. Without it, it is impossible for the believer to know what the Lord's will is for their life. I would say that most Christian's are living outside the Lord's will for their life. They may be sincere in their faith, but if they haven't made Him Lord over all, everything, then they lose out on knowing His specific calling and ministry He desires for them. Many Christians say that they love the Lord, but they really are only serving themselves. They want their cake, so to speak, and they are not willing to follow after the Lord, to do His work, to suffer for His Name, etc. They want a good comfortable life with no pain, no sorrow, and no suffering. For the true believer who has made the Lord their sole focus, the path to knowing their specific calling, their purpose in life, and their ministry becomes certain. It is only through intimate fellowship with the Lord that this knowledge is revealed. The timing of it is specific to the individual. The Lord ministers to them individually, helps them mature in faith, and when He is ready, He reveals His will to them. The rest is learning how to follow, how to obey, and how to do the work He calls them to do.
Second, once the believer is in intimate fellowship with the Lord, then they begin their faith journey, learning how to listen, to obey, and to follow after Him. During this training time, as I like to call it, the believer is learning what it means to be a Christ follower. He is learning how to depend on the Lord, to trust Him, to rely upon Him. This is critical because often the Lord's will includes great leaps of faith, steps that are "blind" where the believer must trust in the character of the Lord, the nature of the Lord.
Third, once the Lord has brought the believer to the point of faith where they can accept His calling, then the real work comes to pass. The believer is given a call (sometimes it is a second calling - the first was to bring the believer into deeper faith, the second is to confirm the readiness of the believer to begin the work) to ministry. This call usually coincides with something the believer is currently doing or desires to do. Sometimes it is completely different, but most of the time, the believer has come to recognize their spiritual gifts, and has learned through life experience, what they seem to do best (they may find they love working with youth or special needs adults, for example).
Fourth, after the call has been given and received, then the believer begins the process of transformation, and this transformation seems to depend on the nature of the ministry work. In some cases, it may mean being trained or prepared through education. In others, it might be internships or actual field work. Then for others, it could simply mean creating a new work, a new program or ministry.
Last, once the ministry calling has been confirmed, and plans are under way to bring the believer to readiness, maturity, and stature, then the work begins. This process can be time-consuming depending on the work, but often it is a rewarding period whereby the Lord is guiding and directing the believer, helping them understand what He wants them to do and how He intends to have them do it.
During this whole process, many years may pass. Some receive callings very early in life, but the actual ministry work doesn't begin until the second-half of their years (like in my case, past 50). Others receive the call and begin the work as young people. They will spend the rest of their lives in ministry or service to others. The important thing to remember is that no matter how much time passes, the process will be made complete. The Lord doesn't train people half way. He doesn't lead them on only to drop them midstream. No, the Lord will bring to maturity all His children, and He will teach and train them in the work He needs them to do. He will always complete what He starts. He is, after all, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Choosing a Path to Follow
In my life (my example), I was stuck for a long while because I couldn't choose a path to follow. The Lord presented several options for me, but I was waiting for the ONE SURE WAY. Like I said, I didn't want to make a mistake and choose the wrong path. The Lord helped me to understand how life works, in general, and how He works in our lives through the simple diagram above. It is not really about life, but more so, it is a good representation of what I am trying to show. In our life, we are presented with many paths. These paths seem to lead in varying directions, and because we cannot see their end point, just their beginning point, we do not know where they lead. Often, we find ourselves on a path through a choice we made as a child or young adult. Perhaps we are on a path chosen by our spouse, etc. Sometimes through no fault of our own we are on a path not of our choosing. In my case, I had been on a path chosen by my ex-husband. It wasn't aligned with the Lord's will, so when I found myself single, I vowed to follow the Lord no matter where He led me. Since I wasn't used to following the Lord directly (I was following along indirectly during my marriage, meaning I followed the Word, obeyed and listened, but I didn't have freedom to go anywhere my husband didn't want to go - if that makes sense). It took a lot of time for me to come to lean on the Lord, to be able to trust Him for direction. Even though I was desperate to follow Him, I still discounted my own understanding of what I thought He was saying to me. I didn't want to make any life-altering mistakes.
The Lord would often present me with options, and He would ask me to choose a path. I would be fearful in choosing a path because I didn't know where they would lead me. This is the image that came to my mind one day, and like I said, the picture isn't a perfect representation, but it is a good diagram to demonstrate this truth. If you are in the Lord's will, meaning you are trusting Him, following after Him, and seeking Him with your entire being, then all the paths that are presented to you will be good choices. They will take you different routes, but eventually you will arrive at your final destination. The Lord will use those paths to build you up, to shape you, to grow you to stature, so in essence, they are all good ways to go. Yes, they do lead in different directions, and they will have hardship, trials, and difficulties associated with them. But the hand of the Lord will be upon you so no matter which way you choose to go, the Lord will be right there with you.
I think the reason so many Christians remain stuck in places for too long is that they are afraid to choose a path that will have hardship. The Word has never promised us a path that is easy to walk. Anyone who tells you that as a Christian you will have a perfect life; or that you will receive wealth, health and prosperity simply by becoming a Christian is a liar. This is not true. Now, the Lord can choose to bless you with these things, but the Word clearly tells us that in this life we will have troubles. There is no getting around it -- following after the Lord, bearing His cross daily -- is not easy, is not pleasant, and is not always filled with happiness. There is joy in the Lord, peace, contentment, and satisfaction in the process, in the journey, but also there will be hard roads ahead, trials and tribulations, and of course, suffering to endure. This is the mark of a Christ follower. However, we are never alone, and the result is always blessed.
Therefore, when the Lord presents options to you, it is important to pray about them, analyze them in order to identify any issues, and then let them go. Take a deep breath and choose a path to follow. Trust in the Lord knowing that He has you well-covered. You can take joy in the journey, find hope and happiness in your experiences. The most important thing is to choose a way to go. This is especially true if the Lord has given you the "go ahead" and has said you are to "go!" By all means, get going. Stop sitting around waiting for more signs. Step out in faith, trust Him, and breathe! He has your hand, He has the path marked out, and He knows where He is leading you. Just let go of the reins and let Him lead. This is the only way you will ever experience the fulfillment of the Lord's will. You must trust Him enough to walk on, even when the path is unknown, and when the way seems unclear. You must simply walk on.
Do you trust Him today, dear believer?
If so, then let go, and get moving! Move on, and enjoy the blessed gift of life that He is offering to you. If not, then pray for the desire to move, pray for the grace to move, and then pray for the strength to move. If it is His will, He will give it to you.
Lastly, whenever you are presented with several options it is important to realize that every option is a valid one. They might all be different or varying shades of the same color, but the end result will be the same. You will do the work the Lord has called you to do. You might just do it in Boise instead of Buffalo. You will not fail the Lord. You will not disappoint Him. You will not cause Him concern or worry. He knows exactly what He has in mind for you so let go of your fears, your doubts, and your worries about doing the wrong thing, and embrace the opportunity for a new experience. God is good, so very good. He will lead you. He is faithful. You can count on Him.