I was wrestling deeply with the question, “What do I do?”
It was my sophomore year of college. I had just returned to school from spring break, and there was a complete shift in my desires. I was heavily involved on campus as an RA. I tutored Anatomy and Physiology five to six hours a week. I was on the leadership team for our campus ministry. And I was pursuing a semester abroad for my junior year. But when I got back to campus after a week away, I had zero desire to engage in any of those things.
The most telling sign was when my acceptance letter for my semester abroad came. It arrived the week I got back from spring break. I pulled the thick folded-over packet of information from my tiny campus mailbox, and by the size of it, I knew it was an acceptance letter. I opened it up and pulled out the congratulatory cover letter just enough to see the words,
After seeing those words, I pushed it back down, stuck it under my arm and walked back to my dorm. Once in my room, I threw it in the corner on a pile of random stuff and never looked at it again.
This told me that something significant had shifted in my heart. I had been so excited about this program and the opportunity to study in another country. The fact that I now could care less about being accepted was bizarre.
Needless to say, I started to pray feverishly. I desperately wanted to hear from God what I should do.
Many people want to hear from God when it comes to making big decisions.
Do I take the job offer or keep working my way up in my current company?
Is this the right person for me to marry, or is there someone else out there for me?
Should we move to another city, state, or country? Or should we stay put?
I was asking, “Do I go abroad, or not? Do I continue on as an RA, tutor, or leader in our campus ministry? Do I even stay at my school, or should I transfer?” I was asking God all of these questions, desperately seeking answers.
Before I go any further, I should say that it is more than okay to ask for guidance and discernment from God in these moments. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”
Essentially, it’s saying God will direct and guide you.
However, as a pastor, I wonder if we primarily desire to hear from God only when we need something, like direction or guidance. In which case, are we treating God as though he were a Magic 8 Ball? If we can shake Him just right with the right kind of prayer, maybe He’ll give the answer we need. Which in that case, we can then set Him down and go about our lives.
I think God is eager to give us guidance and direction. I believe He longs to shepherd us through those big decisions. But He primarily wants to do it in the context of a relationship.
Imagine if you had a friend who only called when they needed or wanted something from you. They never responded to your calls except when it was convenient for them. They were never interested in spending time with you, or ever offered to help you. You would readily conclude that they weren’t really a friend.
Jesus tells His disciples, His final night with them before His crucifixion, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15, emphasis added).”
God desires that our communication and connection with Him would look more like a deep friendship than a Magic 8 Ball.
So again, do seek God when you need guidance and direction on a big decision. In case you’re wondering, in my story above, God did answer my prayers. He led me to transfer schools, which opened the door to receive a call to be a pastor.
I believe the shift in my desires was God’s initial way of getting my attention in order to cultivate a posture of openness on my part so that He might lead me into something new.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. In the weeks to come, we’ll discuss how to recognize God’s voice.
For now, don’t limit your pursuit of hearing from God to only big decisions. He no longer calls you a servant, but a friend. So pursue Him in that way. You’ll get so much more than decision-making advice.