Sometimes my GPS drives me crazy! Turn left in .7 miles ... approaching left turn ... Left turn in .2 miles ... after 12 hours in the van that voice gets annoying! And then there's the display. Someone needs to tell the GPS makers that it is very difficult to see how far .2 miles is on the display when there are 3 turns in .2 miles to choose from in real life! And don't even get me started about when I end up somewhere other than where I was supposed to be! Maybe I'm better off without the GPS ...
Actually, if I'm being honest, it isn't the GPS that bugs me, it's the not knowing where I'm going that's the problem. What I get aggravated with is hearing the directions and seeing the choices, but still being unsure of which way is the right way to go.
Ever felt like that? You know, like you're being pushed in different directions that look, feel, and seem "right," but you still don't know where you're going to end up?
I've wrestled with God about this one for most of my life. I would like to know both where I'm going AND how to get there, not just one or the other.
So, here are few thoughts on why it is often so hard to see where God is leading you:
- YOU'RE TOO FOCUSED ON WHERE YOU WANT TO GO.It doesn't take a genius to know that you can't end up at two different destinations at the same time. So many times I focus on where I want to go instead of where God wants me to go, and then I blame God for not "showing me the way." The problem is, He DID show me the way, I just didn't like the destination.
- YOU'RE TOO FOCUSED ON HOW YOU WANT TO GET THERE. Ever heard the phrase, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die to get there?" Apply that thought here. Too often I want to go a different route than the one God wants me to take, and on the detour I end up in the wrong place. This is ESPECIALLY true when I try to take shortcuts. THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS WHEN FOLLOWING GOD'S PLANS.
- YOU'RE TOO INTERESTED IN EVERYONE ELSE'S PLANS FOR YOU. I often want to listen to other people more than I want to listen to God (usually because their way is easier than His). I'll turn to my wife, my friends, my mentors, books, sermon, and the internet, but I neglect to turn to God. What does the latest super-pastor say? What does the latest fad book say? What does Oprah say? What does culture dictate? How about, "What does God's Spirit have to say?"
- YOU'RE TOO INTERESTED IN EVERYONE ELSE'S PLAN. It sounds like the last point, but it is quite different. So many times I have seen God's plan for someone else and tried to hijack it to fit my life. "Well, it worked for them!" The problem with that is that God has a specifically tailored plan for me, and when I try to put on someone else's plan it's kind of like trying to wear someone else's suit. On a side note, I think this reason is the most heartbreaking to God. He created me to be the only me there is; how insulting it must be to Him when I try to be somebody else's "me" instead of just, you know, being me.
- YOU'RE NOT WILLING TO LISTEN TO GOD'S PLAN. When our girls were younger we established a bedtime routine to help them know that it was time for bed. We would always run the same routine each night so that they would know what was coming. Have you ever seen parents that didn't have a plan or routine for their kids try to convince them it was bedtime? The fighting, screaming, kicking, sometimes biting? It's an ugly scene! But in the end, after the kid has completely worn themselves out, where do they end up? IN BED! How many times have you been unwilling to listen to and abide by God's plan - fighting, kicking, screaming, and wearing yourself out - just to end up right where He wanted you anyway?
- YOU'RE NOT READY TO HEAR GOD'S PLAN. I remember auditioning for a performance group in college and being turned down. I thought I was a shoo-in because I had made the group the 2 previous years. After I didn't make the cut I approached one of the directors demanding an answer. She told me I wasn't ready to hear the directors' reasons yet, but that someday I would be. Needless to say, I was ticked! Truth is, she was right. I would never have heard the heart of their reasoning, just their words. So often God tells us the same thing - "Trust me, you're not ready to know everything yet. Just trust me." Which leads to the last and most important reason ...
- KNOWING GOD IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWING HIS PLAN. The more you know God, the more you will trust Him. The more you trust Him, the less you need to know about His plan. I know that seems counterintuitive. It seems like it should be, the more you know Him, the more you'll trust Him, and the more you'll know His plan, but it doesn't work that way. In fact, in my experience, the more I know the plan the more I try to dictate to God the way I think it should be done instead of submitting to Him. In other words, the more I know the plan, the more I try to control it instead of simply trusting God.
"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track.Don't assume that you know it all."- Proverbs 3:5-7 (Message)
I have come to the conclusion that this lesson - trusting God and listening to His voice in everything I do - is one of the most difficult and most rewarding lessons of life. When I look back and see long periods of struggle in my life it is usually because I was either going in my own direction or trying to control His direction for me. Conversely, when I see times of growth, depth, and effectiveness, it has been because I have been listening and following.
May God help us as we follow where He leads.