I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.—Psalm 32:8
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.—James 1:5
Several years ago, I was faced with a difficult decision involving a leader in the church (not Community Church). I was in a situation I didn’t want to be in, created by someone else, where I didn’t really like either of my options and I truly didn’t know what to do. I needed to hear from God.
Through that experience, God taught me something about decision-making and seeking His will that had not been clear to me before then, although it might seem obvious to you: the first step in discerning God’s will is surrender.
Here’s what I mean: usually, when I have a decision to make, I have an opinion, an agenda. I’m presented with my options and I know right away which one I prefer. In other words, I might not know what God wants, but I’m very aware of what I want. So I find myself trying to persuade God and others that this would be the best way to go. Maybe you’ve had to make big decisions with your spouse or a leadership team of some sort, and you’ve felt the tension of competing wills pushing for what they think needs to happen. This person sees it this way, another sees it that way, and it comes down to who can make the most persuasive argument. Call me slow, but I finally realized that this is not the same as seeking God’s will.
In this situation, as I mentioned, I felt utterly lost. I didn’t feel like I had any sense of the best way to go; I didn’t even know what I wanted to happen. And then something unexpected happened: this sense of confusion actually led to a strange kind of freedom. Normally, I don’t like feeling inadequate any more than anyone else does, but in this case I realized God was using it to strip me of any personal agendas that might get in the way of hearing His voice. I found myself at the point where I could say: “God, I will do whatever you ask. Just make it clear. Lead, and I will follow.”
Once I got to that point, I shared my thoughts with our elders, and we realized we needed to embrace the opportunity to surrender. We continued to pray, and eventually God led us to a place of peace about a decision that we could feel really good about, because we knew we had been truly open to God leading us.
Following that, it was clearer to me than ever that surrender is the place I should always be, any time I claim to be seeking the will of God. It changed the way I think about what it means to “pray about” a decision. In my experience, many Believers who say they are praying about something fall into two categories:
- People who say they are praying about it, but already know what they think is best. They are so confident that God must share their beliefs about everything that if they pray at all, they just pray their feelings to God and hear them echoed back. They enter the process with one opinion and come out on the other side with that same opinion, because they were never really open to God changing their mind.
- People who pray about it, but don’t actually expect to hear from God, and so they still take all the responsibility on themselves to figure it out. They may not be pushing for their own agenda, but they’re also not releasing control. They pray, but they are just as stressed out as people who don’t pray, because they still carry the burden of solving the problem on their own. I’ll confess that this has often been me in the past, and it’s still my natural tendency if I’m not careful.
What’s rare is for someone to say, “Jesus, I surrender. Help me release my desire to control the outcome of this situation. I recognize that I might not know best. I only want your will, and right now I don’t know what that is, but if you make it clear, I will follow where you lead.”
How many times have I complained that God wasn’t revealing His will without bothering to stop and make sure I was truly open to it? The first step isn’t making my case to God for why a certain thing needs to happen. The first step isn’t making a list of pros and cons. The first step is surrender. The first step is “Jesus, show me the way, even if it’s not my way.”
Are you facing any major decisions? Are there things in your future that are scary and uncertain? If you’re like me, the moment those things appear on the horizon, you start thinking about how you’re going to manage them. But I want to get better at remembering that the goal is not to impose my will for my life on God and the rest of the world. I want to become someone who can truly say that I only want God’s will, because I trust that His ways are best. I want to learn to hear His voice and follow wherever He leads.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.—Psalm 143:8