I think there are three things I’ve learnt about the vexed question of guidance. The first is that sometimes God says to us ‘What do you want to do?’ I can remember as a young Christian getting fixated on a desperate desire to get everything exactly right, in every smallest detail. I remember a friend at college who apparently used to pray each morning about what colour socks God wanted him to wear that day. Call me cynical, but I could just hear God saying back ‘D’you know? I really don’t mind. Why don’t you choose?’ This is a silly example, but it betrays a mindset whereby if we don’t obey God in every little aspect of our lives, as though there was a set path for us to walk and no room for personal choice, apocalyptic disaster is likely to hit us. Quite rightly Christians are concerned to seek God’s will and obey him, but I’m not entirely convinced that he particularly has a will for some of the things about which we agonise.
The corollary of this is that we might sometimes get things wrong. Under the less neurotic model I’m proposing this isn’t the major disaster we might think. When I’m speaking on this I show a slide of one of those children’s maze puzzles: you know the kind of thing. Bob the Builder has lost Pilchard his cat, and there are a selection of paths which may or may not lead to him. You begin to trace one of them, but if it turns out to lead to a dead end you have no option but to go right back to the start and try another one. I make the point that with God it isn’t like this. Bob might get close to Pilchard but unable to reach him: so God simply draws another path which opens the way. Even when we get things wrong, in the economy of God, it isn’t about going right back to the beginning and starting again: it’s about looking for God’s redemption. This fact again removed the phenomenal pressure to hear God accurately and follow him exactly every step of the way. If he knows that the sincere intentions of our hearts is to follow him obediently, he is perfectly able to let us know if we’re going wrong. There’s that lovely promise in Isaiah 30:21 which reassures us that God’s voice will be heard saying ‘This is the way: walk in it’ not when things are going well, but when we are tempted to divert from the path.
So my first counsel would be not to let ‘guidance’ become a big issue about which to lose sleep. Dedicate your will to God, listen to your heart, and allow him to make minor corrections along the way if he needs to.
(For the other two things I’ve learnt, get hold of a copy of God’s Upgrades … My Adventures published by Authentic, from which this blog is an excerpt. I can tell you it is God’s will for you!)