How to Discern Where God is Leading When He Doesn’t Answer You
How do you know if you are following God's will?
Often when people talk about discerning God’s will they are talking about deciding which of 2 choices might happen to be God’s will; such as “Is it God’s will that I take this job or not?” Or, “Is it God’s will that I marry this person or not?”
While God certainly has an opinion on both questions, I am sure you have noticed how he rarely answers those kinds of questions. At least, he doesn’t give answers nearly as often as we ask the questions.
I have a tendency to go to God asking a question and expecting a straightforward answer as to which choice I should make.
Yet, instead of feeling like he has given me an obvious answer, it often feels like I walk away with a new set of questions.
After many years of experiencing the frustrations of trying to force an answer from the divine, I have realized that God doesn’t think about problems the same way that I do.
Perhaps this should be obvious, after all He tells us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).”
Even so, I think we each have a tendency to believe that God operates like we do. Yet the evidence is clear: he does not!
To God, life is not a series of either-this-or-that choices.
This is one reason we often do not get answers back from Heaven when we ask which of 2 options happens to be his will. They could both be his will! Though we can’t picture it, either road may be equally beneficial or disastrous, depending on the issues at play in our hearts.
For instance, when faced between taking either of two career paths, they may both be equally good, or they may both be distractions from the real purpose God created us for. Or, they may both only last for a season, so it may not matter much which way we go. Or it may be that God is developing in us the ability to make our own choices, so he may not want to give away the answer. Or perhaps he is leading us in a new direction, but we have not realized it yet. Then, in a short while, this current concern will take care of itself.
Life is a complex interaction between a myriad of circumstances and events. It is not as black and white as we may like it to be.
And God seems to enjoy hanging out in that gray space of mystery more often than we like.
Even beyond these, and oh so many other possibilities, I have found that the greatest reason God has for not directly answering “either-this-or-that” questions is that he is always working on us at a deeper level than the question we present Him with.
For instance, a few years ago I came to God with a question like “Should I take this job or that one?” I felt Him gently push back at me with a question of His own. I heard deep in my heart something like “What if I don’t have a job for you right now?”
Ouch! That stung! Definitely not the answer I was looking for!
It set me on a course of fear: “If there is no job, then are you abandoning me? Will my family be broke? Are we going to have to borrow money? Will I ever find a work? How about a job that I enjoy? Will I ever be valued for what I bring vocationally? What will my in-laws think of me if I don’t get a job right now? Why have you forsaken me?”
Bingo! I struck the real issue.
My mouth may have been asking “Should I take this job or that one?” But, behind my question was a mountain of fears and an old would that caused my heart to default to “Why have you forsaken me?” whenever I felt insecure.
So, the real issue was not so black and white, and it wasn't really even about a job.
The real issue was about old fears resurfacing in an unhealed area of my heart.
God is constantly trying to communicate with us and that we often miss is because we are expecting Him to answer us in a certain way.
In truth, hearing from God is often a case of asking the right questions and being willing to allow Him to stir up some uncomfortable feelings in our hearts.
After all, spiritual heart surgery is an indispensable part of the Christian life. No one can live a vibrant life of faith filled with rewarding experiences of God without allowing Him to work deeply in our hearts.
Often He uses the stresses and challenges of life to stir up those deep and dormant feelings within.
Of course, those are the real issues we face. Life may present us with challenges in the form of relationships, finances, occupation, health, family, etc., but the real problems we face happen inside our hearts and minds.
Our internal issues are really the issues. Life with all its external problems only highlights them, or rubs them the wrong way.
Therefore, the reason that God seldom answers questions like "Do you want me to do this or that?" is that He usually has a deeper purpose in mind than simply alleviating the angst we feel.
In fact, the angst we feel may be what He wants use in order to get us to deal with our heart issues.
So, the next time we feel stuck between the rock and hard place of two choices, and God does not seem to answer our questions as to which route to choose, let us both try to ask a different question.
Let's try instead to ask something like "God, why does this situation bother me so much?"
Or ask, "God what are you trying to tell me in these circumstances?"
If we will listen, God will answer these kinds of questions in way that we can understand.