Road construction at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

How do you pick the road God wants?

Do you ever wish God communicated with neon lights? If His plans were that bright and loud and unmistakable, maybe we wouldn’t miss them so often. Or maybe making a decision wouldn’t be so hard.

Deciding between doing something the Bible says is right and doing something the Bible says is wrong is easy. If you want God’s blessing and favor, do what He says is right. That’s not the problem.

The problem comes when you have two good choices, when you have two great opportunities. How do you choose? How do you know what the right choice is?

Road construction at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Road construction at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Psalm 25:4-5.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God who saves me.
    All day long I put my hope in you.

It’s good to know that we aren’t the only ones who struggle with knowing God’s plans. David asked questions like this all the time, which I think is important to note. So many times I think we try to make decisions about what we should do or where we should go without talking to God about it.

That’s basically what David does. He just tells God what’s going on in his life, asks the hard questions, and waits for God to tell him what to go do with himself. And I may be wrong about this (I haven’t done an in-depth study), but I don’t think David ever heard God speak to him. God communicated to David through prophets. And when David didn’t have a prophet to tell him what God was up to, he acted on what he knew about God.

No prophet came to David to tell him to stand up to Goliath. David knew God was on his side and was on Israel’s side, and he just did it.

Sometimes I think we are too cautious. We get caught up in the details, in the questions, in the unknowns. We want to make sure we’re good stewards of the resources God has given us, and that’s a wonderful thing. We should be responsible with what God has entrusted to our care. But sometimes we have to take risks. Sometimes we have to step out on faith. Sometimes we have to do what God is telling us to do even if it doesn’t make sense, especially if it’s something we don’t want to do in the first place.

Sometimes that means leaving what you know; other times that means staying where you are. But the one thing both decisions have in common is why. Why would you stay? Why would you go? Is it for you? Is it to achieve something you think will make life more fulfilling? Is it because you’re afraid? Is it because you don’t think you can do it?

Find the why. And once you know the why, hold it up to the Truth of Scripture. Does your why stand up? Just because both of your choices are God-honoring doesn’t automatically mean your reasons for wanting both of them are too.

What’s awesome about God is that He doesn’t expect us to know where we’re going. He just expects us to know who to follow.

We focus on the road God wants us to take, but what if it’s not about the road? What if it’s about the map? And as long as you are reading the map, as long as you are living the life God has called you to live, seeking Him in every choice, He will guide your steps. You can’t take a wrong road.

So it really is up to you what kind of road you want to travel. There’s a straight shot. There’s the windy, curvy roads. Then there are the rugged back roads. Some are easier to travel than others, but generally speaking, the best sights and the greatest adventures are on the roads less traveled.

What path are you supposed to take?

Believe it or not, Christian, God’s already told you what road you’re supposed to be on. His. But you can’t say that God only sanctions the highway. God’s will is big enough to have highways and freeways and county roads and gravel roads and goat paths and whatever.

You know how you’re supposed to live. So go out and live and trust Him. Seek His will first. Be open to doing whatever He wants you to do. He won’t let you go the wrong direction as long as your heart is set on following Him.

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Pretty flower at the Dallas Farmer's Market, Dallas, TX

Questions you don’t need God’s help on?

Everybody has questions for God. Sometimes they’re silly. Sometimes they’re serious. But every now and then, you end up in a situation where you need an answer. You have to make a decision, and you can only put it off for so long. You have to choose.

I’m there now. And in one way of looking at it, making this choice isn’t a big deal. But if you consider all of the ramifications, it could have a huge impact.

The long and the short of it is that I’ve received the first concepts for the cover of my book, Nameless. And I was desperately hoping that one of them would stand out as the absolute winner … but they’re both fantastic. And now I have to pick one.

I have to pick the book cover that will represent my novel in a way that will make people want to pick it up and read it. It’s not an earth shattering decision, but it’s important because it could very well determine whether the book sells or flops.

So I’m exercising a right that I have as a follower of Christ. I’m asking for God’s opinion.

Pretty flower at the Dallas Farmer's Market, Dallas, TX

Pretty flower at the Dallas Farmer’s Market, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is James 1:5.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

So many times I think we are afraid to ask God because bringing our daily concerns to Him seems trivial.  I mean, He’s God. He shouldn’t care about the simple, easy, picky things I’m facing in my life. He shouldn’t care about a book cover design.

But that’s a lie. He does.

God wants to be a part of our lives in every way, from the big decisions to the small ones. And we should never forget that the small decisions may seem small but they can have huge consequences, so it’s essential to ask for wisdom before you make any decision.

God invites us to ask Him for help. He wants us to. That’s part of being in a relationship of any kind. You ask questions. You ask for opinions. You ask for help. We have friends because we were never meant to go through life alone, and God wants to be an intimate part of our lives.

Now, should you ask God what color socks to put on this morning? Well, that’s up to you. It’s highly unlikely that your socks could change the course of your life, but you never know.

I’m asking God for wisdom to choose the right book cover. Not necessarily the one I like the best, but the one that is the best option for the book itself. And that’s difficult for me because I don’t care about book covers. I never look at covers when I’m deciding what book to read. I look at the titles, and I read the back cover. That’s how I choose books. So if there is anyone completely unequal to the task of choosing a book cover, it’s me.

I’m not afraid to ask for God’s help on this. I need Him. It’s the things I already know how to do that I struggle with asking about. After all, if I already know how to do it, why would I ask for God’s wisdom? And that’s pride talking. I think I know what I’m doing. I still need God’s help to actually do the right thing.

What decision are you facing today? Is it something you already have experience with or is it something you don’t know how to handle? Either way, ask for God’s wisdom. He’s invited us to ask, so we are nuts if we don’t take Him up on it. It’s like being friends with the most brilliant mathematician in the world and still struggling through your math homework alone.

Don’t let Satan’s lies convince you that your problem isn’t worth God’s time. That’s not your decision to make. You’ve been invited to ask; so ask. And don’t believe for a second that you have life handled on your own, because you don’t. Nobody does.

Just ask. Be sure about what you need to know. Trust that God will give you an answer. And then be willing to act on it, whether you think it’s the right answer or not.

Nobody said it would be easy, but so many times doing the right thing never is.

Edinburgh, Scotland on a cloudy morning

Don’t make decisions when you’re emotional

Sometimes I wonder how God puts up with me. My moods are volatile and harsh, and I can go from praising Him one moment to wanting to give up entirely the next. I’m not exactly sure what the root cause of it is; I’m still working on that.  But most of the time my moods are exacerbated by people, and the quickest, most efficient way to plunge me into a pit of discouragement is to point out my flaws and failures. I don’t know if that’s the perfectionist in me or not, and it’s something I’m trying to do better about, because most of the time people are just trying to help. I know I’m not perfect, and I know I need help, but admitting that I need it is still somehow tantamount to failure in my mind.

And every now and then, I have one of those rough days where I feel criticized by everyone, and even when they’re trying to help, my brain translates it to, “You’re not good enough.” And pretty soon I’m drowning in a pit of discouragement so deep I have no chance of climbing out. And here’s the ridiculous part: I know I’m being silly, so I don’t want to talk to anyone about it. Why? Because even though I have already established that I’m not good enough, I’d like people around me to maintain their opinions that I’m at least competent and not a psychotic, emotional nutcase.

And it doesn’t stop there, of course. No, my brain is a fixer brain. I’m always trying to fix problems. So when I encounter those moments where my insufficiency becomes too much to bear, I start making plans of how to lessen the amount of trouble my failures are going to cause other people. And usually I do a pretty good job of creating scenarios where I can shift responsibilities and bow out gracefully so that other, better prepared, “good enough” people can take charge. 

But as I was mulling over all of this last night in the throes of my despair, I realized how completely and utterly irrational I was being. I mean, this all probably stems from my own personal insecurity, and it’s never ever a wise idea to make judgment calls based on what your insecurities tell you about life and people.

I had a bad day. I got my feelings hurt. I had to endure some major stress that left me drained, and I had to act as mediator between people who don’t understand each other (for an introverted peacemaker there’s nothing more exhausting). And I had to face the fact that I’m not as good at certain things as I think I am. And after a weekend of that and a whole Monday of it in varying forms, last night I was just so emotionally distraught was about ready to implode. And I was going to make a decision that would affect my life for the next year?

Not the best idea ever. And that’s when I thought about a person in the Bible who I always identify with, the prophet Elijah.

Edinburgh, Scotland on a cloudy morning

Edinburgh, Scotland on a cloudy morning

Today’s verses are 1 Kings 19:1-8.

When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

I’m going to cut it off there this morning because I’m already rambling, but the whole story here is in 1 Kings 19, though I’d encourage you to read 1 Kings 18 too.

The point I’m getting at here is that it’s never a good idea to make decisions when you’re emotionally exhausted. We all get to that point. We all have been there, where we’ve faced so many discouraging situations that we can’t bear another one. Everyone reaches that point in their life where they’re ready to implode or explode (it usually depends on if you’re extroverted or introverted). And sometimes when you’re at that point, you’re going to be tempted to make decisions. You’re going to be so discouraged that you won’t be able to say anything positive about anyone, especially yourself. And if you’re normally a perfectionist, you’re going to turn all of that loathing and frustration inward anyway, so all your decisions will involve removing yourself from positions of authority to make way for other people who are better than you. You’re going to be so tired of all of it that you just want out.

Don’t.

Elijah had just called down fire from heaven. He had just led the beginning of a revolution in Israel. And all it took was one little threat from a crazy woman to send him scuttling for the hills in terror for his life. Exhausted and discouraged, he just wanted to pack it all in and give up.

And what did God do? He sent an angel to feed Elijah. And Elijah rested and slept and ate and rested some more. I think we blow past that a lot, especially the performance-driven people among us.

Later on in the story, God and Elijah have a little heart-to-heart, and it really comes down to the fact that God needed to help Elijah get his perspective straight. But it started with rest and food. It started with taking a moment to restore himself physically.

It’s really easy to make important decisions when you’re upset. It’s cathartic almost because when you’re discouraged and angry, making a decisions helps you feel like you have control of something. It’s something to hold on to. But it’s not wise. When you’re angry and discouraged, you aren’t seeing straight. You aren’t thinking straight. You’re thinking about you, and that’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not the time to make important decisions. 

So when you’re sad and discouraged and upset and frustrated and you’re tempted to start making judgment calls to help yourself feel more in control, stop. Never make a decision when you’re angry. Table it. Walk away from it. Sleep on it. Come back to it in the morning, and I promise it will make more sense. It won’t be as harsh as you thought it was. It won’t feel like a personal attack, and even if it is a personal attack, you’ll be able to see it more clearly.

God didn’t give up on Elijah, even when Elijah gave Him plenty of reasons to. God won’t give up on us either. But we can help ourselves out by saving the decision making for the times when we’re seeing the world the way it’s supposed to be, instead of through our own hurt feelings.