The plaza fountain at Bradley Fair, Wichita, KS

Following God’s lead even if you think you know better

I’d like to think I’m a fairly organized person, but the truth is my life is pretty chaotic. I go at it with the best of intentions, but as Robert Burns once wrote: “the best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.” And that’s what happens to me. I plan and I scheme and I prepare, and when the event I’m getting ready for arrives, I end up winging it anyway. And that’s okay, but sometimes I get tired of flying by the seat of my pants.

I had a moment yesterday to just sit and think. Those moments don’t come as often as I’d like, and I don’t make time for them like I should. Everyone needs a moment (or two moments) to think about what they’re doing, where they’re going, how they’re living and how their choices today may affect their life tomorrow. And as I was thinking about preparing for 2014, making budgets, planning for trips, getting ready for my parents’ possible upcoming retirement, I was tempted to start worrying. Because there’s a lot to do in a year, and usually all my time is consumed by taking care of the unforeseen events in life, not even counting the ones I wanted to accomplish.

But as I was thinking today, I had to stop and just marvel at God’s provision. At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t have told you that everything that’s happened to me would have happened. As I look back on 2013, I’m stunned speechless at what I’ve been able to do, where I’ve been able to go, all the things God’s let me accomplish, and how He has miraculously provided for me in every situation.

The plaza fountain at Bradley Fair, Wichita, KS

The plaza fountain at Bradley Fair, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 58:11.

The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.

Sometimes I feel like I’m wandering through life without a plan, and that frustrates the dickens out of me because I like plans. I like maps. I like knowing the big picture so I know how badly I can screw up before I ruin everything. And I feel like I’m constantly in that phase of life where I have a basic idea of where I’m going and what I’m doing, but I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

So when I read a verse like this that says God is continuously guiding me, it makes me laugh a little. I’m being honest here, okay? Because is He really? If He is, sometimes I think He’s being awfully subtle about it, and subtle doesn’t work with me. I’m like a guy in that regard. I follow directions much better if you just come out and tell me instead of hedging around the subject. Subtext and subtlety to me are kind of like uncomfortable shoes; they serve no useful purpose.

But the moment I start questioning whether or not God is guiding me, I immediately start thinking of all the things I’ve done and places I’ve gone and people I’ve met that I should never have had the opportunity to experience. I think of everything that’s happened in my life that I can’t take credit for, and in all of those miracles, His hand is obvious. But a lot of that is because hindsight is truly 20/20. It’s difficult to see His hand moving when you’re in the valleys, and sometimes you have to get to the mountain top before you can see the trail He was leading you on.

But more than just guiding me, looking back over my life, even in the moments where I felt like I was wandering, I never lacked anything I needed. True, I didn’t have some things I wanted, but wants and needs are very different. Even in college when I was living from paycheck to paycheck on ramen noodles and dollar-store spaghetti, God still provided people in my life who helped me. God put me in the places I needed to be, and He gave me the opportunities to step up and be faithful with what He gave me. And He proved Himself to me big time over and over and over again.

So where are you today? Are you sure you know where you’re going, or are you wandering around feeling listless? Take a moment and read Isaiah 58. The whole thing. It’s not long, and it’s worth it. Walking with God isn’t about rules and regulations and rituals that only have symbolic meaning and no real life application. Following God isn’t about being good or following the rules or putting on a good Christian show. It’s about living life with Him. It’s about living and loving the way He does.

God never stops guiding us. He never stops leading us. If we get turned around, it’s because we took someone else’s directions. But God’s still on the path. He’s still waiting for us to turn around and go back to where He is.

So if you’ve gotten off the path, go back. If you haven’t left, don’t leave. Just keep following where He’s leading you, and along the way, you won’t lack anything you need. In fact, he’ll continuously provide, not just basic needs but strength too. He’s promised, so He’ll do it. You may feel like He’s leading you in circles, but that’s part of trusting His sense of direction more than your own.

Wheat and sky - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Never forget

God always keeps His promises. Always. But we forget because we get so tied up in all the stress and trouble of life. And when we run up on an issue or a circumstance that is too much for us, it’s very easy to think that God is throwing trouble at us that we can’t handle. And some days it feels like He’s doing it just because He can. And I know that God doesn’t do that, but when I make a habit of forgetting the promises He’s kept, it’s pretty easy to start thinking that God isn’t who He says He is.

Wheat and sky - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat and sky – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 66:5.

Come and see what our God has done,
    what awesome miracles he performs for people!

We need to make a habit of reminding ourselves of how God has kept His promises in our lives. Whether we write it down on paper or online or if we share it with people around us, we need to constantly keep God’s promises in the front of our minds. And when He keeps His promises to us, we need to mark it down and remember.

I have a friend in the hospital right now. She unexpectedly went into cardiac arrest on Sunday and wasn’t doing well at all. She is 25 years old, and I’ve known her since she was in seventh grade. So I’ve spent the vast majority of this week praying for her and asking God to heal her. And you know what? He has. Last I heard yesterday, she is still having trouble speaking but her humor and her attitude are intact, which are signs of higher brain function. There’s a good chance she’s going to pull through. And that is an answer to prayer. That is a direct response from God after I (and many many others) asked Him to touch her and heal her.

But this isn’t the first friend who’s been in the hospital who God has healed because we asked Him to.

Dozens of times–maybe more than that–God has shown Himself to be the Great Healer at our request. But the passage of time makes it easy for those memories to dim. And if we don’t actively try to remember those things, they’ll slip away. And the next time trouble comes on us, we’ll wonder where God went. And He never left us. We have just forgotten what He looks like.

I never want to forget.

I have seen miracles.

Not water turning into wine, no. But I’ve seen a small bit of food feed more people than it should have (and I’ve seen that more than once). I’ve never seen someone come back from the dead. But I’ve seen peoples’ hearts change almost overnight because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in them. I haven’t ever spoken in tongues, but I’ve witnessed how God can help people who don’t speak the same language communicate. I have seen things that cannot be explained, and I have seen them happen too many times for it to be coincidental.

I’ve seen a lot. The trick is remembering. Because if I can remember all the things I’ve seen God do, if I can remember all the experiences I’ve had that can only have come through Him, there is nothing that can scare me. There is nothing in my life that can stop me.

And the next time I run into trouble at work, projects that seem too much for me or responsibilities that are crushing me, I need to remember the instances where God got me out of scrapes in the interior of Mexico. Because if God is big enough to help me out of a jam across the border, my little troubles in my dusty little cubicle are nothing.

God has proven Himself to me in so many ways. But once all is well again and life has gone back to some semblance of normal, it’s easy to forget. And I don’t want to do that. I want to remember all the good things God has done for me so that when trouble comes again (and it will), all I will have to do is share the memory of how God got me through before. And that will not only help me, it will also help others around me.

God always keeps His promises. It may not be in the way we expect, but He always does.