going and not going, staying and not staying: how does god guide us?

If you’d asked me three months ago what I would be doing this week, the answer would have been easy: moving house. We would be finishing up the last bit of packing before heading off to a different part of the country, where Desert Dad would be starting a new job come September.

And yet, we’re not doing any of that. According to my diary, this week looks pretty similar to any other: the usual round of play dates, swimming, friends coming for dinner. By the end of the week I’ll have been to two goodbye parties, not one of them for me. What happened?

I used to think that God guided in a very hands-off way. You apply for a job, you pray about it, you go for interview – if you get it, great, that’s God saying ‘yes’. If you don’t, no worries, that’s God saying ‘no’. This is a very optimistic approach, and it’s not that I think it’s bad theology, it’s just incomplete. The last few months have shown me that God can and does intervene in situations when it seems that everything’s done and dusted. I’ve learned that perhaps we need to approach decisions with less vacuous positivity, and more serious God-searching.

For a large part of last year, there was one particular option for Desert Dad’s job and our future which was looking incredibly likely. Then, suddenly, God intervened: it was not to be. The way in which this happened was so unexpected, so awkward and so baffling that we just felt it had to be God: it defied much of the human logic which, up to that point, had been suggesting a positive way forward.

Five months later, God intervened again: this time to tell us that we shouldn’t be going to the job that Desert Dad had secured at the start of the year. Through one week in May, God taught me more about guidance than I’ve learned in my entire life.

But both interventions were puzzling, confusing and painful. During the latter, I found myself yelling at God “Why? Why do it this way? Why confuse things? Why couldn’t you have guided us right in the first place?” It seemed like needless time and energy had been spent, not just by us but by the church we were letting down. And for what? I don’t often break down in tears before God, but on this day there was nothing else left.

I wish this were a post with some clever things to say about God’s guidance – I really do. But right now, despite the steep learning curve of the last few months, I have more questions than answers. I don’t know, for example, how much weight our emotions hold in decision-making. There have been times over the past year when I’ve had to pull myself back because God’s plan seemed to be so much in line with my own desires that I didn’t dare believe it was true. There have been other times when I’ve had to submit my desires to God, knowing that they weren’t of Him – there have been more of these moments, and they have been the hardest.

Honestly, this is where I am at the moment:

* Before this year, I believed that the decision about which job my husband should go for was purely down to him, and very little down to me. Now I realise that if it’s right for him, it’ll also be right for me and the kids;

* Our emotions are important, but changeable. We need to neither ignore nor be swayed by them;

* Big decisions require the kind of prayer and fasting that I don’t think I’ve even touched the surface of yet. How one gets away for retreat when tiny children are about is another question – possibly one for a future blog post. But the last few months have made me see how vital it is, when facing a big decision.

So, for the moment, we are not going. That is not to say that we are staying – for there is a sense of temporaryness to the life we’re currently living – but we are not going. We are neither going, nor staying. We are simply waiting for the next direction. It might sound like a place of insecurity; in actual fact, we have known it, so far at least, only to be a place of peace.

You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

Isaiah 26:3

10 Replies to “going and not going, staying and not staying: how does god guide us?”

  1. Wow Lucy, I can only guess at how very tough this season has been and how hard it is to face uncertainty. We’ve had some baffling times of God closing doors that we thought were not only open but also the most obvious and good way to go. A couple of years on I can see just how good and wise God was and how extremely kind he was being to us.

    But that doesn’t make the current struggles any easier! In my life each new search for guidance comes with difficulty and doubt and frustration. Praying for you and very glad you’ve shared this. xxx

    1. Ah thanks so much for that wonderful encouragement Alice! It is greatly encouraging to hear that others have been through similar situations, whilst I can sympathise now with how hard it must have been for you. It’s great to have a certain God in a world of uncertainty right? Xx

  2. Well done on sharing this Lucy! I suspect this post has been a long time in the planning and I hope just the act of writing it down has helped. Obvs we’ve talked about the not-leaving element, but I’m interested to read you might be blogging about retreat in the future – yes please to that! X

    1. Thanks Izzy! Yep, definitely took a while to plan and be able to articulate this particular post 🙂 Not sure I have a lot to say about retreat – give me some questions or ideas to go on and I’ll have a think! Or you blog about it! xx

  3. Hi Lucy

    I’ve been a bit of a lurker on your blog, but really appreciate your insights. In particular, I would be interested to know how you heard God call you in a radically different direction to the one you thought you heard before. I too probably put myself in the “hands-off” school of divine intervention, but probably because I just haven’t had (or opened myself up to have?) more direct calls from God. What does it feel like or sound like or whatever? What happened in the “one week in May” that meant that you felt God pulling you in another direction – was it simply a supernatural sense of being told not to go somewhere, or was your mind (supernaturally) drawn to think about some of the practical implications of your new move, or what?
    And what are you doing now, if not moving and not staying?
    Hope these aren’t rude questions – I would love to be as in-tune with the Lord as you seem to be, and would love to learn how to listen to his voice more, that’s all.

      1. Oh no, I’d be interested in all of those things too! Especially the part about what it feels like to hear the voice of God in such a specific and yet in other ways not so specific way (if you know what I mean).
        And what are you guys up to now if you’re ‘staying but not staying’?

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