Listening for God’s direction

December 22, 2008 | 9 comments

When making a critical decision, how do you know if you’re listening to God or to blind human will?

This can feel like a tough call to make at times. Last Thursday was one such occasion here on the family front.

Jenna was scheduled to travel to Seattle for a major four day swim meet with her team. Two carloads of swimmers were scheduled to depart that day, each vehicle driven by a coach with 6-8 swimmers in each.

In our part of the country right now, some major freezing stormy weather has descended from the North Bering Sea putting the Seattle area into a traffic-stopping mess, and roads between our home and the population center into icy formidable conditions. In normal weather, it takes 4 hours for us to drive west to the coast, and traverse a high mountain pass in between.

Jenna had worked hard for months to prepare for this meet, had reached exceptional times to qualify, and had been very much looking forward to the event. When the day of departure arrived, the “little voice within” was telling mom and I that we should keep her home. But to tell Jenna the bad news was heartbreaking to consider.

The head swim coach was determined to go storm or no storm at 9 a.m., and the other coach would follow after school with a second carload of girls. Jenna was in the second group, which meant she’d be on the highway in the dark for several hours. Chains were required for 40 miles of the trip, even on 4 wheel drive vehicles.

Mom and I prayed together weighing all the options and considering both sides of the situation, and still the little voice within said, “Keep her home.”

It was a tough prayer because one side argued, “The roads are obviously bad. Stay home.” But the other side argued, “You can make this demonstration. Pray for her safety. Know all will be well. They’ll travel slowly, but they’ll also make it safely.”

See what I mean?

We weren’t sure whether we were caving to fear or listening to wisdom.

To stay home seemed like admitting defeat, to a degree, possibly conceding to a mortal mind effort to stop Jenna from participating in a marvelous swim opportunity.

But the voice of wisdom cried, “Don’t tempt the Lord! The roads are dangerous and its not wisdom to push activity beyond the range of what you’re not confident in demonstrating with absolute certainty.”

In making a decision about my daughter’s safety, I did not believe there was room for even a slight chance. I would send her to the coast, only if I was absolutely sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all would be well. And I did not have that absolute certainty.

Then mom had a great idea. She said, “Let’s talk to Jenna about it.” So we went into her room and told her the thoughts and concerns we were wrestling with. We told her honestly that we weren’t sure what the best decision was. We asked for her opinion.

She agreed that wisdom said she ought to stay home. We talked about not missing out on opportunities when making the apparently right decision at the moment. And to our delight, she agreed to stay home and let it all go. She was quite free about calling the coach and telling her to leave without her.

As scheduled, both carloads departed on time that day and headed for Seattle with all but 2 of the swimmers—our daughter and one other whose parents had come to the same conclusion as we did.

The weather got worse that day as the hours advanced. It took drivers 8 hours to make a 4 hour trip. They did make it safely, as we expected! And this is an interesting part of this decision. We told Jenna that if we let her go, we figured she would arrive safely. It would take a long time, but she would arrive without harm. And if she stayed home and the rest went, they would all arrive safely too, swim, and get back home safely. But it just felt like it was wise to stay home. This was as far as we could mentally see at the moment.

Jenna made other plans that evening with friends, and when she got home, we quizzed her about the carloads of swimmers and how long it took to get to Seattle. Teenagers these days are constantly in touch with each other through texting. Now that’s a whole other blog…

She casually replied, “Oh yeah, they all arrived safely, but the meet got canceled.”

Suddenly, I knew we had listened clearly. It was obvious at this point, the roads in Seattle were so terrible, that even local residents couldn’t get to the meet. The authorities hadn’t figured that out until late in the evening. But the voice of wisdom had it figured out much earlier in the day.

I was humbled for it had been a very tough call between acting wisely and not caving to fear.

How to tell the difference? One word comes to mind—peace.

When trying to decide what to do, I searched for peace within about my decision. If I felt any turbulence, angst, or tension, I knew I hadn’t listened clearly to God yet. Every time I thought about sending Jenna over, I felt a degree of tension within.

When I sided with keeping her home, I knew she would miss a key event, but I also knew there were no lost opportunities, and Jenna came to that conclusion too. We all felt the greatest peace together about staying home. We did not collectively feel peace about her going.

The Bible tells us, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”

God is always telling us what to do. The challenge is to be in such a calm and receptive state of mind that we clearly hear the divine direction. To hear clearly, we must silence impatience, anger, and even fear for these are attitudes of stubborn mortal mind that blind reason to the way of wisdom.

It was tough to hold Jenna home when 95% of the team went without her. But the inner voice said, “Don’t send her.” And a great peace took over when we agreed to listen. In the end, we were glad we listened. And the rest of the team made it home safely, as expected! But a bit road weary for the adventure.

9 thoughts on “Listening for God’s direction”

  1. Thank you so much…
    This is so timely as I have been struggling with travel over the holiday. I go through the same arguments and have such a hard time telling whether I’m listening or caving in to fear.
    This should help clear things up in thought.
    Thank you for your generous spirit of sharing these ideas.

  2. Thank you for relating this experience. Some years back, when my daughter was a teen-ager with a strong desire to participate with her peers, I overheard her talking with her brother in the kitchen. “Mom never says no when I want to do something. She just prays about it, and if it’s not right, something happens — a friend’s parent says no, or it rains, or something.” Of course, sometimes we have to take a stand, but I, too, was impressed by power of prayer in these situations. KW

  3. I have experienced a number of these challenges and through those few moments of thoughtful prayer I was lead to the right decisions and found the events to have been canceled. Thanks for pleasant reminder of trusting in God and listen for his voice.

  4. The ones I find tough are the ones where I am sure it was right not to go and the event was not cancelled and it feels like I missed something good or an opportunity that won’t present itself again.
    I’m getting better at trusting good under those circumstances but those are hard for me because to all appearances I’ve missed out…

  5. The issue of missing an opportunity should be addressed in the initial prayer of deciding whether to go or not. There should be complete peace about not missing out on anything even if the event continues. If there is a strong feeling that something special will be missed, then there may be another answer on how to get there safely, or just a whole different view that hasn’t been seen yet. It’s always win-win with spiritual solutions!

  6. Ditto everyone else’s thanks. Great illustration of listening. As with other’s I’m always unsure which is the voice of Reason. But reading this, am reminded of what I was taught in Class, about not making decisions amidst fear, anxiety, etc., but going with the peaceful path. I think just listening for the peace, regardless of missed opportunities, etc. is probably the answer, since God always knows what’s down the road, and it may be far down the road.

    Thanks again,


  7. I just had a situation such as this, here in Chicago with bad weather and an event that I committed to going to. It was a seminar, in regards to a new company I am joining. It took all my co-workers (from my main job) hours to get home in the bad weather. I really felt guilty about not attending this “crucial” seminar, but knew in my heart, with a strong sense of peace, that it was not a wise decision. As it turned out the seminar was not cancelled, but I felt so strongly that I shouldn’t go and realized that God was directing my steps in that decision. The concierge at the hotel where the seminar was being held said that employees that lived five minutes away from the hotel were arriving an hour later. She said, “I wouldn’t come, if I were you!” I can only realize now that there will be another seminar somehow, or some way for me to re-capture that information that I missed out on.

  8. Yes, this is a chance to know that all the knowledge you need to perform your job well comes from the divine Mind, is coming to you now, and is never lost. There are no lost opportunities, only new possibilities.

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