I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. (Psalm 32:8-9 NASB)
In my early days as a Christian, in the late ’70s, I wanted to do God’s will in everything. Big things, little things, in everything I wanted to do what God wanted. I may have been a bit obsessive about it, which I attribute to the fact that I was/am both a pleaser and indecisive. Seeking God’s will could be quite paralyzing at times.
Campus Crusade made a video to help college students grow in this area and help them not get paralyzed. In one scene from the video, a guy was reaching into his closet for a shirt thinking, “Green shirt? Or blue shirt?” The upshot was that he was wasting time praying about something trivial. This totally bugged me at the time. I could marshal a lot of Scripture to show that small things often do matter. I took the matter up with my campus pastor but wasn’t satisfied that he was passionate enough about knowing God’s will.
Then an incident happened during college that actually helped me relax a bit in this area. Not that I think there is really anything too trivial for God! But it showed me that God was capable of directing me whether or not I had brought something up in prayer.
In my junior year, I had a boyfriend who envisioned life after college as a missionary in Germany or Austria. He spoke German and encouraged me to study it too. So I signed up for beginning German one quarter.
On the first day of the new quarter, I set out across campus for a 9:00AM German class. The morning was sunny but cool, and the tree-lined pathway was conducive to conversation with the Lord. Suddenly, I heard something remarkable and stopped. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I had a strong sense of communication into my mind: “not German.”
Not German? Really? Is this You speaking with me, Lord?
In a few moments, I was really convinced it was the Lord and I was not to go to German class.
Well, what then? Is there some other class I should go to?
I pulled out my Courses and Degrees and began flipping through the pages. Again, no audible voice, but a sense of communication—“Accounting.”
Accounting? I suppose I could take Accounting.
There were a total of two, and only two, undergraduate business courses available – Financial Accounting and Management Accounting. Financial Accounting was offered at 9:00AM, and if I got moving I could just get there on time.
Of all the courses that comprised my eventual Bachelor of Arts degree, I got the most mileage out of those two accounting courses. My post-college jobs were in accounting, and I ended up marrying a ministry-minded engineering grad student named Kent James who eventually started a manufacturing business. Those accounting courses and the work experience stretched into a finance department. God had something in mind when He diverted me from German to Accounting.
Another example of abrupt guidance occurred in the year 2000. Kent was making frequent trips to Azerbaijan, working with local churches on business classes and other projects. Our daughter was in high school, our son in college, and I was happily immersed in ESL ministries locally through our church. I had zero interest in Azerbaijan and growing nervousness that Kent was getting deeper and deeper involved in projects abroad. I definitely was not praying about getting involved.
One day my friend, Heidi, came to visit and pray. I told her that Kent was leaving in a couple weeks for yet another Azerbaijan trip. Out of the blue, she said, “Why don’t you go with him?” The moment she said it, I knew, absolutely, that I should go. I didn’t want to go, but I had to go. There was only a week to prepare. My daughter was headed to Mexico on a short-term mission trip and I hated the thought of being out of the country, half-way around the world. A nurse friend, also going on the mission trip, assured me that she would take special care of my daughter. That trip to Azerbaijan was a significant first step towards me taking up residence in Azerbaijan in 2002.
All this to say, God speaks. He invites me to pray, but He’s willing to bring up matters that I can’t imagine are important. I come back to this verse again and again: “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NASB). My mind is incredibly busy, fomenting ideas and making plans, and often clueless about what’s really important. But I can rest and even relax in reliance on God’s capacity to direct my steps as He sees fit.
Jani can be reached by email here.