How God Guides — Part 6

How God Guides — Part 6 April 30, 2012

The conversation was moving along nicely—good give andtake, friendly rapport, engaging topic. My friend was facing an importantdecision, and we were working over her options together. Until she dropped thebomb: “I really feel the Lord leading me to…” Boom. Conversation over. She hadheard from God. In fact, she went on to use those very words: “I felt like Godwas telling me to…” What more could I say?

It’s a conversation I’ve found myself in multipletimes, and I never know quite how to respond. Years ago, I felt envious and alittle confused. I wanted to hear from God that way, but I didn’t know what tolisten for. More recently, however, as I’ve become more clear on what the Biblesays about how God leads, I’ve begun to push back gently. I’ll usually ask somethinglike, “How did you decide this?” or “What factors led to this decision?”Usually I find one of two things: 1) this is the decision that makes the mostsense to this person or 2) it’s the one that this person most prefers. Andthat’s quite alright! In fact, I would argue that both of these reasons arevastly superior to basing a decision on an inner impression of God’s will. Why?

First, these answers are honest. They describe whatreally happened in the decision making process. The pious and obscure “I feelled to” gets exchanged for the honest and clear “I would like to” or “It makessense to.” And honesty is always the best policy.

Second, these answers help us keep emotion in itsplace. Emotions ought to follow, not lead. Far too often, well-meaning peoplemistake their natural desires for an impression from God. That’s why feelingwords are so common in this dialect of Christianese. “I feel led” is theclassic expression of an emotion-based decision. And I’m sure we all know thatemotions alone are a notoriously unreliable basis for making sounddecisions. 

Third, these answers are open to scrutiny. Others canhelp us evaluate whether our reasoning is sound or our desires are legitimate.But when we say, “God led me to do this,” no one can challenge it. We’veessentially moved our decision beyond the reach of any other authority, eventhe Bible itself. And that’s a dangerous way to make decisions.