Throughout each phase of my life I find that I am constantly asking these questions: How can I be certain that God is the one who’s guiding my life events and circumstances? How do I know if the choices I make are in line with His purpose and will for me? How do I know when I’m truly following God’s leading or when I’m just pushing my own agenda?
I will be the first to tell you that finding the answers to these questions is a process of trial and error. I’ve got it wrong one too many times. But thank God that in His mercy, grace and kindness there have been times when I actually did get it right. (Who am I kidding? Most of the times when I actually did get it right were probably flukes). So, to make things easier for me, I thought it would be beneficial to come up with some principles on how to discern God’s hand at work in my life. Here they are (in no particular order):
1. There is peace.
Peace is a hard thing to describe- it’s one of those things that you know and can identify when you experience it for yourself. Peace is not just sitting in a zen lotus yoga position and meditating. To me, it’s the calm and confident assurance of who God is. It is a deep belief in the incredible things that God is able to do and a genuine understanding that God is able to work in my life regardless of the circumstance or situation.
Since I’ve been back in Canada I haven’t had a job. I’ll be honest, everyone around me seems a lot more worried and nervous about my unemployment than I do. I’m thankful for that- it releases me from worry and gives me the freedom to be open to God’s leading and direction. It’s not that I don’t want to work, it’s not that I’m lazy. It’s not that I haven’t done my part in applying for jobs. It’s just that I have absolute certainty that God is doing something really powerful in my life during this season of unemployment. He’s filling my days with opportunities to know Him and serve Him in a way that I wouldn’t be able to if I were working a 9-5 job. And I know, when the time comes for me to earn an income, God will make it happen. There really isn’t a need for me to worry- I can be at peace.
“He will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Me, because he trusts in Me.” (Isaiah 26:3 )
2. There is fruit.
God loves to put me in situations that produce fruit. Whether it’s through a trial, a testing or whether it’s through the joys and celebrations of life- the fruit He produces are able to nourish the inward parts of my soul and cultivate the way I respond and react to people and the circumstances around me. If whatever I am going through is enabling me to to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good to others, faithful to God, gentle in my words, and self-controlled in my actions, I can rest assured that that circumstance or situation is from God. (Galatians 5:22-23)
If the situation I’m in is causing me to sin, bears the opposite of what God wants for me or affects the quality of my character, I have to seriously consider if it really is the right circumstance or situation for me or if it’s my mindset and perspective that needs to change. I was recently in a very difficult living situation and wondered why God would even allow me to experience that circumstance. Thank God for hindsight, because looking back I saw a great deal of growth in my character. I learned how to handle the situation with patience, gentleness and self control. Trust me, it didn’t happen naturally. If the Holy Spirit wasn’t at work I might have spoken out in anger, become defensive or would have even hit someone on the head with a shoe (multiple times). Just kidding… not really though (watch out!). The change in me was the result of serious prayer (on my own and with other people) and allowed for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
3. It’s a good thing.
I recently asked someone “how do you know if the girl you are getting to know (dating, talking to, whatever the term may be) is the right person for you?” He responded by saying, “all I know is that for this season in my life, getting to know her is a good thing. By getting to know her I’ve been challenged in my faith, I’ve grown in my walk with the Lord and I’m just enjoying the process of getting to know someone who loves Jesus. These are definitely good things. If God wasn’t the one guiding us- I don’t think these good things would be happening.” What a great response! And what a good guy!
Sometimes it can be really easy to recognize when something is good for us. Sometimes it takes the gift of hindsight to be able to identify when something has been good for us. Sometimes we need to experience something bad in order to recognize when something is good. Regardless of the circumstance or the situation if we are able to see God’s hand at work, I think it’s safe to say, it’s a good thing!
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
4. There is risk involved.
The best things for me often require the most risk. At some point, God is going to ask all of us to take a risk. God is looking for men and women of courage, it’s a requirement of Christian living. Every person that God was able to use in scripture had to be courageous. They needed the courage to obey the Lord and the things He had called them to do. Their courage didn’t come because they were dependent on their own abilities to make their circumstances work out, but their courage came in their complete surrender and dependence on the character of God.
Moses, Joshua, Esther, Nehemiah, Mary, Paul, Timothy (the list goes on…) all needed courage. It was their courage that set them apart and proved who God was. Have you ever noticed just how many times the Bible says to various people, “fear not” or “be strong and of good courage?” Trust me, it’s a lot of times! If we are totally surrendered to God’s leading in our lives and we truly believe that God is who He says He is, there really is nothing to fear! Easier said than done I know! But with each risk I take, God proves to me that God’s words really are true, there really is nothing to fear. (Seriously, just ask me about my experience putting Naujavan Toronto together).
5. I can tell my story.
I’m able to know something is from God if the circumstance or situation tells the story of God at work. God wants us to be people who have countless stories and experiences of Him at work in our lives. These testimonies bring Him great delight. They are proof of a very real God who deeply loves and cares for His children. They’re reminders that God who has worked all things for our good in the past will work all things for our good in the future. The Bible is full of people’s stories because ultimately, they tell God’s story. Sometimes we just need to find the courage to share them.
Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation. (Joel 1:3)