By Jay Bransford
How many times in life have you found yourself standing at a crossroad, wondering which path you should take next? Should I do a DTS? Should I leave my homeland and join a particular ministry or base? How should I respond to my current ministry challenge, problem or opportunity? Should I go back to school, change roles, or return home? Where are you on the path of your life’s journey? What decisions are you facing? And how are you being led along the plethora of twists, turns and decision points along the way?
When I think of life decisions, I fondly remember one of my favorite poems I studied in High School. It is called “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. The poem is about a person who needs to make a decision but struggles to decide. He is afraid that no matter what path he chooses, he will later regret it. In the end, he chooses to take “the road less traveled.” Looking back later he proclaims, “and that has made all the difference.”
Many experts assert that Frost’s intent was to make light of people’s tendency to be indecisive, second guess themselves and live life with regret about the decisions they could have made differently. Others believe that Frost was suggesting we should rise above the pressures to simply follow what the rest of the world does and instead use our own good judgment in choosing our life’s direction, even if it ends up being a path most people don’t choose.
I believe that the challenge Frost presents in this poem parallels incredibly well the life journey of every Christian – and indeed every human. Life is full of decisions – many thousands per day actually! The decisions we face can range from being huge, impactful, complex, or risky all the way down to decisions that seem trivial, simple, obvious or not even worth taking time to think about. In reality, however, there’s no real way for any of us to be able to predict the impact or result of any decision we make in life, even from those seemingly insignificant decisions. Indeed, all of our life’s choices have consequences – both good and bad.
With every decision we face in life, we could choose to be frozen in fear about the possible outcomes and risks, like Frost’s poem expresses. Or we could plunge down the path that the world tells us is right. “There is a way that seems to be right unto man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Or another option is that we can seek and trust God in the process.
Where do “Faith” and “The Road Less Traveled” meet?
In Frost’s poem, the man takes his time to contemplate and analyze the two paths before him. He describes what the paths look like, how far he can see down the paths, and how difficult the paths might be to walk down. The man seems to be rational and logical in considering his options. And yet he is still stuck and indecisive about his final choice. In reality, we don’t know how this man made his final decision. We don’t even know if he made the best or right choice. The truth is, every choice we make eventually requires faith of some kind – something we are trusting or believing in. When you make decisions, in what are you trusting or having faith? Where does God come into the picture?
For those of us who are Christians, we know and trust that God is ultimately in control, and that His plans for us are good. That’s always a great starting point when facing a decision and wanting to be led by God. It’s also helpful to remember that all knowledge and truth comes from God. So everything we know to be true is of God. Therefore, it is not UN-SPIRITUAL to put faith in things we know to be true, such as things we can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. God created all of those things. And He can speak to us through them. God has given us a sense of sight, smell, taste and touch so that we can make wise decisions. For example, if you are swimming in a lake and then see/hear lightning and thunder, you probably have the good sense (from God) to get out of the water.
Where does “spiritual leading” from God factor in?
It is important to acknowledge that God can guide us in many ways. Sometimes people have a tendency to over-spiritualize things and believe that for God to have truly led them they must audibly hear the voice of God speak to them. While that is a possible way that God can speak, guide and lead us, it also tends to be the least common way. As we face our life decisions, we can look to God and trust God to potentially lead us in numerous ways, none of which should necessarily be considered more or less spiritual than others. For example, God can lead us through:
- His Word in the bible
- His Spirit (directly to us)
- Nature and God’s creation using our senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, sound)
- Our knowledge and experience
- Input from other believers
What’s interesting is that with any of these ways we have the potential to make mistakes. We are human and we don’t always interpret things the way we should. For example, it is possible to misinterpret or misapply God’s word, especially when we take it out of context. Similarly, it is possible for our senses to mislead us (such as optical illusions) or for our knowledge and experience to be less than perfect. It is even possible to pray, read the bible, and feel like God may have spoken something directly to our spirit but for some reason we still get it wrong. Yikes! Where does this leave us with Faith and being led on the Road Less Traveled?
The good news is that God sees our hearts. He knows when we’re trying to make a concerted effort to know His will. And, in general, God will honor our efforts. However, if we always seem to rely on just one or two of those ways above to be led by Him, it might be the case that we are depending more on those specific approaches than we really are on God himself. Admittedly, I have a tendency to rely more on my senses, circumstances, and knowledge and experience. Others may have a tendency to read the bible, pray and wait on God (which is wonderful!) but rarely think about what God may be trying to make abundantly clear to them through their situation, knowledge, or input from others. Thus, it is probably good to try to be open to how you allow God to lead you. And it’s good to have some checks and balances in how you are led by God – meaning that you might want to slow down your decision making process if you notice that you are getting conflicting input about what seems right. You can also rest assured that God will not ask you to do something that is in opposition to the truths, principles and commandments found in His word.
Being led by God through the roads less traveled in life requires a well-rounded faith, where we trust and believe God to guide us in any way He chooses, not just the way we prefer or expect.
So a challenge for you to consider is:
- Which of these ways of being led by God do you already do well?
- In which of these ways of being led by God do you need to intentionally put more time and emphasis?
- What new habits can you start to build today to work toward this?
* For more ALLC resources on Being Spiritually Led, go to: https://allc.asia/spiritual-maturity/spiritually-led/