It’s funny how God always gives us the answers we need instead of the ones we want. Right now, there are many things in my world that are causing me great distress, and I have earnestly prayed for clarity in all of them, waiting for God to answer me. I have been coming to Him with the right heart, but I didn’t know I was asking the wrong questions. Instead of providing clarity on all my situations, He revealed to me what I needed in order to hear His answers, and in doing so, He answered the one question I wasn’t even asking: “How do I find clarity on HOW to get clarity?”
When we are walking through difficult circumstances, knowledge is not always power. Sometimes we end up knowing things we really shouldn’t know. When others share information or details about things going on around us, even if the information is correct, it will almost always color our opinions of those situations. Our opinion or perspective can be deeply affected by knowing what other people think or have done. I’m not advocating for sticking our heads in the sand, but I’m saying that sometimes the phrase “knowledge is power,” couldn’t be further from the truth. Knowledge can actually be destructive, especially to our spirits. The deciding factor on how knowledge affects us is actually found in the source of that knowledge. If it is knowledge of God’s word and what He wants from us in the way we live and treat others, then that knowledge is absolutely powerful. On the other hand, if it is knowledge about what someone else has said or done, we are in danger of being swayed. Most of us want to know the details of all the situations around us, especially if they are “juicy.” We try to rationalize this thirst and hunger for details as a way of helping us make better decisions. Sometimes we even claim it helps us to pray better, because we can pray more specifically. Really? Do you really think that an omniscient God doesn’t already know all the details? Trust me; He certainly doesn’t need you or me to fill Him in on them.
In my situation(s), I keep praying for clarity on what I’m supposed to do. What is the solution? Am I supposed to stand firm? Am I supposed to walk away? I just want to know which way to turn, because I don’t have that direction yet. I don’t want to do something I’m not being called to do, so it stands to reason that my heart would be searching for answers. But what do we do when those answers don’t seem to be coming?
As people of faith, there is an endless number of quotes, verses, statements and sentiments we use for ourselves or share with others when difficult times hit us. It’s not that these sentiments or statements are worthless, but often over time, they seem to lose something. As Christians, it’s sometimes easy to find ourselves just going through the motions. We know what to say and when to say it. We know what to do, and we may even do it, but something is still missing. We feel frustrated, discouraged and disappointed but keep pressing on because that’s what we’ve been taught to do. After all, isn’t that what God WANTS us to do? Aren’t we supposed to persevere and keep walking in faith no matter how we feel? Well, that’s where the disjoint has been happening for me lately. How do I know when God is trying to move me into something else or asking me to persevere exactly where I am? Little by little, I found myself inching closer to that question I really should have been asking all along.
When we are truly seeking the right direction in our lives or circumstances, we go through a process of discovery. We ask and ponder and sometimes even drive ourselves crazy trying to wrap our hands or heads around a plan that will work. Our hearts can be in the right place, but the fog hanging over it can make it confusing, so we pray and consider all aspects of our situation. For me, that consideration can actually bring up more and more feelings of discouragement and frustration. Those feelings can then lead me to a place where I am ready to change direction or make decisions based on how I feel. When we arrive at these places, we need to ask ourselves, “Do I feel called somewhere else or to something else, or am I just frustrated, bored, disappointed, etc.?” If our response to that question is that we are frustrated and such, then it’s time to step back. Being frustrated and disappointed is very different from being “called.” I know because I’m experiencing it in my own life, and yet God has been quietly whispering to me, answering the question I wasn’t even asking:
“How do I get clarity on HOW to get clarity?”
Self-reflection is one of the most difficult things we can do in times of frustration or discouragement. As humans, we are outward‑looking people. It’s much easier to look at what someone else is or isn’t doing than to be honest about ourselves. The more frustrated we get, the harder self-reflection becomes. As a result of this truth, I realized I needed to step back and ask myself these questions:
- Am I doing everything God asks of ME to do?
- Am I loving radically?
- Am I forgiving radically?
I know we often look at the word “radical” as somewhat of a bad word, especially in churches, but how did Jesus command us to love each other? And how are we commanded to treat each other? We know the answers to those questions. They are simple answers, and yet so difficult to put into practice because we are human. We get tired of loving, forgiving and serving others when we get nothing in return from them. Sometimes in the middle of my discouragement, I am reminded of how often Jesus must have felt the same way. When I shared this with my husband recently, his response was, “I’m not Jesus. I’m not divine.” Although I completely understand the sentiment, it isn’t an accurate one. We ARE divine. My mind and body may not be divine, but my spirit is! As believers, we have the Holy Spirit living within us. Our spirit is HIS spirit, so we truly are divine in that one area of our own trinity (body, mind, spirit). That means we CAN love and forgive radically, but we choose not to because it’s so hard to overcome our human nature. It’s a battle, and we are always going to fail here and there because we aren’t perfect! I often feel like the apostle Paul – I don’t do what I want to do and I can stop doing what I don’t want to do!
Where is your heart? Where is mine? Is it in the right place? For example: How do you react if you plan something for the right reasons, and no one really shows up, even though it was something you felt God wanted you to do? If you truly feel it’s the right thing to do, and nobody shows up, I can assure you the emotions of disappointment and discouragement will wash over you. I’ve been there even recently, and it can be heartbreaking and frustrating, but that doesn’t mean we should let those feelings affect what we do next. That’s much easier said than done, because we usually start drawing conclusions as to why some people didn’t show up. That’s not how we are supposed to be! We aren’t supposed to be judgmental, and when we are caught up in our own opinions, then we are missing the essence of what God is asking US to do.
Our actions can certainly be evidence of our commitment or the commitment of others, whether it’s to our family, church, jobs, or anything else. Talk is really cheap, but we need to remember that actions can also be deceiving. We’ve all had times where we remained committed to our responsibilities long after our heart was no longer in it. In these cases, it gives the impression we are committed, but the truth is we are just going through the motions. It’s no different than those who constantly talk about being committed but won’t ever sacrifice or, as the saying goes, “put their money where their mouths are.” Our service to God in EVERY area of life is between us and God first. Only we can determine where God is calling us or in what manner He is asking us to serve. Our responsibility is to Him first, and if we want to have clear direction, we must keep our priorities in order. Like most of us, I need to humble my attitude more. It’s easy to feel pious or like a martyr when we feel like we are the only ones doing all the work. And guess what? Sometimes you ARE doing all the work. When that’s the case, it’s easy to fall prey to that mindset, but then we are letting our emotions take over. God tells us that whatever we do should be done in love. Period. (1 Cor 16:14) That also means if I am serving, it shouldn’t be out of obligation, and it shouldn’t matter what others are or are not doing. What matters is whether or not I am doing things from a heart of true love, forgiveness and service.
We naturally want things to be fair in life. What we don’t consider is who determines what is “fair” and what is not? God has commanded us to drop our own attitudes, even if they seem warranted and realistic. It’s ok to feel angry, disappointed, discouraged and frustrated, but God tells us to let it go! We know it’s true, but I sometimes act like a whining child and think, “Why do I always have to drop my attitude, but they never have to drop theirs?” Have you ever felt that way? Well, God’s response to that question is, “You drop it because you are mature enough to know better.” Ugh – if that doesn’t hit you in the heart, I don’t know what will. Sometimes the reason God asks so much of us is because we know better. He asks more of us because we are more spiritually mature. After all, to whom much is given, much is required. Go read about the concept of the “weaker brother” in Romans chapter 14, and consider that for a moment. Sometimes being right isn’t always the right thing for us to do. It really does all come back to love, but instead we sit and complain about fairness. I have news for you, until you are hanging on a cross with people spitting on you and torturing you to death, you don’t have any right to complain that it’s not fair that you have to treat people with love and kindness in spite of how they treat you in return.
Look, we are commanded by God to love each other as He loves us! We are commanded to forgive each other as He forgives us. If we want clarity, then living as God has instructed us is not an option. I can assure you that my heart is in the right place when I am asking God for clarity and wisdom in my own situations, but I’m not always approaching things with the right attitude either. Doing so causes confusion that clouds my ability to have clarity. Have you ever been close in your relationship with God and been asking for him to provide direction but then get confused when He doesn’t seem to be answering? Do we think that He doesn’t want us to know what to do in life? That’s ridiculous, but it’s essentially what we are saying when we get upset that we can’t see or hear His answers.
All communication involves a sender and receiver, a message, feedback and noise, but it’s the noise that comes into play here. Noise is anything that interferes with the clear sending or receiving of a message. If you are on the phone, it could be static. If you are in a crowded room, it could be the sound of all the voices around you. If you shine a flashlight into the dark, it could be a tree that gets in the way of where you are trying to shine it. You get the point. Right now, for me, it’s not my situations that are causing the noise that’s clouding my ability to be confident in where God is leading, but rather my attitude toward them. If I keep saying to myself, “I am doing the right thing, and I’m going to keep doing the right thing, but it irritates me that I have to keep doing the right thing,” then I am displaying an attitude to God that He never wants to see in us as His children. Others may not see it, but He does and he knows. The reality, if I’m truthful, is that I am making my own noise and then wondering why I can’t discern the direction God is already providing for me.
When we are faced with situations we don’t understand or are wondering why God doesn’t seem to be listening, we need to step back. When we are trying to discern whether or not God is pulling and drawing us toward something else, we need to make sure we aren’t squinting through a fog trying to guess what or where it is. When we know there are things God wants us to do, but refuse to do them because we don’t like them or think they are fair, then we are turning up the noise that prevents us from hearing what He’s trying to tell us. If we will simply start loving radically and forgiving radically, regardless of what anyone else does, we can start to clear the fog. When that happens, I can have far more confidence in the answers to my questions. It’s definitely not easy to do, but it is the truth, nonetheless. Clarity in the details can only come after we have clarity on the bigger picture.
When we start doing the things we know for certain that God wants us to do, and then we ask Him for clarity in the detailed situations of our lives, He will give it. If I’m serving, loving and forgiving radically wherever I am, and still feel God pulling at me to move, then I can have peace in the certainty of that direction. The truth is most of us don’t want to do those things because it isn’t easy, and it isn’t fair by our standards.
So if you are like me, and are currently struggling for clarity in your life, then maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and remember God is not hiding His will from us. He takes no pleasure in making us guess at what He wants us to do or in us trying to solve our problems by trial and error. It’s not that He is waiting to answer us; it’s that we need to clear the noise so that we can hear Him more clearly. We need to clear the fog of pride, discouragement or frustration that is making it difficult to see where He is leading. We simply need to get our eyes off the raging sea and look to the One who has shown us exactly how we should treat each other. And then if He moves us on, we can do so in love rather than in frustration and discouragement.
Jesus was radical! He loved people even as they were mistreating, mocking, abusing and rejecting Him. He continued to love them in spite of who they were, and He does the same for us. He forgave everyone, over and over, even though they didn’t deserve it. He didn’t question their sincerity, or put conditions on His love or forgiveness, and He didn’t drag grudges around with Him. As a result, HE had perfect clarity on how to approach the situations in which He found Himself. He had clarity on what to do, how to do it and when to do it, and He followed that call regardless of His own emotions.
We may not be perfect, but if we will become as radical in our love and forgiveness for others as He was, then the fog will begin to clear. As it says in Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” We can’t cherry-pick the areas in which we follow and then expect Him to make the path clear to us. He just won’t do it.
It’s amazing what we learn when God answers the questions we never thought to ask.