Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
"If only I had followed the directions I'd been given." How many times have I made that statement? The directions were clear. But I ignored them and went my own way. My heart was very confused. I leaned on my own understanding instead of trusting in the Lord. The path I took led me on detours leading to dead end roads. Every once in a while I ended up in the ditch. I have the scars on my heart to prove it.
On a trip to Disneyland we were attempting to find a restaurant where we were meeting friends for dinner. My husband Steve plugged "Maggie" (our Magellan™ Global Position System) into the car lighter. He typed in our destination address. The unit quickly found the van's location at our hotel. Maggie began to announce our turn by turn instructions to get us to the restaurant.
At one point Steve sensed that Maggie was wrong. He made a right turn even though the device indicated we should continue straight down the street. As soon as we turned Maggie objected and the soft voice kept repeating, "At the next intersection, please turn around."
Steve ignored the constant reminder from Maggie. He was sure his route would get us to the restaurant sooner. Several miles later we ran into a dead end road. We were definitely lost.
After turning around, Maggie's GPS system recalibrated itself and got us back on track. We followed the turn by turn directions and arrived at the restaurant a half an hour late and a little frustrated, but we made it. In the process of going our own way, we wasted gas, time and energy.
A Global Positioning System (GPS) uses a satellite view of the road we travel. A GPS receiver calculates its position by carefully timing the signals sent by the constellation of satellites high above the earth. The device sends these signals which determines our position and gives us the direction to our desired location. To accurately calculate our vehicle's position, the timing of the signals is important. If a signal is missed, the system will resend a new signal and then it waits. Also, a lost signal will cause your location to be misunderstood and the directions given may be incorrect.
After I plug in the destination request on my GPS, I must wait for the turn by turn directions. When the signal comes the GPS directs my path and I make it safely to the planned destination.
In the same way, the prayers I send high above the earth work much like the GPS system. I send God my prayer request then I wait for directions. As I follow the directions He'll get me where I need to go.
But many times I get off track. I move too quickly or ignore the directions completely. Depending on my own understanding, I get lost.
One painful life detour occurred after I graduated from college. The relationship with my college boyfriend was not healthy. We broke up several times. After being engaged for over a year, I gave him back the ring. Things were too uncertain.
A year later we got back together and planned our wedding even with the uncertainty unresolved.
By leaning on my own understanding, I ignored the guidance of pastors, family and friends. The doubts I felt in my spirit were muffled by the sound of wedding bells. My six year relationship ended in a painful annulment only six months after our fairytale wedding celebration.
Our hearts were bruised and broken. Precious time was lost. Energy was spent.
We both had to go back home and start over. The healing took a long time. I had to ask God for new direction.
How did I miss the clear direction of God?
I didn't trust with all of my heart. Instead, I went my own way. I had not taken steps to clearly understand God's will in my life. It was a painful lesson but I learned about trusting God in the middle of my pain.
How do I know if the direction I'm headed is really God's will? What steps can I take to understand the difference between my will and God's? Here are the lessons I learned along the way.
1. Study the Word of God to understand His will. It was very clear in the manual for life – The Bible – that I should be equally yoked with my spouse. I was a Catholic marrying a Jewish man. We did not have the same beliefs and we had many other issues that warned us not to marry. We were not equally yoked.
Although I knew this truth, I ignored the warning and went my own way. The Bible had collected dust on my book shelf because I didn't really know how to study it. Once I learned how to navigate my way through the Bible I was astounded by the recipe for life recorded on its pages. But I had to take a detour before I truly understood the power of God's Word.
2. Seek Godly council and follow the advice. God will use friends and family to speak wisdom into our lives. Throughout my college days my family had concerns about my relationship with this man. Friends continuously warned me. A Pastor encouraged me to postpone the wedding until my doubts had been resolved. The day of the wedding my good friend offered to drive me anywhere to get away. I couldn't imagine being a runaway bride. So I went my own way and hit the ditch pretty hard.
3. Pray and ask God for direction before stepping forward. When we listen closely and wait patiently, he'll direct us on the right path. I prayed for wisdom but my ears were not tuned to hear the answer. The music of my own desire was blasting loudly and I failed to hear the warnings. The result was painful.
So where did I go wrong? His will was evident. The path He showed me was clear.
I turned off my warning systems. I failed to trust the clear directions. Trust means I take the path He shows me even if the road seems unfamiliar. God's guidance will get me safely to the final destination. Ignoring it sets me off course and I lose precious time and energy.
God sees my life from His higher perspective. He sees the beginning and the end. He has a good plan and it is to make my life succeed. So when I read His Word, pray and seek Godly council my directions are clear. He then shows me which path to take.
After my failed marriage, God found me at the dead end road. He healed my broken heart. I tuned in to Scripture. I prayed and waited for an answer. In His mercy, God set my feet back on the right path. I turned off the noise of the world and listened carefully for his voice. Then I confidently followed the directions and moved forward in his will.
Three years later I married Steve, one of my best friends. We will celebrate our twenty-five year anniversary in June 2010. We have two grown sons who love and serve God. We've all learned to trust in the Lord and not on our own understanding. Proverbs 3:5-6 has become our trusted GPS system. But in our case, GPS no longer stands for Global Positioning System. We've decided that GPS means God's Plan Succeeds.
It is my job to tune in, send my prayers heavenward and wait patiently for the answer. Then I follow the given instruction. I've learned to wait for the instruction and then trust that GPS because it always leads me on the right path.
God Bless Your Heart,