Start your engines

It’s hard for Alex to force himself to go to work these days. The honeymoon there is way past over, and the only reason he shows up now is a paycheck.  He compares himself to others who have gone way too long without any job, and feels guilty for complaining.  But this work situation is starting to affect his health, his relationships, and his confidence.  He’s been looking, but no other possibilities have presented themselves.

What does Alex do? Does he endure or does he walk away?  Does he press on, or does he “step out in faith” in search of new opportunities?

Tyler and Jennifer have reached a similar decision, not about work, but about the church they attend.  The congregation has been hit hard with splits, neighborhood transition, and pastoral changes.  They have been a part of this fellowship since they married, and have faithfully served.  But they have moved to another neighborhood themselves, and it feels harder and harder to go back to what feels like a sinking ship.

What do they do? Is this a time to be “steadfast, immovable,” and all that? Or is it a time to “mount up with wings as eagles” and fly away?

(Yeah, you can make the Bible say just about anything you want it to in cases like this.)

These kinds of questions are common for any believer…

Is it time to give up or time to press in?

Am I casting my pearls before swine or am I simply out of pearls?

How does someone know whether to press in or give up?  When is giving up wisdom and when is it discouragement?  When does the situation call for perseverance, and when does it call for punting?

Is there one tiny secret?  One overarching principle that will help you discern when to punch the gas when to hit the brakes, or when to put it park and turn the whole thing off?

In other words, How do I find God’s will in situations where there are multiple options and none of them has a certain outcome?

Let’s start with the fact that it’s a false dichotomy to assume there are only two answers – stop or go.  There may actually be a wide range of answers, including wait, slow down, keep going but vary the direction, team up, and plenty more.

Based on the LifeVesting Cycle (more here), here are seven questions you can ask yourself to get some clarity in situations like this.

1. What resources do you have available?

If you’re out of time, money or energy/health, it may be time to at least hit the pause button.  If you’re using up not just today’s resources but tomorrow’s also, it’s certainly time to rethink the situation.

On the other hand, maybe your situation is a call to channel more of your resources into what matters most – to bring more of your “A game” to the job or the situation.

2. What are the possibilities?

I used to have a counselor who would drill down on this question whenever I came in whining about some change or frustration.  He would persistently ask me, “Are you sure you have done everything you can do?”  Dead-end or bad-news situations have a way of creating some amazing possibilities if we have the courage to ask questions that we’ve never asked before.

Make friends with the words, “What if?”  Look for possibilities today that were impossible yesterday.  Who knows? You may be standing on the edge of breakthrough genius.

3. What do you want?

What matters?  What fascinates you?  What are you absolutely, positively done with? What is most important to you?  What keeps you awake at night with excitement?  Or dread, for that matter?

I understand that the goal here is to pursue what God wants.  But who says that what you want is diametrically opposed to his will? God often speaks through your own desires.

4  What is the next right step forward?

I mentioned in the last post that we often face a temptation to confuse goals with action steps.  And sometimes we confuse activity or busyness with progress.  This question asks, what is the one next step in the direction of the goal?

Not the next 20 steps.

Not your analysis of how the steps are going.

Not your assessment of whether the step will work or not.

What’s the next step?

If you have no clue what that is, stop until you do. If you do know what to do and can do it, do it.  If  you know what to do and you can’t do it, find someone else who can or let it go entirely.

5.  What needs maintenance, or tending to?

Sometimes the reason you’re at a crossroads is because something is calling out for maintenance.  That isn’t very flashy or sexy, but it’s very necessary.  Sometimes you need to back off from things in order to take care of your health or some family relationships.

At other times, you just need to catch your breath, sharpen your tools a little, and press on. I’ve seen 15-minute power naps change an entire perspective.  Or coffee with a friend or associate reenergized me for another week.

6.  How can I increase my capacity in this situation?

When Elijah reached his emotional crossroads, the Lord gave him an associate – Elisha – to increase his capacity.   He also gave him an entirely new perspective; turns out Elijah had been believing a lie.

Decision points like this have a way of exposing our limitations, but that doesn’t mean you should accept those limitations as permanent.  They may be a call to go back to school, ask for help, or learn new ways of depending on the Lord.

7.  Is this a call to patience?

Sometimes the thing to do is nothing.  To stretch the driving metaphor, sometimes you’re just sitting at a traffic light, waiting on green, fuming about having to sit there, but with no alternative. Sometimes all you need is a good night’s sleep or a good day in worship on Sunday.

Sometimes you just have to give it time.

Grrrrrr.  Yeah, go ahead and growl about it.  But let patience run its course before you pull the plug entirely.  Have you given it enough time?  Truly?  I really believe as soon as you ask a question like that, in your heart you know the answer.

 

One think you can count on, regardless, and that’s the faithfulness and presence of the Lord. He doesn’t bring you to situations like that to fend for yourself.  This is an invitation from Him to you – to love Him and to trust Him.

You can definitely punch the gas on that.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Orlando October 1, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Oh, this so spoke to my heart, Andy. We’re in a situation at church with our praise band where the music minister (incredibly talented, by the way) has decided it’s time to “take us over.” We were so tight as a group, we could meet on Sunday mornings to rehearse new songs after listening to them the week before, and pull them off with ease. Now, it’s practice every week and lots of criticism, good and not so good.
It’s been a difficult adjustment for my husband and me, but we are hanging in there, waiting to see where God leads. Yes, we’ve been tempted to jump ship, but we love what we do so much, we’re praying God is in it all and that we will be of service to Him in new ways which we could never have imagined.
Blessings, my friend, and thank you!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..The Best Laid Plans

Carla October 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm

These are all great tips, but I think the first thing we should do . . . before we even go through the steps . . . is ask God what He wants us to do.

I don’t want to have to get to the point where I’m burned out without resources before I listen to what he’s saying.

If we ask, He’ll tell us and we will have more clarity when we go through those steps.
Carla´s last blog post ..Jehovah Nissi – Our Daily Deliverer

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