God’s Will–and the Clarity I Didn’t Have

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We weren’t clearly “called” to Africa. That I know of.

I was thinking of this the other night, as friends and I gathered around steaming plates held on our laps with friends who’d just returned from a “vision trip”–hopefully helping them discern whether God was calling them to India. Unfortunately, clarity wasn’t showing up.

Maybe God will correct my thinking in the future. But there my husband and I were in Little Rock, with a bunch of little kids, contemplating whether or not to, you know, sell 70% of our stuff and wheel our bags to a continent I was sure was just buzzing with malaria and typhoid.

I say that—but honestly, I was thrilled. Africa was a dream come true, one I’d put on the shelf in the “maybe God will explain why” category of my mental Dewey decimal system. And as we discussed it, I don’t think I’ll forget what my husband said one night.

“I don’t know that this is a ‘obey or disobey’ kind of thing.” You know. As in, I don’t think we’ll get eaten by some form of fish if we stay here in North America.

He continued: “I think God is giving us a choice on this one. I think it’s more like an alabaster box. It would just be a beautiful act of worship to Him.”

(Man. Love that guy.)

The thought has stuck with me. I must confess I’m not the kind of person who’s ever heard an audible voice from God. Do I feel like I know His voice? Well, yes, I do. That’s not to say that I, being 100% human and flawed, don’t get that Voice all jumbled up with the attitudes and “shoulds” so artfully cloaked by my subtly conniving, still-in-process heart.

Sometimes? I get it wrong.

Speaking as a Christian, I know we sometimes get frustrated by ambiguity and all the things we don’t know; all the things God doesn’t tell us. We’ll obey! We promise! We just want to know what He wants us to do.

But what I like about my husband’s “alabaster box” is the beauty of the creative choices He gives us. I don’t have any “God told me” to offer questioning friends (although truthfully I realize those words can be a bit of a conversation killer…the ultimate Christian Rubber Stamp. Who wants to offer pushback to, well, God?).

Can clarity become an idol?

Honestly, sometimes I feel the temptation to add clarity for God…out of my own fear or lack of comfort. I can make clarity what I must have, what God must give me, if I am to move forward. But I find Peter Scazzero’s cautionary words poignant as I steer away from waiting, struggling, or utilizing the choices God’s joyfully given me:

I, like Abraham, had birthed many ‘Ishmaels’ in my attempt to help God’s plan move forward more efficiently.*

I appreciated a sermon by Francis Chan where he acknowledged that he was only about 70% confident of what God wanted him to do in a major decision he’d described, and about 90% in marrying his wife. Instead, he talks about what he dubs “prinking”—praying and thinking about what the mind of God would be on this.

This well-stated post actually quoted an intriguing encounter with Mother Theresa, who when someone asked her to pray for clarity for himself, stated,

I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.

Some of our decisions, I think, are just the option to love elaborately.

What’s your alabaster box?

*Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ. p. 51. Kindle Edition.

27 thoughts on “God’s Will–and the Clarity I Didn’t Have

  1. dani says:

    Love this. Every step and jump of obedience is an act of worship. What a great way to look at it as we walk in deep fellowship, surrender and trust with our faithful God in His adventures in our lives!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Reading this reminded me of a devotional I read this week with my accountability partner. It spoke beautifully to this idea of determining God’s will for our lives. This is Oswald Chamber’s writting about the delight and freedom found in friendship with God, “When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty and delight; you are God’s will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. You are free to make decisions in the light of a perfect and delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will lovingly produce that sense of restraint. “


        That just summed up exactly what I needed to top off my day of choosing a missions agency, after dealing with 5 of them for a month and bidding the others thank you and fade away… I didn’t want a ‘feeling’, I asked God for leading; and the thoughts came, the name came up a few times, I remembered what I needed to remember about it, then the peace and joy came. Nothing like God’s faithfulness and hearing it from Oswald chambers too!

        • Go. Serve. Love says:

          So thankful for God’s steadfast care for you, Sheila–particularly in the form of guidance. Congratulations on choosing an agency. That’s a big step.

          God bless on your journey!

    • Sheila Sweeney Andonaegui says:

      HOw freeing to read this and know He ALWAYS has our steps, bringing them to HIM!!! Rebecca How marvelously freeing it is to know this! I read in John MacArthurs’s book years ago, ” KNOWING GOD”S WILL”, that if you are Saved, Sealed,Sanctified, Submitted to and Surrendered to, Eph 1-3, that God’s Will will be an easy Avenue to decipher – Speak French? going to Paris to share His love may be a lot more motivationally personal than perhaps Him wanting you to go to Quebec!

      His Glory is paramount. His peace is proof!
      Thank you for this great reminder! Praise you Jesus, you are our closest, bosomed friend….

  3. Abigail Dusciuc says:

    I love this so much, exactly where I’m at right now wanting to go into Mission Aviation, but feeling terribly uncalled…..sometimes I get so sick of that, “calling”, but I do believe that not everybody should try to be a missionary family living across from their home country, it’s what I’ve always wanted but I’m afraid it’s my wanting and not God’s heart sometimes. I’d be awesome to talk to someone like you about it, but alas you’re overseas so I can’t meet you for coffee! 🙂
    Ultimately, I read my bible, pray, and do the same “prinking”. I try to think how God would view the decision I’m about to make, and what are my motives behind it?

    Great post, thank you so much for this!

    • Janel says:

      Abigail, thanks so much for your vulnerability in a topic that I know personally can be challenging to grapple with. You’re right; there’s so much flying around about “calling” that sometimes it can gain a weight and a nuance that I’m not sure is God’s intent (??). I’ve worked with several MAF folks, and let me just say I’m thrilled you’d be “prinking” in that direction and considering using your life that way. (I’m not overseas anymore, so I will try not to be jealous 😉 ).

  4. -Zirimwabagabo Michel says:

    I really want you to come back to rwanda and I am ready to receive you and to work with you .
    May God bless you so much.
    Faithfuly yours, Zirimwabagabo Michel from Rwanda in Musanze District in the Northrn province.

  5. Sheila Sweeney Andonaegui says:

    Thank you for this article! This was such God’s timing for me to read this morning. I’m off to a retreat called “The Journey Deepens” next weekend to determine the “calling” I have – to send, mobilize or go. We’ll I’ve gone and am going back to Kenya soon, but wondering what these 2 trips are leading to….. Clarity? I’ll just be obedient today, see His open doors, and walk in. OR He will close the door . So far, no slamming, but lots of joy in the planning! He will lead without question. HE’s a GOOD, GOOD Father! Praise Him!

    • Janel says:

      Sheila, thanks so much for sharing your heart on all this. I’m excited for this retreat–and for your future! Love your heart for following His lead.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Sheila I love your heart in this! I am praying for clarity for you this weekend and throughout the coming weeks. I have heard great things about “The Journey Deepens”. May the Father give you divine conversations and interactions with others that will help provide the insight and connections needed to run with confidence in the path of his commands. He delights in you!

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