We all face a variety of problems on any given day, and many of those problems are trivial and easily overcome. A spilled drink can be cleaned up. An appointment that is late is a frustration but usually not the end of the world. Chances are we don’t stop and pray for heavenly assistance every time we’re stuck in the slow-moving line at the supermarket. Serious problems, such as a sudden job loss, devastating medical diagnosis, or other life altering situation, are (thankfully!) pretty rare. There’s a good chance most of us turn to God pretty quickly when life’s disasters strike. But there are many problems we face are likely between those two extremes.
These mid-range problems may be things like a large order going out from work with a glaring mistake or an increase in insurance premiums putting additional stress on an already tight household budget. These issues are not necessarily devastating, but they’re also not easy to overcome, and they can be stressful to resolve. These types of problems require us to actively find and implement solutions that may not be pleasant. Using the above examples, the company might have to eat the cost of their error and reprimand those responsible for the oversight. We may have to work extra hours or cut out something an activity we really enjoy to accommodate a higher insurance bill.
My question for you is, “when do you invite Jesus in?” For far too many years, I underestimated God’s love for me and relegated him to the position of my Lord of Last Resort. When faced with an issue that I knew I could work through, but it would be difficult and likely sting a bit, I tended to go it alone. Often, I would struggle both with the situation and with the increasing frustration I was experiencing until I would finally throw my hands up and cry out to God to fix the mess.
Turning to God to help me compose an effective work email seemed silly because I didn’t really believe that God was worried about that. He certainly has bigger fish to fry than whether I can smooth things over with a dissatisfied customer. Some of us may even be worried about bugging God with daily struggles because we want to save up for when we need something really big, as if God would think, “Ugh, Michelle again? What does she want now?”
Eventually, through the grace of God, I have come to understand that He does not want to be our Lord of Last Resort. Our Father doesn’t want to be our “in case of emergency contact” but instead, He wants to be that best friend that we call when a problem first develops, and we continue to update and seek advice from every step of the way. Once I finally began to comprehend that God’s love for me is so great that He does actually care about that email or whatever, the whole concept of inviting God into my regular challenges made so much more sense!
Why wouldn’t I ask the Lord, who wrote the plan He has for my life, to guide me through every twist and turn? It’s like ignoring your car’s navigation system and getting lost, then having to drive thirty minutes out of your way to get back on track. God has the whole map right there and if we simply strive to follow it when we first set out, we’ll arrive at our destination on time. Sadly, I have a feeling that until I began to understand this concept, the Lord probably spent a lot of time “re-routing” me as I repeatedly wandered off course and I am incredibly grateful for His infinite patience and mercy.
Following the Map
So, what does it look like to actually start consulting our loving Father about whether we should veer right or left in life’s activities? It’s as simple as asking him to lead us. One thing we have to accept is that we don’t always have a great deal of time to spend in contemplation – some situations require us to act quickly. But no matter how short a response time we’re dealing with, we can always spare three seconds to say, “God, guide me.” Then we have to listen in our heart or our gut for his response to our request.
There have been so many times when after asking for God’s help, I’ve gone to hit send on a communication only to have a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I promise you, 9 times out of 10, if I heed that feeling, I end up catching an error or changing some wording. When there is sufficient time to seek God’s guidance in adoration or meditative prayer, we have to be prepared to actually follow the directions He gives. Sometimes it’s hard to discern His instructions because we don’t get the booming voice from the sky spelling it out for us. Sometimes, the directions seem to be leading us to a route we’d rather not take or that seems to be far out of the way from where we were going.
Ultimately, we have to continually remind ourselves that God will never lead us in the wrong direction and trust in his beautiful plan for our lives. We also have to pray for the grace to believe God loves enough to care about every problem we face and have faith that He doesn’t want to be our Lord of Last Resort. Finally, we have to patient with ourselves because this type of lesson often has to be relearned. Despite our best plans, we often slip into old habits of relying on ourselves first to handle issues. Keep practicing, as I am, because it does become more habitual the more you do it.
To be fair, even when I have faithfully tried to follow my own advice, there have still been times when I have taken wrong turns or found myself at a dead end. When that happens, I have to believe it was either a discernment error on my part or God wanted me there for a reason. Maybe He wanted me to receive a particular grace through the struggle, or maybe I just needed to be faithfully obedient while He was preparing the path.
Whatever the case, I strive to trust that God’s always got it handled. My challenge for all of us this week is to invite God into all of our life’s dilemmas and seek his counsel before situations become a full-blown crisis. Let’s see if it makes a difference (spoiler alert: it does)!
Copyright 2019 Michelle Jones Schroeder