Listening for Next Steps

I recently made a very difficult decision to resign from my job after nearly ten years. The journey to make that decision was a lengthy one, and one through which I discovered that the most important voice I needed to listen to was God’s. A close second was my husband’s, and third, dear friends who I know are walking with the Lord and would pray for me. But above all, God’s voice needed to be the loudest, and He can’t be the loudest when I allow myself to be subject to the opinions of too many others or let the noise of the world drown out the only One I really need to hear.

However, over the years, when itching for a change or move, I have thought to myself, “I’m just going to listen to where the Lord leads me.” In theory, that sounds great. After declaring it, I might start to seek others’ opinions, and look more closely for clues and hints for what God might want to tell me through church sermons or my Bible study. While that indeed could be a good start, over those years, I learned that listening isn’t just trying to be hyperaware of “signs” God might be sending me through others. While all of that could be a part of listening to the Lord, I have learned that a much bigger part in listening to Him is being obedient to Him through His Word.

In their study, Seeking Him: Experiencing The Joy of Personal Revival by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Tim Grissom (by the way, I highly recommend!), the authors support this idea, stating “In both the Old and the New Testaments, the words translated obey are related to the idea of hearing. Obedience is a positive, active response to listening to the Word of God. Jesus said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’ (Luke 11:28)” They further elaborated, “The only reliable means of measuring our love for God is to examine whether we obey him.”

One key indicator, if not THE key indicator of obedient children, is they are apt to listen to their parents and elders. It’s the same with God. It’s a key indicator to show Him we love Him, respect Him, and want to be in relationship with Him. If you’re anything like me, there are few things in this world that test my patience in trying to be ‘slow to anger’ than not being listened to by my children. Imagine how God must feel when we don’t obey His commands for us!

For us parents, we want to raise obedient children because we care for them and have their best interest at heart. And even if you’re reading this and you’re not a parent, I bet you can look back to times in your life when you were so grateful for the obedience that you had to follow rules that were set for you. They were most likely put in place to protect you, to guide you, and believe it or not, to help your life to be a little more free. It’s the same with God. Through our obedience to Him, He wants to protect us, to guide us, and to give us freedom.

This week, my husband and I took a few hours to retreat away to pray about the next big decision(s) in our lives. When making decisions, especially those we’d label “big”, we know it’s vital to hear and discern the Lord’s will, because He is always working and moving us towards a greater plan for our lives. (Psalm 32:8) What became clear through this time together was that God wanted to talk with us. How do we know? Because in seeking Him through intentional time both individually and together, we became unified, our trust in the Lord grew, and we walked away with the next steps in our journey, which was to be obedient to a check-in each day with each other and pray together. Through this, we will continue to listen and discern what He has for us.

When we are in an active posture of listening, we are obediently heading in a direction where we think God wants us to go. I always say that God does not steer an idle ship, so a big part of listening and being obedient to the Lord is moving. It is taking the next step in faith, even if you’re not quite sure you heard an audible command. For me that has looked like declaring to the Lord that I am going to move in a certain direction and then pray that He opens doors or slam doors to confirm or correct my path. I truly believe that sometimes He doesn’t necessarily care where we’re going, just that we are going forward and seeking Him in the journey. Obedience. Moving when we are uncomfortable. Moving when we’re not sure exactly where we’re going to go. Walking in confidence that this obedience will be rewarded.

These tough life decisions truly do stretch and grow who we are as people. They challenge our trust in the Lord. I’m really excited for whatever is next in our journey to land a new job, or whatever God has for us. The Lord has proven faithful over and over again when we have been obedient (Hebrews 13:8; Psalm 36:5, 2 Thessalonians 3:3). And resting in this truth truly does bring freedom. It brings freedom in knowing and trusting that the Lord’s path is better than ours (Jeremiah 29:11). And it brings freedom and knowing and trusting that He is in control (Deuteronomy 31:8). I am so thankful that He loves us enough to want to go before us and direct our path. We simply need to be obedient.

It is my hope that by the time you’re done reading, the idea of being ‘obedient’ will not conjure up negativity, hand slaps, or guilt. But rather a word that conveys freedom. Freedom in knowing that you are on God’s path for your life when you listen and obey. And if we desire to see God’s plans more clearly, we must return to Him in full obedience each day.

He ALWAYS has something to say to us.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
– Proverbs 3:5-6

Dear Lord, thank You that You are always working and moving us towards a greater plan of our lives, always at work in our hearts. Please give us ears to hear You, wisdom to discern Your voice, and obedience to follow You. You are so good and patient with us. Thank you for being such a loving, heavenly father who has a perfect plan for each one of us. Amen.

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