Trusting God and the plan he has for our lives isn’t always easy. Sometimes we sit and listen, waiting to hear what God wants us to do, and we hear crickets. Other times we see multiple paths to take, and they all seem like God honoring decisions, but we aren’t sure which one he really wants us to take. And then there’s the constant struggle of making sure that we’re choosing to do things for God’s purpose, and not our own.
God’s Plan Revealed by the Holy Spirit
The Trinity describes a God with three parts, each being equal to the other, and each with specific jobs. There’s God the Father, creator of the universe. There’s Jesus, savior of the world. And then there’s the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our connection to God the Father. The Holy Spirit is our advocate and teacher. (See here for an interesting quote by C.S. Lewis.)
My layman’s understanding: The Holy Spirit is our connection to God. Through that relationship we can become more like Christ, and understand the plan and purpose God has for our lives. There’s a lot more in the bible about the Holy Spirit, so please don’t consider this a completely thorough explanation, but I thought it necessary to present a basic understanding of the Holy Spirit before engaging in a discussion about the plan God has for each of us.
Listening to God
If God has a plan and purpose for our lives, how do we listen to the Holy Spirit and understand that plan and purpose?
This is an area I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few months, and it’s one I approach with caution. I’ve heard people declare “this is what God wants me to do,” and my first reaction is always, how do you know that? There’s something really serious to me about saying that we know God’s plan, and it’s X, Y, and Z. The problem is that we don’t get a letter in the mail outlining his plan for us, but instead we have to discern his will from our own selfish will.
For much of my adult life, I’ve largely ignored the Spirit. I think the two big ways the Spirit speaks to us is through God’s word and prayer, and I’ve always been very sporadic in those areas. As I’ve grown more disciplined in reading my bible, and praying consistently, I feel myself opening up to hearing God’s plan for my life. I mentioned in a previous post that I felt a strong calling to go and write. I feel a calling to understand the world, to grow as a Christian, and to write about it here. But I’m very aware of my own selfish desire to make it about me, or to gauge my success by the world’s terms instead of God’s.
Uncomfortable is Good
A few years ago I was asked to volunteer at church by praying with others after service. When church is over, go stand down front, and wait for people. Wait for someone who needs prayer, and for whatever reason feels they have no one else they can turn to. This is absolutely outside my comfort zone, but I felt I needed to say yes, and be open to whatever God wants to do with me.
Opening up to the Spirit and God’s purpose has shown me a consistent theme of being uncomfortable. There is no time I feel closer to the Holy Spirit than when I’m down front after church. The people who come down have prayer requests that run the gamut, from health issues to relational issues, and I’m always afraid I won’t have the words they need. I have no other option than to turn to God, to the Holy Spirit, and trust that they will help me find the words.
It’s hard to rely on God and listen to the Holy Spirit when I’m comfortable. When I feel like I can handle something, I rarely turn to God. But when I’m in a situation where I don’t have all the answers, I know that I can’t do it on my own.
I Don’t Know the Whole Plan
One thing I’ve learned from talking to the homeless and observing that situation is that God’s plans don’t always look like our plans. Before visiting Skid Row, I think my solution there required that all the people be off the street, with good jobs, and that’s the only thing success could look like. When I have my idea of success, I sit back and look at the homeless situation and feel helpless. When I trust God, and his definition of success, I start to see the good that can happen even in a small encounter.
When I felt that calling to go to Skid Row and write about it, I didn’t know God’s entire plan. I’ve met people, I’ve learned about myself, but I don’t know the end of the story. How does this play out in the grand scheme of God’s plan? I don’t know, but I’m willing to play whatever part it is has for me.
These Are His Plans, Not Mine
I have a friend I’ve known since middle school. We hung out a lot in high school and became friends, mainly because I was going out with her best friend. Eventually she married a friend of mine, and we still keep in touch.
During this conversation we were having, she mentioned how she gave me credit for bringing her to church where she met her husband, and it kind of blew me away. At some point she started coming to church, because I wanted the girl I was going out with to come to church. Long after that relationship was over, this friend was still coming, and it ended up having a big impact on where her life is now. What struck me about the whole thing was that I had no idea. Maybe if I had sat down, and tried to figure it all out I might have connected some dots, but here was a situation where I had impacted someone, and I didn’t even know it.
I’m not saying that relationship crazy high school boys are closer to the Holy Spirit than the rest of us, but it put in perspective for me that I don’t know God’s entire plan. I don’t know how the interactions I have with people will play out years down the road. I invited people to church, and it mattered. Not because of anything great I did (it was mostly selfish on my part), but because God uses us.
How much more can God use me if I’m talking to him daily, reading my bible regularly, and working on developing my relationship with the Holy Spirit?