When you read about people in the Bible who heard God’s voice calling them into huge life changes, it can be easy to think, “I could never do that! It’s way too drastic.”
If you’re like me, you have never technically “heard” God’s voice audibly. You may have second-guessed yourself and questioned if you actually are listening to Him, if He’s actually calling you, or making things up.
But last year, I did something I said I would never do, and I believe it was only because of God’s leading. Sharing some of my journey of learning, listening, and following God’s direction, I’ve put together a few points that I hope will encourage you.
1. Never say never.
I grew up in southern Arizona and spent the first 8.5 years of my adult life living in southern California. I moved there for college, and after graduating, started my career in marketing & communications in Orange County, CA.
My season in California provided so much more than simply a degree and a job. It was full of self-discovery, learning to embrace my voice, serving in student leadership, building meaningful friendships, learning from incredible business people, and deepening my relationship with God.
I often said, “I am never moving back to Arizona.” The California chapter of my life offered growth opportunities like I’d never imagined, and I couldn’t picture being anywhere else.
But in the words of Justin Bieber, “Never say never.”
And in the more profound words of King Solomon …
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
2. Calling starts with a perspective shift.
During the holiday season two years ago, a new idea popped into my head: What would it look like to move home to Arizona? The idea felt foreign because I had never entertained the possibility. But in a paradoxical way, the idea also felt completely right.
I had nearly 8.5 years of roots in California. I had a serious boyfriend. I had a stable job. I had extracurriculars. I had friends. Moving would mean starting over in many categories. It sounded crazy and seemed abrupt.
So I tried to talk myself out of it. I told myself I was emotional because of the holidays, and my weird thought would go away after a few days. But it didn’t. So I told myself it would fizzle out after a few weeks. But it still didn’t.
After several weeks of arguing with myself, praying, and asking God for guidance, the idea persisted stronger than ever. The feeling in my soul was the same that I’d sensed during other crucial moments when I knew God was leading. So I gave my notice at work, began saying goodbye to my friends, and visited the beach A LOT.
The situation reminds me of young Samuel in the temple, in 1 Samuel chapter 3. Samuel was a kid, living in the temple, and training under the priest Eli. One night while Samuel was sleeping, the Lord’s calling to Samuel woke him up. Samuel assumed the voice was Eli, so he went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me?” After three similar interactions, Eli realized God was calling Samuel. So he told the boy, “Go and lie down, and if He calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’” That’s what Samuel did and the Lord shared an important prophetic word with him.
We don’t always get a prophetic word, but we may receive clarity, direction, or peace when we quiet our minds and ask God to speak.
What amazes me is that God is patient with us no matter where we are in our faith journey, even if we attribute His voice to someone else. He just keeps calling to us and drawing us closer to Him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)What amazes me is that God is patient with us no matter where we are in our faith journey, even if we attribute his voice to something else. Click To Tweet
3. Calling is often a progression.
The people calling the shots don’t get surprised, we tell ourselves. If we’re in charge, there’s less to worry about because we know what’s coming next. But I learned that we actually are never in control as much as we think we are. The current COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates that.
At the end of my two-or-so-years journey of intense growing pains and learning to submit to the Lord’s will in several areas of my life — this invitation to follow Him to my hometown surfaced. I had already given back much of the control that is God’s to begin with. I believe that’s a daily choice we have to choose to make.
For one of the first times, I came to a peaceful place of trusting that if I didn’t know what came next but I followed God’s leading, that was exponentially better than following my own plans perfectly and being outside of God’s will.
In this season of literally not knowing what to expect or where I would land, I felt more peaceful than I ever had. It was like I had let go of the reigns I had clung so tightly to, and stopped trying to subconsciously snatch them out of Jesus’s hands. That freed me to just ride alongside Him, admiring the scenery and enjoying His company.
Around this time, I found comfort in the story of Abram from Genesis 12:1 (MSG):
God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.”
Verse 4 says, “So Abram left just as God said …”
We may not know where we’re going, but if God is leading us, we’re on the right path.
I recently heard a missionary say that God doesn’t usually ask us to take a gigantic leap. He asks us to take the next step in front of us. It truly is a progression, and every day we get the opportunity to exercise our faith muscles. Big steps follow small steps.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. (Psalm 32:8)In this season of literally not knowing what to expect or where I would land, I felt more peaceful than I ever had. Click To Tweet
4. God finishes what He starts and His timing is perfect.
…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
When I decided to move, I had just started feeling like I had a community again. There had been a couple years of people coming in and out of my life due to moves, jobs, marriages, and general scheduling differences. It was scary to think about leaving the community I felt like I had just gotten, and having to start over at making friends, finding a church, and feeling known yet again.
I heard someone say that what you give to God—He returns, and it’s even better. I’ve certainly experienced that to be true in my life.
The church I found after my move is exactly the kind of environment and group of people I’d been longing and searching for during the year leading up to moving.
Things didn’t work out with the guy I was dating, but we both learned significant valuable lessons about life, people, and ourselves while we dated. I came out a better person because of that relationship.
I found a job on a team that I truly love, where I can contribute in ways that are meaningful to me and the people I serve.
Over the course of my 8.5 years in California, I lived with a total of 28 roommates (none of them were my relatives). They were lovely people, but after several years, I dreamed of a quiet home to myself. I have that now.
There are many beautiful things in my life right now. And if God would have given them to me earlier, I wouldn’t have known what to do with them. I wasn’t ready. He knew that.
I had to submit my plans and dreams to Him, and trust that if they never came true but I had the Lord, I’d still be doing better than I deserve. This isn’t one of those formulas that says, “Give God this, and He’ll give you that.” It’s just the acknowledgment that I had to realize — that I really don’t have the control I think I have. And I’m more calm and grateful when I remember that.
One of my favorite quotes is, “What you have in Christ is greater than anything you don’t have in life” (Max Lucado).
How good is the Lord that as true as that statement is, He still chooses in His grace and kindness to give us good things!There are many beautiful things in my life right now. And if God would have given them to me earlier, I wouldn't have known what to do with them. I wasn't ready. He knew that. Click To Tweet
5. Your next step is not your last step.
This is one of my favorite sayings. “Your next step is not your last step.”
God guides us through many seasons in our lives to grow us, bless us, heal us, and help us do that for other people.
If you’re like me and always want to have a five, ten, or 40-year plan with all the details mapped out, I hope this helps you to remember that we’re not supposed to have everything figured out. That’s God’s job.
We’re supposed to be diligent in making ourselves available to hear His calling for you, and to be obedient to what He says. And I guarantee it will make our lives the most joyful and adventurous they could ever be.
The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)God guides us through many seasons in our lives to grow us, bless us, heal us, and help us do that for other people. Click To Tweet
Selah is a passionate community builder who creatively and compassionately helps others connect with their own and one another’s true selves. She writes articles like this and interviews other young adults on their stories at her blog, Lessons from the Attic.
By trade, Selah is the senior communications specialist at the largest credit union in southern Arizona, and you will always find her ready to strike up a conversation about the importance of cooperative finance.