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GOD'S GUIDING HAND

How God's guidance can positively influence our lives,
and how we can also deliberately engage with
him during the process
.

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1.    INTRODUCTION

Initially, God’s presence in our lives can become evident, when time is taken to evaluate his influence over the course of our lives.  He knows each of us intimately, and has a plan for each of us.

I am sure that God tries to guide all humans, unbelievers and believers alike, down their right path of life – knowing what is best for each of us, and others who will be affected by our actions. From the Christian (pre-Jesus) Old Testament:

        I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
        I will counsel you and watch over you.
        [Psalm 32:8]

This guidance from God is applied towards all important elements of our lives: spiritual path, family life, personal relationships, education, career and daily work, helping others, even issues like acquiring essential assets etc. Of course, as unbelievers, we are unlikely to make the connection; recognise it at work in our lives.

Of course actually recognising Gods guidance in our lives increases our belief in him. For a quick overview of the many other faith and belief building options, that are actually available to us, please see the article, How to believe in God. Through accessing those available options we can find the means to construct that body of soundly evaluated evidence which will support our faith ... and will stand the test of time.

Getting back to the subject of this article though, God actually provides guidance through a number of methods. As explained below, these are all recognisable and can also prove to be very helpful during our journey through life. From my own research and evaluated experiences, some of his methods are more definite and noticeable. Others are more subtle and flexible.

We all should really be able to recognise, in retrospect, that God was actually present there in our lives even though, at the time, we may not have realised it and even though we may not have held any religious faith. Now, it is likely that older people, because they have had more life experiences, should retrospectively see more examples of Gods methods of guidance within their lives. But even younger people should still be able to locate some examples there.

Remember again, as I have said, it does nor matter whether you are an atheist, God will still try to guide you, out of his love for you. And when you accept that he may have guided you in the past, you can then look to his valuable guidance to assist you in your everyday life. In fact, we committed Christians confidently ask for his guidance when faced with complex and/ or important decisions. The final heading in this article relates to how we can actually seek and then trust Gods guidance. 

2.    OPENING AND CLOSING DOORS

God does know the abilities we each possess and what we really need in life, which includes that personal relationship he wants with each of us. In other words he knows our personalities, our natural gifts and where we should be headed. Essentially, God has a plan in mind for each and every one of us. (He also has a plan for humankind in its entirety as well, but although that subject is fascinating in its own right it is outside the scope of this article.)

So God does know what will work best for each of us. This is due to his view of our lives on Earth, which is from outside the constraints of our space/ time continuum (that he also sustains). And some areas of Gods plans, for each of us, appear to be so important that they are non negotiable. Whether we like to believe it or not, God has sovereign power over all his creation. Although he may use this power sparingly in our lives he can, through seemingly normal (but often unlikely to us) events, adjust our direction in life. For example our plans to significantly deviate from Gods view of the best way forward can simply be blocked by him through his arranging of circumstances.

If some direction in life is vitally important to us, even though at the time we may be ignorant of it, God will prevent us from heading away from it! Of course, on the other hand, he can also open the way to a life direction in a fashion that cannot be closed. Christians refer to this guiding power of God in life as opening and closing doors”. A simple example from the Christian Old Testament (pre Jesus bits):

       In his heart a man plans his course,
       but the Lord determines his steps.
       [Proverbs 16:9]

These words are from the Christian New Testament (the Jesus bits):

        These are the words of him who is holy and true,
        who holds the key of David.
        What he opens no one can shut,
        and what he shuts no one can open.
        [Revelation 3:8] 

A good example of Gods door shutting in the Bible is described in the Book of Acts within the New Testament. Personally, I just love the bland, matter of fact way the events are described there (I have added the italics), “Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept from preaching the word in the province of Asia.” Additional details of Gods actions, to ensure that Paul and his companions did go exactly where he wanted them to go, can be read in Acts 16:6-15. Even so, the verses do not state how God closed the door on the so-called province of Asia. Another destination actually became known to them through a dream experienced by Paul. It subsequently became obvious that God indeed did have a clear purpose within the events. I also suggest you read on from Acts 16:16 to follow events as they subsequently unfolded for Paul and his companions

Examples of closed doors in my own life, as I have identified them, related to personal relationships when I was a young single man. Another example related to a sporting obsession that ate up most of my available free time, and some that was not available I might add, during my late twenties.

As I see it now, the wrong wife and that obsessive sporting interest certainly were both capable of  preventing my Christian journey from ever beginning. Although an atheist at those times, please understand that I was at least capable of recognising the sudden preventative circumstances and their outcomes. Yes, I could identify the incredible timing and unlikely nature of differing events; the end of any further opportunity in all cases.

I can now understand that my faith journey would become increasingly vital as time past, where Gods plan for me was not going to be thwarted by my ill informed choices. There is a fair chance that I would never have come to faith (or created this website for that matter) if he had not changed my lifes direction in those ways.

Now, this is not to say, of course, that God will choose to arrange circumstances so as to influence say your love life.  But, I believe if you too look back over your life there is a good chance you will recognise similar instances of extremely unlikely preventative events there. For example look for obvious turning points in your life, or where you became locked into a certain critical direction in life (education, career, job choice, even maybe relationships etc), resulting from pear shaped events, where you can now count your blessings. When you get in touch with them; the way they just happen at pivotal times in life, then they really do stand out.

Of course, it is unlikely that any of these examples, you might find in your life, will in isolation prove that God exists to you, but recognising them will start to build that body of evidence you need for believing. So, read on please. 

3.    LEADINGS

Clearly not all areas of Gods plans for our lives are so set in concrete, as it were. Indeed, most are not. Simply, we are normally left to just get on with our lives to the best of our ability. But even so, God does know the ideal way for us and he just shepherds us with hints one way or another as he sees fit, but leaves us with our free will to make final decisions. He is simply providing directions through the events unfolding in our lives, quietly suggesting we follow his will.

His hints within day to day life are most definitely recognisable, particularly when we ‘twig’ to his presence there. And when acted upon appropriately, these hints can make life a lot more ‘stress free’ as a result.

For this God is our God for ever and ever;
He will be our guide even to the end.
[Psalm 48:14]

As Christians, we should know to look for obvious warnings from God. He invariably piles up ‘warning signs’ or omens in front of bad choices in life. What I actually mean by warnings are odd little things that crop up unannounced more than we would expect, creating difficulty, thus preventing us from easily moving forward in a direction that we are planning to commit ourselves to. The test comes when we really want to commit to it (i.e. it may even have become an obsession) and then we start getting these ‘vibes’ that we shouldn’t go that way!

Of course, God does not just provide negative leadings, he also just as effectively provides positive leadings as well. If one direction planned in life study, career, dating, important projects, buying essential assets etc. is becoming difficult to pursue and its alternative appears easier, then God may be indicating that the alternative (which may not be as desirable to us, mind you) is the better choice. In the analogy, God is squeezing the door on the wrong direction in life and widely opening another one that is more suited. The easy route is often the right one, in other words.

In early days of trialling its use, it is wise to really apply adequate thought to what appears to be Gods leadings. But once we get a better understanding of his method or code’ for leading us that he establishes with each of us as individuals then its reality becomes much more concrete and extremely useful. It is a significant benefit for each of us to have a guide on hand, who always knows what will work or fail in our lives; what might harm us or those close to us in some way (physically, spiritually, emotionally, developmentally or even financially). 

The significance of these ‘leadings’ throughout life are again well above what could be accepted as mere chance. It just happens too often and when you get in touch with it, then, it really does prove itself. 

Like me, if you think back in time, you should also be able to recall overriding some of those more significant leadings on occasions and making bad choices anyway. That is, going against strong gut feelings that are often brought on by unexpected obstacles, or possibly a series of obstacles. If you can remember examples, you will probably also recall the consequences. These may not be good memories. I know I
blew it with a couple of major family asset purchases over the decades for example, despite leadings to act differently. On those occasions, this led to a level of financial difficulty which negatively impacted quality of life for my family. It took a while, but I eventually learnt to take stock of such leadings. Yes, sadly from my point of view, some of the best proof of leadings actually comes from ignoring them!

Please also read the small article titled, The will of God for a better understanding in a Christian sense of that well known term and its relevance to the present topic of leadings. The two terms are, of course, related to where we should be headed in life, in Gods view. Simply put, as I have already alluded, it means doing what is essentially the best in the long term for all those affected.

To my mind, Gods actual methods for deterring us from bad life choices can offer somewhat stronger evidence, in daily life, of his existence; his presence there. For example, his hints of disapproval at our seriously inappropriate decision-making – that may actually harm ourselves or others (either directly or indirectly) – will become increasingly obvious as he tries to deter us. Self-destructive behaviour, i.e. bad habits and other wrongdoing also fit into this category. Warnings of this nature from God, whilst normally starting out at a subtle level, may eventually become painfully obvious and maybe even embarrassing (as he possibly tries to shame us out of them). Does it sound like I have been on the receiving end of this sort of treatment? Yes, I am quite confident that I have!

God is not to be seen as cruel or harsh in these actions. No, he does it because he loves us! He wants us all to have meaningful lives, and doesn’t want us lost in some mire that we cannot dig ourselves out of. If we do get lost in life, then the possibility of an effective relationship with God is extremely limited. The underlying cause of the problem can even dominate our thinking; our very identity, and override our thoughts for others and God, often making us lost even to ourselves. And that means that the most important things that God wants of us are severely compromised.

Bear in mind though, there is a limit to Gods attempts to put us on the straight and narrow. God does not normally force himself upon us, and when the wrong things in life present too much of an obsessive interest to us, he may well withdraw. In other words, he respects our right to ignore him, at our own peril of course. Inevitably, in such circumstances, we suffer the full consequences of those poor decisions. But, while there is life there is hope (as the saying goes). God will always use our mistakes to advantage when we re-join our true path. He will also assist us to dig ourselves out of any hole we may have placed ourselves in ... if we ask for help.

4.    ADVICE FROM OTHERS

Sometimes too, God also guides us with advice through the mouths of others. First and foremost we are expected by God to seriously listen to other peoples advice.

Note this relevant quote, again from the Old Testament:

        The way of the fool seems right to him,
        but a wise man listens to advice.
        [Proverbs 12:15]

Like me, I am sure you already know that bad experiences can be a cruel teacher, so it is in our best interests to be open to sound advice.

And wise counsel often arrives whether we ask for it or not. I really dont know the exact mechanism God uses. Maybe, he gives such people the courage to advise us in a way that they normally would not. In any case, at this stage in my life, I particularly take note when advice on a subject of importance to my path in life comes unexpectedly from someone I know. When it happens to you, there may well be recognition: Gee, I wasnt expecting her/him to advise me about that? I can say there is a kind of bong! note to it ... that is intended to unsettle us; indicate that all may not have been well with our previous reasoning. After years of observation, I almost certainly know when to take heed of advice on life issues.

Now obviously not all advice received from friends and family etc will be sound, so we do need to use some discretion here. But if advice offered to us, in this way, provides sensible alternatives to our own thoughts on something important in life family life, personal relationships, education, career, helping others, spiritual journey, acquiring essential assets etc. then it pays for us to consider it seriously.

Again I learnt the hard way not to quickly discount advice like that. I gained my first lesson about not listening to such advice thirty plus years ago, and the words echoed in my head for a long time afterwards, in view of the prophetic message I ignored. There were significant ramifications again unfortunately. 

As you can tell from my admissions on ignoring all forms of guidance from God over the years, learning the hard way many times over, I have a somewhat impetuous nature (that I regret) and I am definitely a slow learner. I sincerely hope you, the reader, can learn from my mistakes.

5.    SEEKING AND TRUSTING HIS GUIDANCE

Again, the odd example of God guiding you opening and closing doors, leadings, advice through others may not be interpreted by you as  convincing proof of Gods presence in your life. But eventually, if you are open to the possibility, you should begin to see the accumulation of what is probable evidence arising again and again. Some of the odds in these examples can be just plain old too hard to explain away. I say without doubt that it becomes all the more obvious as time passes ... when we are actually open to it.

We should, after analysis of past events that are accepted by us as relevant, recognise that all guidance from God is actually related to better life outcomes for us and other people who rely on us. The next step in our journey with God, in this regard, is to attempt to actively engage with him through his methods of guidance. As such we start to relax into trusting him more; moving forward with him in his loving presence. I know I run the risk of sounding corny here, as I now read my own words as the atheist that I once was. But I ask you to consider this different way of approaching life (that I share with many other Christians of course) as explained more fully in the articles,Trusting God day to day and Trusting God with your life.

As far as we are concerned here though, why not start to look out for his guidance whenever we face new challenges; or even ask for it. Of course this takes us into new territory, i.e. speaking to him. We are deliberately engaging with him; applying faith to our lives, just as God intends of us. Again it can apply to all those important areas of our lives: family life, personal relationships, spiritual path, education, career and daily work, helping others, acquiring essential assets etc.

Admittedly it takes some time, as beginner Christians, to relax into this mix of faith and openness. It is here, as I have already alluded, that we are placing trust in Gods love. From the Old Testament:

        Many are the woes of the wicked,
        but the Lord
s unfailing love
        surrounds the man who trusts in him.
        [Psalm 32:10]

When we are confronted by important decisions that are hard to make we can, as believers, simply ask for guidance through prayer (the subject of another article in this section of the website). It is then just a matter of recognising the guidance – which is generally made clear to us  when God replies.

How then, as Christians, do we expect God to guide us after asking for it. Firstly, we might hold up the logic behind our plans, with our hearts and minds open to him. We slow our thinking processes and wait. That is, after the prayer, we wait for strong feelings one way or the other. This process is known by Christians as discernment. Knowledge of Bible scriptures, in the case of longer term Christians, assists in this discernment process by highlighting Biblical indications of what is right or wrong in our expectations. In the words of the Psalmist [119:105], Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Secondly, and not surprisingly, we would look out for advice from people we respect, especially Christian friends and family members. Thirdly, and again not surprisingly, we would look for positive and negative leadings.

No matter which methods God chooses to show  us the best way forward, I can assure you that we do eventually learn to trust him in his guidance.  Again from the Old Testament:

        Let the morning bring me word
        of your unfailing love,
        for I have put my trust in you.
        Show me the way I should go, 
        for to you I lift up my soul.
        [Psalm 143:8]

For the final words on guidance I offer this Biblical quote from the Old Testament:

        Your ears will hear a voice behind you,
        saying, This is the way; walk in it.
        [Isaiah 30:21]

Continue to the next article, God’s helping hand.