I recently read an article where the author was arguing that often it’s only when looking back that she can see how God had faithfully led her, and I agree. She says:

It’s usually easier for me to see in hindsight that God was guiding me. Is that the way it works for you? I find it’s like climbing a steep cliff. I feel the strained muscles, the shortness of breath, the sweat on my brow. Then I pause, turn, and look back.

The view fills me with astonishment. Oh, I can see where he was with me, how he guided me and protected me. How surely he watched over my steps! What dangers he led me around! There were hints of his voice, which I saw dimly then, but now they sparkle like jeweled lakes in the light of the alpine sun.

I’m like that, too. It’s not always as I’m walking forward that I hear God. It’s often when I take time to stop and think and then I see how He was telling me things.

That’s often the case with my writing. I’ll pray and pray and ask God to show me something I should talk about in a book, and nothing will come. And then one day, I’ll sit down and a book proposal will flow right out of me, and I’ll wonder where it came from. And then I look back and I can see all the different people He put into my life, the radio snippets I heard, the newspaper articles that got me thinking, and the Bible passages that held me captive that started my thinking in a certain direction. But it’s not until afterwards that it all comes together.

I think we misunderstand what God’s voice is supposed to sound like. There are a few times in my life when I have actually heard God speak to me. They were very specific things at very important junctures in my life. But there were 3 times in total when I heard specific words. Other than that, God gently guides us in all sorts of ways.

So often we’re waiting for a thunderbolt, and we feel paralyzed until it comes. But I think we need to walk forward in faith, knowing that God will steer us.

When our son was sick, my husband agonized about certain medical decisions we might be forced to make. What if we had to choose between surgery and just letting him go (if surgery would be horrific for him, and likely have little impact?) Should we put him on the heart transplant list? What should we do? He didn’t want to do the wrong thing, and he was so desperately trying to hear God.

Our minister took us aside and said very firmly to Keith, “If God has a specific path He wants you to take, who is most invested in you figuring that out? God or you?”

“God,” Keith admitted.

“Then don’t you think He’s big enough to show you when the time is right?”

That minister was right. If God has something specific He wants you to do, He will show you. What we need to do, I think, are two things:

1. Walk forward, as much as we can, in His Spirit. Read the Word, do what we know is right, and pray.

2. Take some time to listen and think. Let God guide you. Take some time to look back over the last few weeks or months and see where you have already been. Look around you. Open your eyes. Don’t let life pass you by so quickly.

God does speak, and He does lead us, but often we miss it because it doesn’t usually do it audibly. He does it gently, and unless we take those times to look, we’ll miss the wonder of what has happened in our lives.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having trouble hearing God’s voice. I think He wants you to press ahead anyway, and if you need to make a U-turn, He’ll tell you. Just make sure you always have time to listen and look. That’s when you’ll see the patterns of what He is already doing and where He is already leading, which we often miss in the busy-ness of our lives.