I was talking with a friend recently who was going through a difficult time and trying to figure out what to do next in her life. She joked that she opened the bible looking for an answer, but never found it. We’ve all been there. That “close your eyes” and randomly open up the bible looking for an answer to your problem. We usually end up in Leviticus or Song of Solomon and leave with more questions than answers. 

I by no means have the answer for you when trying to make a big decision in life, but I have found a few ways that have helped us make those decisions. Here’s an excerpt from my book talking about that:


As I look back on major decisions in our lives, I do see a few things we did that helped us discern God’s calling. And if you’re someone who’s trying to determine where He’s directing you right now, I hope these four observations from our experience are helpful to you.

  1. Be in the Word. 

Much too often, I think, people try to figure out what God has called them to do without spending any time with Him. We expect Him to reveal things to us even though we’re not really investing into the relationship. But the Bible says if we want to know the will of God, we need our minds thinking the way God thinks. And the only way to do that is by keeping our ears open to what He says. By staying rooted in His Word.

I grew up in a culture that taught if you weren’t having a daily quiet time with God, you weren’t a good Christian. And while I completely agree with the importance of maintaining this spiritual discipline, the habit of spending time with Him can become, if we’re not careful, a box that we know we should check instead of something we look forward to doing.

This kind of religious nonsense has changed for me through the years. No longer am I concerned merely about doing things a “good Christian” does. My desire is to know God. To know Him more. To know Him better. Because until we truly want to know Him by hearing Him speak to us through His Word, we shouldn’t expect Him to tell us much.

The Bible is a “light” to our path. It is “living and active.” Its truths have been “breathed out” by God Himself. And those who discover what He’s calling them to do are those who keep their minds renewed by His Word on an ongoing basis. “Do not be conformed to this world,” Paul said, “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Time spent in the Word is monumental if we want to know and discern what God intends to accomplish through us.

  1. Listen to the Holy Spirit.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, I have the best news for you right now! You have a Helper who goes with you everywhere you go, enabling you to know God more, make Him known, and ascertain the next step He wants you taking in life.

When Jesus was hanging out with his disciples for what would be the last time they’d see Him before His crucifixion, He told them He was leaving them, that He was going to His Father. I’m pretty sure they were confused and probably freaking out over all this. They wanted their friend and teacher to stay with them. We’d feel the same way.

But it wouldn’t be the end. In fact, as hard as it would have been for them to believe Him in that moment, Jesus said His Father was going to be giving them something that would make their lives even better.

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

This “Helper,” He said, “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Which is just what we need, right? I can’t even believe sometimes the gift that God has given us in the Holy Spirit, living right here inside us, enlightening us, helping us. As Jesus went on to say:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

The Holy Spirit is our guide. Our helper. Our truth. And we need to be listening for Him—listening in prayer, listening in worship, listening to His Word—listening, listening, listening. Part of what makes discerning God’s calling difficult for us is when we’re flooded by more input and information than we think we can handle. Our thoughts can even compete with one another, leaving us totally confused about which way we should go. That’s how we get caught up in wanting God to just come out and tell us, almost like a big Chip and JoJo home renovation reveal.

And yet God has sent Someone to help guide us, show us the truth, and speak to us from His heart . . . if we’ll only listen to Him.

  1. Surround yourself with a community of truth-tellers.

Another huge contributor to discerning your calling is the wisdom found in community. I’d even say it’s absolutely vital. Making tough decisions is hard, even when we invite trusted friends into the conversation, but nothing’s as hard as trying to do it purely on our own steam, with no one else listening or weighing in or counseling us with their input.

 Not just any kind of community is up to this task, however. Even if we get past our desire to stay private and insulated, we sometimes only seek out other people who are similar to ourselves, people who’ll be more likely to agree with us or tell us what we want to hear.

So when I talk about surrounding yourself with community, I’m talking about solid community. People who won’t just pat you on the back but will push you to think. People who won’t just pay you compliments but will make sure you’re hearing the truth, whether cheerful or challenging. People who are really there, in flesh and blood, right beside you in close proximity, not just advice givers on Instagram who can’t really hold you accountable. And maybe most important, people from different age groups, different life stages, people who come at life from different perspectives and can shine a light on those things that tend to hide in your blind spots. 

Your church certainly ought to be a primary place for you to locate this kind of solid community. You need to be interacting with people who understand your big calling for making God known and bringing Him glory. But you’ll find them in other places too, from family and friends to like-minded gatherings of other people. Allow them to speak into your life about what they see as your giftings and passions. See if they affirm the same things you’re sensing. Or not. I know it’s sometimes hard to bring people into our junk, to open up to that extent, but I’ll say it in every book I ever write and from every stage I ever stand on. We Are Better Together!

  1. Live your life open handed.

Aaron and I have lived our entire marriage with our hands opened to the Lord. What I mean is that we are one hundred percent sold out to where we are, and we are one hundred percent open to wherever God might want us to be. Which makes for the best life of all. When you live out your gifts, talents, and passions one hundred percent, you allow yourself to go and be exactly where and who God wants you to be. It takes the fear out of wondering if you’re in the right place because you’d go there in a second if that’s where He pointed you.

This approach to life has been beautiful for our family. It’s allowed us to serve Him faithfully and be open to wherever He would send us. It’s what has led our family on every crazy journey we’ve ever embarked on.

Open-handed living, for me, means I’m going to devote every ounce of dedication to my current job. Right now this calling is podcasting, speaking, and writing, each of which I truly love. It brings me so much joy using my gifts here where God wants me to be. But I also hold my hands open to whatever God calls me to do, which might be something that looks different than what I’m doing now. God might ask me to let something go. He might ask me to pivot and do something else.

I understand if this feels scary to you. I’d suggest to you, though, God means for it to bring you comfort, knowing you don’t need to live your life constantly looking for the next big thing, constantly dreaming about what could be. You can simply be committed and devoted to what’s in front of you, even while allowing Him to move or adjust those things as He pleases. It’s all so very freeing, I think.

On a personal level, openhanded living had me knee-deep in motherhood for many, many years, pouring out my life into the season I was currently occupying. Did I already have talents and gifts for other things, the kinds of things He’d call me to do in the future? For sure. But was it time for my calling to shift toward using them in a more full-time way? Not yet. I didn’t create my first podcast until I was thirty-six. I didn’t become a public speaker or release my first book until I was almost forty.

But again, it’s all about faithfulness. Being faithful to God in the here and now, while remaining free not to be overly concerned about what it means for being faithful in the future.

It’s beautiful. It’s great.

You should try it. You’ll love it.

Listening to God and hearing His call on your life is something that should never grow old to us. As you do it with things that seem small in your life, as well as with things that feel like they’re the biggest decision you’ll ever make, you’ll want to stay tethered to His word, listen to what the Spirit says to you, involve your community, and keep your hands held open at all times.

{Excerpt from YOU BE YOU // releasing 10.1.20}


 

Episodes

I’ve interviewed hundreds of people on The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast and these are just a few great shows that speak into this topic. Check them out!

#108 Beth Moore

#145 Maria Goff

#191 Christine Caine


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