Friday, March 5, 2010

Is It God... or Indigestion?

"I feel the Lord is leading me to..."

"God spoke to me..."

"I feel this stirring in my heart to..."

"I really felt like God was telling me to..."

I used to talk this way. It was a dressed-up way to describe how I "felt" after a certain time of searching the scriptures and prayer. But after making some choices based on what I thought "God would want" that turned out to be poor decisions, I stopped pretending that it was really God calling the shots. Now I cringe when I hear other Christians talk like this, as if they had audible conversations with God all the time and could discern His "will for their lives" with ease.

But how do we know when God is really "speaking" to us or "leading" us in a certain direction? Surely not on feeling alone. There is something to be said for the peace the Spirit is supposed to give us. But sometimes we have to make decisions with unease in our hearts, because none of the options available to us are pleasant ones.

Surely we should rely on godly counsel from close friends, family, and advisors. But even they are not infallible and can give bad counsel, especially if they dispense judgment preceded with one of the above statements.

Let's face it, sometimes we're just not going to know what to do, and it's pointless to sit around waiting until we "feel the Lord leading us" in a certain direction. It may never happen-- because He never promises it will. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us, but He never promises a beam of light from heaven pointing out the road up ahead or a big celestial sign saying, "Turn here. Do this."

The next time someone says to me, "I feel the Lord is leading me to do xyz," I'm sorely tempted to say, "Are you sure it's not just indigestion?"

***P.S. I just finished reading this post and thought I should add that I don't think we should discredit feelings entirely. I've made that mistake as well. Feelings can be fickle, but God created us to have feelings for a reason. Even though they can be tainted, twisted, and inaccurate, they can also be pointing us in the right direction. There is something to be said for a "gut feeling." More on this another time...


Laurie M. said...

Wise words.
I take great comfort in the knowledge that God is sovereign even over our less than perfect decisions and works them all together for our good (Rom. 8:28).
I have a great little book on my desk called "Just Do Something", by DeYoung, which I found very helpful in this regard.

Kurt Willems said...

good thoughts. Sometimes our "leadings" from the Lord can become cop-outs as well. Unfortunately, this has been an excuse that is pulled out from Christian college students that have commitment issues (which is most of them!).

Nevertheless, I do think that we can hear from God. We have to discern the way that God speaks to us that is unique to each person. Some hear God through prayer. Through bible study. Through service. Through conversation with others. Through mental pictures. Through prophetic word. Etc...

Even so feelings that are filtered through perceptions... rather than a mature awareness of the presence of the holy spirit can be shaky...


E. A. Harvey said...

Laurie, I think I've heard of that book before. I'll have to look into it. Thanks!

Kurt, you are right that our "leadings" can become "cop-outs," and that's partly what fueled this post in the first place. And while I agree that we can hear from God, I venture to say that it may not be as often as some people claim. I have a friend who almost daily has a Facebook status of "I just felt the Lord telling me to do this..." or "I listened to this song, and God really spoke to me..." Now, maybe God DID speak to her, but if He's giving that much input, and she's hearing Him, understanding Him, and obeying Him as regularly and often as she makes it seem, one would expect her life to be exemplary and full of integrity. But I can't say I see much difference between her and the next Christian in terms of fruits. She just has more spiritual lingo.

The other problem I've seen is that the "God told me" line is abused by pastors who act like they have a direct line from God while we peons in the congregation do not. This is true of famous, internationally known pastors, but it also can be very true of local pastors. I've known pastors who have split up churches and families because they had some "word from the Lord" and if you disagreed, they argued that you weren't disagreeing with them but with God Himself. Of course it was never over black and white issues that the Bible speaks to directly, so it was difficult to counteract with scripture. That's why I find it so troubling.

jaigner said...

I would agree that we can hear God speaking in a multitude of ways. It can so easily become a cop-out.

When applied to the non-essentials, it can often be a method of legalism and spiritual abuse. The implication is that you've got everything right and someone who thinks differently isn't listening to God or isn't "saved" or something.

Good work.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.