My Journey into Learning How God Gives Direction

I used to be a partner and employee of a successful software company. Eight years ago I heard God tell me to leave it. But he didn’t tell me where to go.

I asked five friends for help. We met and prayed together monthly for a year. In the end we all agreed I should leave; and we had no idea where I should go.

So I left the company and prayed more earnestly for direction. In fact I pleaded.

I heard nothing. Silence.

Have you ever felt this same desperate desire for God’s direction, longing for a word?

Let me tell you what God did for me.

Direction God speaks

After few months of aimless unemployment, I heard a sermon called, “Direction God speaks and Direction God orchestrates.” It blew my mind. I grew up thinking God’s direction meant hearing his voice, such as, “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country … to the land that I will show you’” (Gen. 12:1).

I read that and thought, “That’s exactly what I want. A word.” I bet you do too.

God does speak to us directly. He does. He also speaks through others. A man on a plane told me a story that changed my life. He wasn’t a believer, yet he spoke God’s word.

In our longing to hear God, let’s recognize that he speaks with surprising voices; donkeys may prophecy (Num. 22:28), stones may praise; and our friends and enemies—even movies and stories—will speak God’s word to bring direction.

Then the sermon taught me another way God provides direction.

Direction God orchestrates

I had never thought of God’s direction through his orchestration. Yet, God orchestrated Joseph to become Prime Minister, even using his brothers’ evil actions. God arranged for Esther to become Queen “for such a time as this.” His direction was obvious but silent.

We sometimes miss God’s direction if we’re looking for a voice while God orchestrates.

So I took some time to reflect on God’s orchestration in my life.

I learned about software by accident … or through God’s silent direction. Thirty years ago I learned to program out of curiosity. I bought a computer before anyone I knew had one. (Yes, yes, and there were dinosaurs in the land too.)

That little programming landed me a job at a software company. I had an idea—really a frustration— and it got me promoted. I became a Vice President shortly before the owner decided to sell the company to its three officers, including me.

I became a company owner because of God’s orchestration, not because of his “voice.”

I was inspired and encouraged to see God’s past directions through his surprising voice (the man on the plane) and his orchestration of my life. But what about my now? I was still purposeless, not knowing what to do. There was no direction from God.

Then God showed me another way he directs. It’s the scariest and the most thrilling.

The direction God instills

I kept pleading for direction, and finally God answered me with, “What do you want to do?” My inner response was, “No way. I want a voice or some orchestration.” God was saying, “Do what you desire. That’s my direction.” I was thrilled. The person I most deeply want to be is the person I am meant to be.

But it’s scary. It’s like taking the training wheels off my bike, the training wheels of God’s voice and orchestration. It’s freedom, but it’s a scary kind of freedom.

Training wheels are used to provide external balance while the child develops internal balance. God uses the external directions of his voice and orchestration as he matures our desires, an inner balance from desires instilled (and purified) by God.

Let’s not take the metaphor too far. God is always speaking and always orchestrating. So the “training wheels” never really come off. But he also uses these “directions” to create a third direction, found—or heard—in the direction of desires he places in our hearts.

I got into the computer field through God’s directions of speaking and orchestration. As a software analyst I learned to dig beneath the surface of a client request, and I learned to express complicated concepts to non-technical people.

I learned to reflect (on complexities) and express (more clearly). I loved it. Except now I do it through heart beliefs instead of software application. I love this even more. This is what I’m meant to do. God directed me through my desires.

Let’s listen to our life

Frederick Buechner wrote,

“There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that…. Listen to your life.” (Now and Then)

Most people I know simply want to be told what to do or want circumstances to dictate.

There comes a time when God removes our training wheels. Perhaps we hear silence, or doors don’t open. God may be saying, “The training wheels are off” (or raised).

When this silence happens, let’s, “Listen to our life.”

Sam

What do you think?

  • How has God spoken and orchestrated in your life?
  • What desires has God instilled and awakened?
  • Do you believe you are meant to do what you most deeply want to do?
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32 Responses to My Journey into Learning How God Gives Direction

  1. mizzblonde09 says:

    Thank you so much for this post! It’s really encouraging! I am still getting my Bachelor’s degree, and while I’m studying something I really enjoy (Music Education– and I am a full-blooded music nerd!), I also have a passion to write. That passion started me blogging. And because of blogging, I search under tags and read other people’s blogs which God speaks through, as well. =) I don’t really know what I’ll be doing when I graduate (and I’m going to be a SENIOR!), but I shall continue praying about it and see where his ORCHESTRATION directs. =)

    Anna

    • Hi Anna,

      I love your connection with music and awaiting His Orchestration. That’s great!

      Thanks for your comments. And great job writing. Keep on writing. Someone once said, “Writing is detangling your thoughts through your fingers.” I know it’s true for me.

      Sam

  2. threesummits says:

    I think this is the challenge for us all. Often, from my own experience, I look for the binary answers. The issue, God uses more of a matrix model; utilizing any person, situation, event or circumstance to teach, guide and direct us. I think somethings silence is used to speak loudly to us. We live is such a connected noise filled world, I believe it\’s hard to get our attention. More important, when we are listening, are we listening. It\’s about learning and unlearning. This is the battle we face if we are to connect with our heart and pursue what and who God created us to be. Love your posts, they speak to me. Keep them coming!

    • Hi Tom,

      Great point. I too look for a “binary” answer, as in, “God, ‘yes’ or ‘no’?”

      Sometimes God is saying (at least to me), “Wrong question. I have something else–more meaningful–to say.”

      Thanks, great comment.

  3. Brilliant, wonderful post. I’m really struggling to hold my peace while God shows me what I’m supposed to do … and your point about doing what you really want to do is well made. I shall have to seek him on that …. your reference to Abraham is one of my favourites, by the way.

    • Hi Catherine,

      Believe me, I really know the feeling of “really struggling to hold my peace while God shows me what to do.” Most readers to this blog know that feeling.

      It’s one of the reasons we need each other. We are not meant to live in a vacuum; God speaks to us, and we can speak to each other.

      I’m glad you liked the Abraham reference. I didn’t highlight the last part, but God asks Abraham to go “to a place I will show you.” In other words, God asked Abraham to leave without telling him where to go.

      Just like in my life, and in like virtually every believer I know.

      i think part of the reason is that it requires us to stay intimate with God. If God showed me all I was to do … I’d probably just go try to make it happen and almost forget about God (I HOPE I wouldn’t be that way … but I probably would).

      It is God’s invitation to intimacy with him.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  4. Ken Conklin says:

    Sam,
    God gives direction was great!!! I really have never thought of His direction giving in those terms. This is something I’ve got to process. Not to get into a long drawn out discussion. I have been a ship without direction for so many years. Also at this time in my life (with the things going on) that I am wanting needing to hear from God. For the last month or more it’s been…., what to do…., I don’t know what to do…., I don’t know what decision to make….., God what are you showing me? h-m-m-m.

    • Hi Ken,

      I know, believe me, I know. I’ve got to tell you, the quote at the end of the blog – “Listen to your life” – changed my life.

      I found–in those long moments of silence–that “listening to my life” over a month or two really helped. I journaled, I looked at how God had orchestrated or arranged, I looked at all the ways God had spoken (through lots of different sources) … and, I heard God again.

      Thanks for sharing,

      Sam

  5. Lyle Regan says:

    Good thoughts, Sam. What you wrote is exactly where I am right now. Time to leave my company, then what? I too would love to hear “go do that.” But Often, that’s not how I here God speak to me. “A wise man seeks counsel while a foolish man plunges ahead.”
    Sometimes, at least so it seems in my life, their are not to many folks around to get counsel from. Thank goodness for my band of brothers from my True Pursuit connections. Keep it up, Lyle

  6. Tony Adams says:

    There are two moments in my life where I can distinctly recall hearing God ask me what I wanted.

    The first was after my 2nd car was totaled and I was attempting to do the *wise* thing and just buy a car I could payoff the loan in 6-12 months. God asked me what I really wanted, and I ended up purchasing a vehicle for much more money after He promised me I would never miss a payment…then orchestrated the loan officer to approve the amount of the loan. I still drive that car today…and LOVE it!

    The second was when he asked me who I wanted to spend my life with. I hadn’t met my wife yet, so my answer wasn’t her, but God’s question really opened my eyes to what maturity in Christ is most often about: God trusting our ability to make decisions based on our desires, and that those desires are coming from a good heart.

    • Hi Tony,

      I really like your line, “God’s question really opened my eyes to what maturity in Christ is most often about.”

      i think God often asks us questions for that very reason, to open our eyes to true maturity.

      Thanks!

      Sam

  7. Drew Hampshire says:

    Sam, a great post in that it spurs us on to maturity as we attempt to trust Him more amongst the Mystery He is and the ways in which we become who He has always known us to be. This post reminds me of that maxim that we can have clarity, or we can have God. The clarity I sought came with no risk, no relationship, and no life….transitioning has been slow, and like Lot’s wife the looking back is just hindering my growth. Choosing to live in such a way that I embrace his direction, now thats the road less travelled…a Sacred Path in essence. Thank you Sam!

    • Hi Drew,

      Thanks for that reminder. I think it was C. S. Lewis who said we can have clarity or we can have God.

      God allows us on the journey partly–maybe mostly–because he wants intimacy with us. We’re looking for answers; God is looking for intimacy.

      As you said, “The clarity I sought came with no risk, no relationship, and no life.”

      But, a relationship with God IS life, and hope, and joy.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  8. Beth Cole says:

    Gday Sam – Lovely winters morning down under today..
    As someone who walks in the prophetic I hind it relatively easy to hear from God for other people, but when it comes to hearing from God for myself and taking that huge step of following the desires of my heart I nearly have a panic attack, this is the biggest struggle in my life, it is the hardest area for me to trust God in..
    Ouch honesty really hurts.. and very humbling..
    Great post thankyou
    Beth

    • Dday Beth (try not to wince at that “American trying an Australian accent),

      You have nailed it! Exactly. I think it is ALWAYS easier to obey God when either we hear him speak or he orchestrates events. Yes, there is the example of Jonah, he didn’t obey. Initially. But eventually the team of God speaking AND God arranging (a whale!) finally got him to obey.

      But for the rest of us, I think we long for that kind of direction (speaking). But we fear God saying that he has grown and matured a heart desire…after all, who will we blame if it goes wrong!

      But imagine if it were true. If God is awakening true, good desires, passions for his creation, desires that he created. If that were true, we’d be the people we want to be…and He wants us to be.

      Thanks, from summer in the northern half,

      Sam

  9. […] there was this great article by Sam Williamson on Learning How God Gives Direction – very good…and especially relevant to where I am now in my journey. Thank you, Sam for […]

  10. Mary says:

    Great musings Sam. My son is currently in the midst of making some very difficult decisions about further schooling vs. working. As he mulls over the issue, my husband and I have tried to stay neutral because we want him to “own” the decision.
    I believe that sometimes the Lord allows us to choose between equally good paths, seemingly silent in the midst of our decision, because he wants us to also “own” our choices and be responsible for them. Having someone else make the choice for us is always easier, but it doesn’t help us to mature. The Lord wants us to “grow up in all aspects into Him.” (Eph 4:15)

    • Mary,

      I understand how parenting changes as our children grow into adults. We actually WANT them to come to know themselves, and their skills and desires. We want them to find something that they want to do.

      It’s part of growing up.

      I love your Eph. quote. Why do we sometimes think that God would be a worse parent than we are?

      Sam

  11. Wow this is great- God can “give direction” in other ways besides “speaking”… This is something I’ve been wondering about a lot because, well, I’m going to China sometime in the next 6 months. People ask me “did God call you to go there” and my answer is no. But it is from God. But I won’t say it’s “God calling me” because I always imagined that meant God just tells you, out of nowhere, to go do something you totally don’t get and don’t want to do.

    I went to China for the first time in 2010, not because God told me but because I thought about how God works in different cultures all over the world, and I wanted to experience some of that. And then, after 6 weeks in China, I totally wanted to stay, to move there, and I thought I was CRAZY.

    Because I didn’t want to be in China because “God told me” or “I have a heart for the people”- I wanted to go because it was AWESOME and I loved the language and the people and the fact that EVERYTHING WAS WEIRD, all the bizarre cultural differences- I was amazed that a society could be so incredibly different from anything I’d seen before, and yet IT STILL WORKS.

    And of course that can’t be from God- God had nothing to do with the creation of Chinese language and culture. /sarcasm

    The rest is kind of a long story, but yeah. I’m going there because I really want to, and it just all makes sense. And I believe that’s from God.

    • Perfect Number!!! WELCOME (especially now that I know what that means!),

      You give a great example. God is giving you a “desire” and this is a great time to learn more about it. It may be China, so you are trying it! Cool! You may find there is a desire beneath that desire–who knows what it may be, helping less privileged, meeting and learning of other cultures, etc.

      God is continuing to awaken good desires of the heart (as opposed to the desires of the flesh) and we learn more of them as we walk into them–with counsel–and learn more of what God has instilled there.

      GREAT EXAMPLE! Thanks.

  12. This word came at a good time. My wife and I are coming more and more to an awareness that need a change, but that change is not being shouted from the heavens. We continue to pray, to wait, and to look for God’s orchestration, but this was encouraging.

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for the self reflection.

      Here is an idea. Take two evenings. One evening one of you tell the other your whole life story–more than a testimony. And the next time the other spouse tells his/her life story.

      My wife and I do this periodically, and it is amazing. We learn things we’ve never known (and we’ve been married 29 years last Monday). We also begin to see God’s “orchestration” in each other’s life.

      It helps us help each other as we see God’s direction.

      It also helps us understand each other’s desires, which helps us move forward.

      Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” As we look back on our lives, we gain understanding, which helps us move forward.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Sam

  13. Jim McFarland says:

    Sam,

    I can identify with desire and silence. What is most difficult for me is to be wide open to the thought that the scary part could encompass my greatest desire. I feel my vision isnt big enough. My training wheels are still on in terms of believing God wants me to do what I most deeply want to do.

    The past few years I have become a solid believer in God orchestating circumstances. I feel challenged evey morning to have my God-sense tuned in rather than lost in the noise of the days events.

    It truly is a matter of reorienting what you seek, and following the faint clues left in the path by our creator. I am hopeful though because I am recognizing when the faint clues come to run them down and not let them get away.

    Thanks for the scary affirmation.

    • Hi Jim,

      Yes, a “scary affirmation” it is.

      I think it is both scary and thrilling. As God changes, matures, awakens, and purifies our hearts, we can walk into that new man [or woman!] that God created.

      It becomes a joy to follow the directions he places in our hearts, both in our calling and our character. We begin to WANT to love others and we begin to WANT to do the things we are called to do.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  14. Ana says:

    Thanks Sam for this..and for reminding me that God wants us to grow. He gives us room to grow. A few hrs ago I was praying to God for direction (You know those moments when you ask God..”what should I do??what should I do??what next God??..but this blog has taught me a lot…God bless you. Ana

  15. Paul says:

    Sam, in one day’s time I have gone from discovering your blog to having it become one of my favorites. I came looking for information on teaching children from a gospel standpoint, and stumble over learning about how God leads us.

    Approximately 5 months ago, I experienced what can only be compared to Saul’s Damascus Road experience. That was the kind of impact it had on me. Eye-opening and soul-shattering kind of impact. There was no light, no audible voice, but I felt turned completely inside out, like someone was looking at the deepest parts of my soul. Long story short, I realized that God was calling me to move my family to a completely new part of the country in order to be used by Him in ministry of some sort.

    Realizing this was a huge event, I asked God to confirm it through my wife, giving her a clear affirmation of this calling. 3 days later, she got her confirmation.

    You mention God’s voice, and God’s orchestration, as well as God’s instilling, but what do we do when we seek counsel, and get opposing views from people, all whom we consider Spirit-led individuals? We’re encountering resistance to this calling from within our own church, partly due to a concern for our own spiritual well-being.

    God bless you for sharing this post.

    Paul

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for this incredibly kind and gracious comment.

      I’m sure many of us readers share your pain, hearing God and looking for confirmation, and looking for support.

      May God confirm his word in you and your wife, and may he give confirmation and affirmation to your friends.

      My heart is with you man,

      Sam

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