Find God’s Will with Your Feet

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Kids are cute, but they can be mean.

Years ago, I was standing in a church foyer when a frazzled mother handed me her child so she could wrangle her other kids. It was before I had children, so I held the tyke awkwardly, a good distance from my chest. This turned out to be a mistake because it gave the little girl enough room to study my face and announce her findings.

“Big nose!” she shouted.

I passed her back to her mother.

On another occasion, two boys from our church asked me what I did for a living.

“I’m an author and editor,” I responded cheerfully, unaware I was about to be humbled.

“That’s too bad,” one of them said. “I bet you wish you did something cool, like being a cop or a firefighter.”

I was happy with my job—until that moment. Suddenly I realized my bookish career choice ranked rather low on the list of cool jobs in the ten-year-old-male demographic. It was a fact affirmed on Father’s Day, when I threw my arms around my own children and told them, “My favorite job is being your dad.”

“Of course it is,” my son replied. “Your other job is just staring at a computer.”

Occasionally, I grow tired of getting absolutely owned by kids and I try to turn the tables. Like recently when I asked my daughter’s friends a question.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

One wanted to be a princess. The other had plans to become a nurse, like her mother.

That’s when I flipped the script.

“What do you think I should be when I grow up?”

Their foreheads wrinkled. They looked at each other. Then down at the ground. You could almost hear their thoughts.

Who’s going to tell this poor guy that it’s too late? That whatever he’s going to be, he’s already become?

Finally, the princess mustered her courage.

“You’re old,” she said flatly.

Humbled by a child. Again.

I deserved that one, I guess. To them, I was the size of a giant sequoia and roughly the same age. The idea that I aspired to become something other than what I already was must have seemed odd. I laughed at the exchange but felt a twinge of sadness. I am old, I thought. I’m supposed to have everything figured out by now, but I don’t.

I grew up in the church, and there was a lot of talk about finding God’s will for your life. But it was always a young person’s sport. In high school, we prayed that God would lead us to the right college or into the right career. As young adults, we prayed for the right spouse, preferably one who was incredibly attractive. There were pitfalls along the way. Finding God’s will was a mysterious undertaking—and a delicate one. Don’t pray enough and you could miss the boat. Same thing if you sinned too much. And you had to hunt for supernatural clues to find it.

Do you ever look at what you’re doing right now and ask, What is God thinking?

I remember hearing a story (likely apocryphal) about a young man torn over his choice about whom to marry. Should he propose to the lovely Jennifer, or the equally lovely young woman named Joy? Hunting for answers, he flipped open his Bible, right to Isaiah 55:12: “You shall go out with joy.” Problem solved.

Such stories struck me as silly. And a lot of what I heard about finding God’s will wasn’t very helpful. But the focus on calling made sense. At that age, massive, life-altering decisions whip past you like fence posts on the highway. You need guidance. What I didn’t realize at the time is that you still need guidance when you’re older. The question of what you should do with your life never really goes away. Not completely, anyway. Even after the big puzzle pieces of life fall into place, there are still a lot of blank spots in the picture. The truth is I’m still trying to fill them in.

And I know I’m not alone. I see it in my own family. Grace, my wife, feels it. After working in the professional world for years, she’s now home with the kids. She loves being a mom but admits the change has been disorienting. “My world is very small these days,” she says. She longs to use her creative gifts to make an impact on the outside world. As the children grow, she’ll have opportunities to do that. But what will it look like? She’s not sure.

Or I think of her father, Brian. He’s transitioning into retirement. He’s been a successful executive in an electronics company for the past thirty-five years. Now he wants to do something completely new. Something that’s less about personal success and more about helping others. But he’s not quite sure what that will be—and he needs God to guide him.

Even my parents are feeling their way forward. They spent their lives in ministry till my father was forced to retire early because of Parkinson’s disease. They still feel called to minister to people, but finding opportunities to do that can be a challenge. At some point, we all find ourselves uncertain and seeking. The job ends. The kids move out. The relationship shifts. Life changes. And suddenly, you’re twenty again, asking, “What now, God?”

Become a Common Christian

As Christians, we all have two callings, not just one.

We have what some have called a general or common calling. This is what all Christians are called to do. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He responded by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Then He added this: “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (vv. 38–39). Love God, love others. That’s the bottom line. That isn’t easy, but we’re called to do it. And we don’t need signs or a voice from heaven to confirm it. If you’re a follower of Jesus, it’s part of your common calling.

Every Christian is called to grow in their faith and become more like Jesus. I remember a sermon in which our pastor made a bold declaration: “I know God’s will for each person here this morning.” That got our attention. Then he quoted 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” Holiness, he explained, is not an optional part of the Christian life; it’s for everyone. It’s part of our common calling.

We also have a particular calling. That’s the call on your life that applies specifically to you. It involves questions of career. Should you be an electrician or an event planner? A painter or a paralegal? As Westerners, we tend to overemphasize this one, honestly. God cares about your occupation, but I don’t think it’s His number one concern. And it’s not the most important thing about you. The apostle Paul was the greatest missionary of all time. But what was his “job”? He was a tentmaker. That wasn’t his primary calling, of course. It just paid the bills.

I’m not saying your career isn’t important. It’s part of your calling. But so are your relationships. Should you get married? If so, to whom? Your particular calling also involves where you should be. Should you live in Seattle or San Diego? Britain or Bulgaria? The city or the country?

When we talk about God’s will, this is the stuff we typically have in mind. These are the questions we lose sleep over and tend to get weird about. We look for signs in the clouds. We examine our dreams. We open our Bible to random pages, hoping for direction.

I recall the story of one woman who was cleaning out her garage when she spotted a spider web in the corner. As she examined the intricate pattern, a thought hit her. God was calling her to design websites (websites, get it?). She had no training as a web designer, but she thought this was a sign. It wasn’t. The idea quickly fizzled. It was just a spider web in a garage.

Sometimes we find God’s will in strange and dramatic ways. There are plenty of examples of that in Scripture. But I’m convinced that’s not how it works for the most part—and that’s okay.

Here’s the unglamorous truth: Usually, we find God’s will as we obey Him. As we act with integrity and faithfulness in our current situation, He lights the path ahead. This is how your particular call and common call are related. When you focus on fulfilling the common calling, the specific calling of your life has a way of becoming clearer.

Isn’t that a relief? You don’t have to worry that you’re going to miss out on what God wants for you. If you’re loving God and loving others, He will guide you. There’s tremendous freedom in that truth.

Even if you’re not sure what to do right now, that’s okay. You don’t need to know what’s a hundred miles ahead. God just wants you to take the next step.

Trained by Sheep

I once got in a weird argument with a friend about Moses. My friend said that the great liberator and lawgiver was inarticulate. I disagreed, insisting the Bible describes him as a man “powerful in speech and action.” The problem was this was before the advent of the internet, and I couldn’t remember where that appeared in the Bible, so my friend wasn’t convinced.

When we finally hunted down the relevant verse, we learned we were both right. Moses is described as being “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians . . . powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22). Yet when God appears to Moses in Exodus, commanding him to free the Israelites, Moses objects. “I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex. 4:10).

You can understand our confusion. Moses is described both as slow of speech . . . and powerful in speech. But it’s important to note the distance between these descriptions. They capture Moses at different stages of his life. The first is of him as a young man. He’s confident, strong, capable of striking down a slave master who was whipping a fellow Israelite. He has a fancy Egyptian education.

The second description comes in a radically different context. It’s forty years later, and Moses is an aging shepherd, stuck in the wilderness where he fled after Pharaoh tried to kill him. Now when God shows up and commands Moses to go back to Egypt and liberate the Israelites, Moses is a puddle of fear.

I suppose Moses could have been lying. He clearly doesn’t feel up to the job and maybe claiming a lack of rhetorical skill is a ruse to get out of it. But I don’t think so. I’m guessing spending forty years tending sheep doesn’t do much for your communication abilities. I guess you can talk to sheep, but they’re not going to talk back (if they do, you have real problems).

Furthermore, tending sheep isn’t exactly glamorous. Sheep are stubborn. Sheep are smelly. And they’re not particularly bright. Recently, I saw a viral video clip that hilariously illustrated this fact. In the clip, a sheep is wedged head-down in a crevasse. A young man emerges and patiently, limb by limb, pulls the sheep free. But as soon as the sheep tastes freedom, the animal bounds away—and dives headfirst back into the same crevasse.

Being a shepherd in the ancient world was hard—and boring. It required leading, feeding, watering, and protecting sheep. These activities were punctuated by long periods of inactivity when you just sat, watching over the flock. That’s what Moses had been doing for forty years when God shows up. No wonder his verbal skills are a little rusty.

But I believe that the timing of Moses’ calling was no accident. God used those years of obscurity to prepare him to lead. Every belligerent sheep he corralled was preparing him to deal with grumbling people. Every predator he fended off was steeling him for the challenge of facing Pharaoh. Each eventless day was building his resolve for a long sojourn in the wilderness. The menial work tamed his pride. The solitude trained him to commune with his Creator. God was forging his character, molding him into the kind of leader he needed to be.

God could have commanded Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom forty years earlier. That’s when Moses was at the top of his game. Strong, confident, eloquent. But God’s not impressed by such attributes. He didn’t need a great orator. He didn’t want a talker. He wanted a walker, someone who could lead His people on the long and arduous journey to the promised land. And tending sheep was the perfect training.

I’m sure there were many times when Moses despaired. I’ll bet he wondered what was going on with his life. He’d gone from being a prince in Pharaoh’s palace to spending decades surrounded by dirty sheep. Maybe he thought God had forgotten about him.

Have you ever wondered that too? Do you ever look at what you’re doing right now and ask, What is God thinking? Maybe your daily work seems mundane and unimportant. No one appreciates your contributions and you’re tired of toiling in obscurity.

If so, I can’t tell you exactly what God is up to. But I can tell you this: if you’re seeking to honor Him, that work matters. God sees it, even when no one else does. And He’s using it in ways you probably don’t fully understand right now.

One of those ways is to prepare you for what’s next. It may not make sense at the moment, but it will someday. When I look back on my life, I marvel at the odd assortment of jobs I’ve had. I’ve sold ice cream and done demolition. I’ve swept floors and stocked shelves. I’ve worked in a retirement home and been a caregiver for people with disabilities. I’ve been a youth pastor and a freelance writer. All these roles helped shape me into the person writing these words right now. It felt a little haphazard at the time, but I believe God used those experiences to prepare me for the work I’m doing today.

I’m learning that with God, nothing is wasted. Even the failures and setbacks. God uses it all. Those years in the wilderness were crucial to Moses’ calling. Just like what you’re doing right now is crucial to yours. And in case you’re wondering, God hasn’t forgotten you. Stay faithful. You’re not on the shelf. You’re in training.

Walking Is the Way

My friend Dominic Done pointed out something I hadn’t noticed about the Bible: it has the word “suddenly” in it a lot. “God is a God of ‘suddenly.’ It’s found 87 [times] in the Bible. They wept, suddenly an angel appeared at the tomb. They walked, suddenly he appeared on the Emmaus road. They prayed, suddenly the Spirit came down.”

It’s inspiring to think of God suddenly rescuing people or revealing Himself. But I’m struck by what preceded these moments of “sudden” divine intervention: long stretches of quiet faithfulness. The people in these stories were often in the middle of hard or hopeless circumstances. Some were plagued by doubt and despair. But they hadn’t given up. They kept going. Praying, weeping, walking. And then, suddenly, God showed up.

That’s what happened with Moses. God suddenly appears to him, as he’s leading sheep.

The truth is we don’t usually find God’s will with our head, or even our hands. We find it with our feet.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. . . . God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” (Ex. 3:1–4)

Moses had been tending sheep for forty years when this encounter takes place. Forty years of hard, boring work carried out in obscurity. It’s only then that God suddenly reveals Moses’ unique calling.

That might seem a tad depressing; it is a long time to wait. But ultimately, I think it’s encouraging. Moses didn’t have to solve a riddle to find God’s will for his life. He just had to tend sheep. And in the midst of doing that, God directed him.

It’s a good reminder for all of us, especially when we’re in a hard or confusing season of life. We can be like Moses, faithfully doing the work God has placed in front of us.

The truth is we don’t usually find God’s will with our head, or even our hands. We find it with our feet. We keep walking, and as we do, He shows us the path. So, we keep going because we know that God will guide us. We know that plodding leads to prevailing. That steady comes before suddenly. And that when we keep showing up, God does too.

For Further Reading:

Just Show Up

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If someone puts one more thing on my shoulders, I might collapse. Bestselling self-help book titles tell you that you’re brilliant,...

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