Counsel and Conviction

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Some years ago, I felt convicted to change directions.

I’d recently started down a new path and was growing excited about what I thought God might be doing, about what opportunities might be just ahead. Then I perceived him calling me to change course, to walk away from one path to return to the old road. And I didn’t like that thought. I wrestled with God for some time, searching my soul for any sign that I’d misunderstood. I prayed for God to grant my requests. Still, I felt the conviction remain.

In a moment of hope, I remembered an author whose approach to finding the will of God might settle my heart. I scanned the stacks of books in my room until I found the book, brought it into the living room, and quickly found the chapter I was looking for. I read it closely, finding exactly what I’d hoped to find: justification for my position, reason to doubt what I’d felt.

Strangely, though, the hope didn’t stick. As soon as I finished the chapter, conviction weighed heavy upon me again. I was running from the LORD and I knew it. I could pretend not to hear him, pretend I was ignorant, pretend I was simply mistaken in what I felt. But avoidance and refusal to hear don’t change reality. The Spirit still works. To follow my desires would be to act in rebellion. In short, to ignore conviction would be to choose sin over submission.

When moments like these arise, when the call to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus shakes you to your core, I don’t find peace in voices that tell me what I want to hear. Sure, such voices hold some appeal, but it’s the appeal of Taco Bell when I’m trying to eat healthy. I know it’ll make me feel good for about five minutes, then I’ll be right back where I was, if not more frustrated with myself for the brief detour. When the choice between obedience and rebellion is difficult and painful, I need something more substantial than an endorsement of my own way; I need help to trust that God’s way is worth the sacrifice.

The voices that provide the most help in such moments are those that honestly and genuinely recognize and name the hurt yet then slowly, intentionally, and lovingly lead me to remember the truth. These voices don’t tell me what I want to hear; they often confirm that the still, small voice I’m trying to avoid is in fact telling the truth. They agree that “there is a way that seems right to a man” (Proverbs 14:12), and they share in the heartache of realizing you’ve longed for that road. They affirm the grief and they sit in the sorrow. But they gently remind that the road to life is worthwhile, that the Shepherd is still good, that the death of a temporal hope does not entail the death of our eternal hope. They show the way forward by telling their own stories of loss and gain, by truthfully speaking of life in this world and of God’s faithfulness through the journey. Such voices echo those of Scripture, joining the chorus of witnesses whose stories of faith testify to the faithfulness of God.

I need—we need— such voices, and I want to be such a voice for others. To speak this way, however, requires that we do not lose heart but that we “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). We set our eyes on things above, not on things of earth (Colossians 3:2). But we do so in faith, confident that our Savior is faithful and true, confident that “whoever loses his life for [Jesus’s] sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). The road is not easy and surrender is no small matter, but the Lord is infinitely worth it.


Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

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