When I graduated from high school I entered a season of searching. Specifically, and like many young grads, I was searching for the answer to a question: “God, where do you want me to go next?”
I believed college was the next step for me (it’s not necessarily for everyone — but that’s a soap box for another time!), but I had no idea where in the world to go or what to major in. I had a few ideas, but I was waiting for a clear directive; a sense of knowing where God was calling me.
If you’re anything like me, you probably like having clear direction from the Lord. It brings a great deal of peace of mind to know you’re right where God wants you to be. Plus let’s face it: making major life decisions is stressful! What if you make a wrong choice?
(Here’s a thought: maybe we want God to tell us what to do so that if it happens not to work out, we aren’t to blame? Hmm . . . )
So what do you do when God doesn’t seem to be spelling things out for you?
This is a question the book of Proverbs is especially suited to answer! Here’s what it has taught me:
Solomon’s Graduation Advice
Much like a parent might give their high school graduate some life advice, Proverbs 4 is cast in the literary metaphor of a father giving wise instruction to his son. And the principles Solomon presents are useful for us all when we’re making big decisions.
1) Store up God’s words in your heart (Proverbs 4:3-5, 10-11, 20-22).
As Solomon instructs his “son” (aka you, the reader) to hold on to his words and never forget them, he’s pointing us to the reality that we need to keep our heavenly Father’s words of wisdom in our minds at all times. By having minds saturated with Scripture, we’re better equipped to discern truth from error and to know what kinds of decisions will please the Lord (see Psalm 119:9-11, 105).
What’s more, by continuing to delve into Scripture we stay reminded of how God has led people in the past. During my season of seeking, verses like Jeremiah 6:16 and Psalm 77:9-15 reminded me to reflect on God’s faithfulness in my own past. That, in turn, stirred me to trust that he would continue to guide my future.
2) Be careful what company you keep (Proverbs 4:14-19).
There’s both a positive and a negative here. On the negative side, one of the worst things you can do in a season of decision-making is to let yourself be influenced by people who aren’t living to please the Lord (compare 1 Corinthians 15:33).
When we’re in a posture of seeking direction, it’s a lot more likely that we’ll be more influenced by those around us rather than the reverse. At least, that’s been my experience. Solomon charges us to avoid the company of the wicked and pursue the company of the righteous; to “follow the way of the good” (Proverbs 2:20).
On the positive side, we should gather as much advice as we can from godly people around us — a point Proverbs makes over and over and over again (I guess the Lord knows how resistant we can be to receiving input! See Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 15:22; 19:20; 20:5, 18; 24:6).
Few things were more valuable during my search than the advice of godly people in my life — in my case, parents, friends, and pastors who told me I had a gift for teaching Scripture and challenged me to pursue a rigorous education to equip myself.
In fact, it was Proverbs’ advice to seek the company of godly people that ended up being most decisive in my season of seeking.
When I had been praying for nearly a year about what university I should attend, I remember sitting in my car after a long day of community college classes. I was feeling a bit low-spirited, burdened by the fact that I was no closer to deciding on a long-term school.
Seemingly out of the blue, I felt led to call an old buddy of mine who had gone off to John Brown University in Arkansas. I asked him how things were going for him there, and I listened as he shared about the ways JBU was helping his relationship with God to thrive.
After hearing the passion and excitement in his voice, I immediately decided to give JBU a closer look, because I wanted to be where people like my friend were; people who were growing in their zeal to know and serve Christ.
I was hungry to follow the way of the good. And it was through that hunger that God led me to my destination.
And the rest is history.
3) Grow in godly character (Proverbs 4:23-27).
We tend to fixate on our circumstances, but God is far more concerned with our character. Living in holiness and integrity is fruitful for God in any circumstance or job or relationship. Proverbs 11:3 says that “The integrity of the upright guides them…”
When you start on a trajectory of seeking to honor God, even what feels like a frustrating wilderness of questions becomes fertile ground for spiritual growth.
Sometimes it seems like God is ignoring our prayers for direction, but really what’s happening is not that he’s ignoring us, but that he’s doing work behind-the-scenes. That, or he’s working deep down in our hearts — deeper down than we can see while it’s happening.
It’s the kind of work that can only be seen in hindsight. In the moment, we begin to feel impatient. We ask God why he isn’t answering. But the better question to ask would be, “Hmm, I wonder what he’s off working on now?”
It’s in those times when it’s vital to keep taking steps closer to God, trusting in him rather than in our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-7). We don’t always see the ways he’s busy making the path ahead straight for us.
Let Wisdom Steer Your Path
The Christian faith isn’t a color-by-numbers game. God isn’t necessarily going to give you a detailed outline of everything he wants you to do in your unique life, lived in your unique context. He might do so; he certainly has the capability to drop an obvious assignment from heaven (as he did for the apostle Paul — see Acts 9:1-22; 26:12-18). And if he does, that’s great!
But in my case he didn’t.
Instead, he led me into a season where I prayed and sought him and, when he didn’t seem to be answering directly, I relied on biblical wisdom to make my own decisions. I stored up God’s words in my heart, and I sought the company of righteous friends.
And I’ve never once regretted where it’s led me.
Will you be led by wisdom today?
See you down the path.