“Go out into the darkness and put your hand in
the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light
and safer than a known way.”
‘God Knows’ – Millie Haskins
I was walking along our local beach recently when I encountered a woman with two dogs both of which were on leads. She was quite small and the dogs very energetic and with both pulling hard on their leads she was struggling to get them to go the way she wanted. I jokingly asked her who was talking whom for a walk? ‘I’m not sure’ she said!
For some (weird though it may be) it occurred to me that this quite mundane chance event can serve as a good analogy for living the Christian life. By this I mean in regard to the question as to whom is setting the direction for our life- God or ourselves?
I have sat in many a bible study in which there has been a prayer time with the members being given the opportunity to raise matters in their lives which they would like the group to pray for. Often they are big decisions, for example about a house they are seeking to purchase or a new career path they wish to take, or a change in their ministry involvement etc. Frequently on these occasions I have noticed that it is not so much God’s guidance on the decision that is being sought, often there is little evidence that He had been much consulted, rather it is for God’s blessing on a decision that, if they are honest with themselves, they have ALREADY MADE.
It is on this topic of decision-making in the Christian life that James has a very important warning-
‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.’
I wonder what is our approach to decision-making? Do we prayerfully and diligently consult God as to His will before coming to a decision and then put our ‘Hand in the hand of God’ and then let Him lead us? Or do we make a decision and then piously try and tug God along the way we have already chosen and pray for Him to bless it? If it is the latter, then He is not likely to!
This is not a matter of small consequence, for James gives a stark warning that if we make a decision that is not God’s will for us and so fail to use our God-given resources for the purpose God has decided, i.e. the ‘Good’ He wants us to do, then that is sin for us.
This article thus far has referred to individual decision-making, but what about a congregation, Christian fellowship or Missional group we may be part of? How does that body of people make big decisions, for example as to what should the group’s missional activity look like? Is the reality that God frequently gets left out of the ‘what shall we do’ stage of discussions’ but is subsequently asked for blessing on it when it happens?
Often when looking at the missional activities that churches, fellowships decide to engage in, they seem to be just a repeat of ‘what we’ve done before’ (and are comfortable with) with a deafness to any left field, not what we planned to do, ‘Macedonian call’ that God is making (Acts 16:6-10). Then when decisions have already been made, He gets asked to bless them.
The new year that beckons is a space of time that God has given us. It is at this point a blank canvas. What will we use our God-given resources to paint on that canvas- whose picture? Ours or God’s? In considering this it may be helpful to reflect on Millie Haskins’ beautiful poem- ‘God Knows’?
‘And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
As we pass through the ‘Gate of the year’ and ‘tread into the unknown’ the question for us is ‘who is trying to lead whom’? Will we put our hand into the Hand of God and let Him lead us where He want us to go, indeed where we would not have even dreamed of going?