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What to Do WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW What to Do8 Principles for Finding God's Way
By Henry Cloud John Townsend
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePRINCIPLE 1
Begin Your Journey with God
It almost sounds like some kind of advertising slogan, but this little play on words really says it: "God will make a way" begins with God. It's not your belief that makes a way; it's God who makes a way. Your faith is the vital step you take to connect with God, the way-maker. But without God, all the faith you can possibly muster won't get you anywhere. So our first principle for finding God's way is to begin your journey with God.
The story of Abraham in the Bible is a good example. When God called him to leave his homeland, Abraham had no idea where he was headed. But he believed God knew where he was headed, so he packed up and left. He did not believe in belief; he believed in a God who knew exactly where Abraham was going and who was able to lead him there.
So when we talk about faith, trust, and belief to carry you through your trials and troubles, we mean it in a very specific way. We're not talking about warm religious feelings or an exercise in positive thinking. Faith is grounded in a relationship with God, a real Person who knows the way for you and promises to lead you on it.
We Are Designed forDependence
Some people argue that relying on God is a weakness, that God is a crutch for those who can't make it on their own. The fact that you need God so desperately in your life is not a weakness any more than your need for air or for food is a weakness. God created us to reach outside ourselves to find the things we need. We were designed for dependence on him. The term "self-made person" is a huge oxymoron. No one is self-made. The psalmist writes, "It is [God] who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture" (Psalm 100:3).
We did not create ourselves to begin with, nor were we designed to find our own way in life. Rather, God wired us to depend on him. When you exercise faith in him, you are doing the one thing you can do to accomplish superhuman feats: You are reaching beyond your own human strength and knowledge and tapping into God's infinite strength and knowledge.
God Provides What You Need
What do you do in a difficult or painful situation when you don't know what to do? The sad truth is that many people do one of two things. First, they repeat what didn't work before. They try harder to make a relationship work, to succeed in a career, or to overcome a difficult personal problem, pattern, or habit. Chronic dieters, for example, convince themselves that "this time it will work." The victim in an abusive relationship reconciles after another fight or separation, thinking this time the partner will change.
This approach reflects a popular definition of insanity: Doing the same thing again, but expecting different results. If you have done everything you know to do without success, trying again with your own limited knowledge and strength is not the answer.
The second common response to a hopeless situation is to stop trying all together. These people just give up, believing the relationship will never work, they will never lose weight, they will never get over their depression, etc. Trying to get through life on your own limited strength, knowledge, and resources leads to futility and a loss of hope.
But in God's economy, getting to the end of yourself is the beginning of hope. As Jesus said, "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him" (Matthew 5:3 NLT). When you realize that you are poor and helpless without God, you are ready to ask him for help. And the moment you ask God for help, you transcend your own limitations in finding your way, and God's resources are available to you.
No matter what limitation or circumstance you are struggling against, God can empower and equip you to go beyond what you thought possible. He can get you through a painful or tragic event, help you deal with a difficult relationship, and even make a long-held dream come true. Whatever it is, God will make a way for you, perhaps in very unexpected ways. And he does his best work when you are at the end of yourself-and you admit it.
Our "Yes" Is All God Needs
How does this miracle happen? What must we do to get past our own abilities and tap into the power, wisdom, and resources of God himself? It seems too good to be true. Is it only for really special, really good, or really unique people?
The Bible promises-and millions of people have discovered-that God's power and resources are equally available to everyone. They cannot be earned; they can only be received as a gift when we, in humility, acknowledge our need of our Creator. Throughout the Bible, God says repeatedly, "Come to me and I will provide what you need."
He's ready to get totally involved in your life. All you have to do is say yes to him. When you do, he will provide what you need to find the way.
Once on your journey with God, however, sometimes his way will be truly miraculous and sometimes it will involve a lot of work, growth, and change on your part. Sometimes it won't be the way you thought you needed, but a different and even better one. But when God makes a way, it is real, meaningful, and enduring.
Your journey with God is not intended to be a solo flight. In the next chapter we will explore God's choice for your traveling companions.
Chapter TwoPRINCIPLE 2
Choose Your Traveling Companions Wisely
I (Henry) grew up playing competitive golf, and when I was a youngster Jack Nicklaus was king of the sport. "The Golden Bear," as he is called, dominated the PGA tour for a number of years. From my vantage point, he was as close to being a god as a human could get.
Then one day my view of Jack Nicklaus abruptly changed. I heard that he would periodically travel home to Ohio to see his teacher, Jack Grout. Nicklaus needed some help with his swing, the announcer said. I was stunned. Jack Nicklaus, the reigning god of professional golf, still needs a teacher? Jack is the best. Why does he need a teacher? I thought. Who could teach him anyway, since no one is better?
In a kid-sized view of life, I assumed that if you were very good at something, the last thing you needed was a teacher. Teachers were for people who didn't know what they were doing. I have learned a lot since then. People who rise to become the best they can be in their sports or professions usually don't get to the top alone. They seek help from a teacher, a counselor, or a spiritual advisor.
This story illustrates our second principle for finding God's way. Your journey with God will be richer, more fulfilling, and more successful if you surround yourself with people who are committed to support you, encourage you, assist you and pray for you.
Part of God's program to make a way for you is to put good people around you who are gifted in helping you get where you need to go. Some of these people will just show up in your life, sent by God at just the right time. Others you will have to seek out on your own. Some will be professionals. Others may just be a neighbor or friend at church. Here are some important qualities and characteristics to look for in people as you select your traveling companions for the journey.
SUPPORT. Whenever you are negotiating a change in your life, solving a problem, or trying to reach a goal, you are pushing uphill. Such effort takes more energy than normal day-to-day living, and it can quickly drain you of emotional, physical, and spiritual strength. Notice the people who come around during these times ready to help. Someone may call to ask, "Is there anything I can do for you?" Someone may show up at your door to help you with a chore. Someone may e-mail you to say, "I'm praying for you." You need people around you who will help you shoulder the load in different ways.
LOVE. The Bible says, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8 NIV). No matter what has happened to you, what you have done, or what you must do, you need the safety net of love. You need people on your team who love you deeply just as you are, faults included. Love helps take the sting out of life and makes it possible for you to do what you have to do.
COURAGE. You cannot journey God's way without encountering risk and fear. Sometimes the task looks too daunting to face. There is safety in numbers, so just having a support team close by will build your courage. But you also need people nearby who will tell you what Paul told his friends who were in great danger: "So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me" (Acts 27:25 NIV).
FEEDBACK. You need honest feedback from people if you hope to get where you're going in life. We're talking about people who are not afraid to correct you when you are wrong. Wise King Solomon wrote, "Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear" (Proverbs 25:12 NIV).
WISDOM. You do not have all the wisdom and knowledge you need to make it through life. God has deposited some of it in other people. Keep your eye out for wise people through whom God will speak to you and direct you.
EXPERIENCE. How valuable and helpful it is to have someone on your team who has been where you are and understands what you are going through. In times of trouble or growth, seek out the experience of others who have traveled this road before you.
MODELING. It is difficult to do what we have never seen someone else do. One of God's greatest gifts for the journey is people who can serve as role models for us to follow. As Hebrews puts it: "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (6:12 NIV). Study and learn from people who are doing what you want to do.
VALUES. Your system of values will guide you as you follow God's way. But personal values are not created in a vacuum; they are formed in the context of community. The writer of Hebrews says, "Let us not give up meeting together ... but let us encourage one another" (10:25 NIV). We learn new values from others, and others support us in living out our values. Stay close to people who share your values.
ACCOUNTABILITY. Cars and airplanes have gauges, which constantly report the status of the engine and warn of malfunctions. Companies are periodically audited to inform their directors of needed corrections. In the same way, you need to be held accountable by others who will monitor your progress and keep you on track. You need people on your team who are interested enough to ask the tough questions: How is your faith doing? Where are you failing? What kind of help do you need?
How Strong Is Your Cord?
Solomon described a support team this way:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV).
Who comprises your "cord of three strands"? Who are people in your life who are there for you, pulling for you, not afraid to tell you the truth? Which friends are available to comfort you when you are down, show you more about God than you already know, and bring you up short when you are headed for trouble? Who can you count on to guide you when you don't know what to do, cry with you when you lose, and then celebrate with you when you win?
There are two kinds of people around you: those who are growing personally and those who are going nowhere and stagnating. Welcome as traveling companions people who are pursuing God and his way for them, because they are constantly growing. They will help keep you on the way God has made for you. Do not entrust your heart to those who are stagnant or going backward. They can kill your dreams and turn you away from God's way.
You may already have in your life a person or two who meets your need for support. If so, thank them for their ministry to you. Also explain that you need them in order to make the next steps on your journey. Ask if they will be available to provide accountability, feedback, or support. They will probably feel honored and valued that you would ask.
If you are running short of supportive friends, begin looking for a few. You may want to start by joining a structured support system, such as a Bible study group. Share with these people your dreams and struggles, and ask for their prayers and input. You will be amazed how a loving support group will help you on your journey.
Chapter ThreePRINCIPLE 3
Place High Value on Wisdom
When we are hopeless, a key way out of that hopelessness is to find the missing pieces of wisdom that would help put life back together. Many times we are in despair because we lack vital information about our condition and its cure. When we begin to discover and apply these key insights to our lives, our outlook changes. Hopelessness is replaced by hope, and we get back on track again.
So our third principle for finding God's way through your difficulties and challenges is this: Recognize the value and need for the missing pieces of wisdom in your life; then ask God to show them to you and help you search actively for them.
There is information out there that will make all the difference in how you view your situation and how you can change it. Set out to find this information, and keep looking for it until you do. This step may not seem very spiritual to you, but it is something God has given you to do. In the meantime, he will do what only he can do to put your puzzle together.
A Word to the Wise
God says in Proverbs that wisdom produces hope: "Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off" (Proverbs 24:14 NIV).
When you feel hopeless, often it comes from a sense of not knowing what to do in your situation or feeling that nothing can be done. In reality, God will make a way. You just don't see it at the moment. As you learn more about what you are going through and apply what you learn to your situation, you will be exercising wisdom.
Wisdom Comes from God
The first place to look in your quest for wisdom is God himself. When you are in trouble or don't know what to do in a situation, the Bible instructs us to ask God for the wisdom we need. James writes this:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:2-5 NIV).
God knows what to do even when you don't. All you have to do is ask him for answers and he will provide them. Asking God is the first step to gaining wisdom.
God Uses Others
You may be in a situation you don't know how to handle. The good news is that there is somebody out there who does know how to deal with it, someone with the right knowledge and experience. After asking God for wisdom, your next task is to find that someone. With God's help and perhaps some diligent searching on your part, you will find the resource you need. Whenever I (Henry) am dealing with a difficult financial situation, I call a certain friend of mine. He has great wisdom in that area, and I lean heavily on him for good advice. There are other people I call for other needs.
Excerpted from What to Do WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW What to Do by Henry Cloud John Townsend Copyright © 2009 by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Excerpted by permission.
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