When I talk with someone who is trying to make an important decision, I often realize that they have done everything but the most essential thing when it comes to making a decision.
I remember talking to someone who was considering a new job opportunity. They had thoroughly investigated the nature of the job and whether they liked that kind of work. They talked with others who worked for the company. What was the work environment like? They asked about pay and benefits. They tried to get a feel for how this job would impact their quality of life. Too many late nights? Too much travel? They spent a lot of time considering what it would be like to work under their immediate superior. The job required moving, and they spent a lot of time considering the impact of the move on their family.
All these considerations and many more were taken into account. They were all important and necessary components of the decision making process. But after they had shared all this information with me, and their uncertainty about what to do, I realized that there was something they hadn’t done. They hadn’t asked God to help them. “Oh, I hadn’t thought about that.”
When we say in our creeds that we believe in the Holy Spirit, we are saying that God is with us and available to us, and that as Jesus tells us in John, the Spirit “will lead us into all truth (Jn 16:13a).” Believing in the Holy Spirit means that we have within us an advisor who wants to help us if we will only ask. There is one catch, however. If we indeed ask the Spirit to help us, we may discover that the Spirit nudges us in directions we don’t want to go. We might be evaluating a job on how much security it gives us; the Spirit might be urging us to go in a riskier direction. We might be giving priority to how much money we are going to make; the Spirit might be urging us to find work that is meaningful and gives us a level of satisfaction that money can’t provide. We might be enamored with the prestige of a job; the Spirit might be urging us to a parallel move that will enhance our overall quality of life.
Although it is certainly possible that we simply forget to ask God for help in making decisions, I think there is a deeper resistance. I think there are times we would just as soon leave the Holy Spirit’s input out of the equation because the Spirit may want to take me to a place I never thought that I would go.
Of course, this resistance to the Spirit’s help isn’t only true for big decisions, but for everyday life. If we begin each day asking the Spirit to lead us, we may find that the Spirit will indeed urge us to do things we didn’t expect to do. As unnerving as this might be, can we trust that where the Spirit leads us will indeed be the place we need to be?