For many years, I’ve asked the Lord for a word of direction for the year ahead. Sometimes He has literally given me a specific word, other times a prophetic word. Sometimes it’s a Bible verse, other times a prayer. For 2016, the Lord’s mandate to me was simple.
I knew He was referring to Deuteronomy 30:19: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life …”
Initially I felt elated. This was far less complicated than the words I’d gotten in previous years! “This year should be a piece of cake,” I thought. Black and white. Choose A or B. 2016 was sure to be easy, because many things do fall into one category or another … life or death.
Because a lot of things really are that simple. I don’t have to stop and think about whether I will be unfaithful to my husband, or commit murder, or embezzle money. These are not options for me. Neither do any of them tempt me. But it makes me feel good about myself when things are cut and dried, and I can pat myself on the back and say, “I’m a good Christian. I checked off all my little boxes.”
The problem is, most things in life do not fall neatly into one column or the other. Things like staying up late, or eating a piece of pie, or watching a movie. Things like shopping, or hunting, or playing video games. Mostly gray. And to complicate matters further, when it comes to navigating these murkier waters, what brings life one day may bring death the next, which is why we are encouraged in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 to “quench not the Spirit.” It’s that minute-by-minute listening for His voice and choosing whatever brings life, according to His standards, in the moment. It’s hard … and exhilarating.
The temptation for us as Christians is always to become legalistic about such things. Whether we admit it or not, we rather like rules and regulations because then it’s easy to know whether or not we have hit the mark. Listening for the voice of the Spirit is a much harder way to live. It requires us to be dependent on Him, which is exactly what He wants anyway. Relationship. Partnership. Fellowship.
Once I got over my initial elation, I was hit hard with a feeling of dread. I thought, “This year is going to be terrible!” Because suddenly the filter of my flesh translated God’s word to mean the following; I’m going to want to do things and God is going to say no. I felt a bit like a rebellious six-year-old wanting to do the very thing to which mom or dad said “no.” And the perfectionist in me was not okay with the possibility of inevitable failure or a rebellious spirit.
The Lord quickly responded with the words of Isaiah 41:13: “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear, I will help you.” Little by little fear began to dissipate. He promised to help me figure it out. Day by day. Choice by choice. I can live with that.
We are nearly 1/6 of the way through the year and you are probably wondering how I’m faring thus far. I’d be lying if I said I’ve always chosen life. But I can tell you this. Those two little words have reverberated in my heart and in my ear over and over again, and I’m getting it right more often because I’m being intentional about listening for His voice in the moment. I’m choosing life while living it.