Why God Guides You from Behind

by Mar 9, 2010

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Many people think following God would be so much easier if only he would make his will more evident. A Google map with directions would be nice: “Take a right at this college, then a left at that career, then go straight until you hit marriage.” Even better would be if God served as a tour guide, personally taking you from one lifestage to the next: “Follow me this way through pregnancy and childbirth. But watch your step… your wife is going to snore like a trucker during her last trimester, and she won’t believe you when you tell her.” Wouldn’t guidance like that be great?

There’s a small problem with this idealization. God has already proven that spiritual maps and tour guides don’t work.

He provided a detailed map to the Israelites suffering in slavery in Egypt: “I have come down to deliver you out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring you up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites” (Ex. 3:8). He even acted as a tour guide: “The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.” (Ex. 13:21).

What was the response of the Israelites who were on God’s tour bus? It wasn’t greater faith and obedience. It was greater disbelief and complaining. They became a bunch of spoiled toddlers: “The people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled” (Num. 11:1).

When God leads his people in very obvious ways, it actually hinders our spiritual development. That’s why, most of the time, God guides us from behind, gently nudging and prompting us like a shepherd guides his sheep.

Later this week we’ll explore why and how he does it.