In 1988, I faced the tough decision of where to attend college. Part of me wanted to stay home. I loved North Carolina and had been accepted by several colleges there. I also treasured being with my family and friends. I was so grateful for the sacrifices my family had made for me to be a world champion water skier someday. They had even built me my own private lake, for goodness sakes, so I could train in protected conditions. How could I leave?
But then, there was Florida—a place where I’d be able to train year-round with top athletes on a daily basis. I’d been offered a full scholarship at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Maybe a change of scenery would do me good.
For months, I struggled with that decision—stay home or move south? It’s all I could think about. I was so afraid that making one decision over the other would negatively impact the course of my life. I just wanted to make the right decision for my future.
This was the first time in my life that I realized I needed God’s wisdom. Until then, I had simply followed the decisions and direction of my parents. But they were leaving the decision of where I would attend college up to me.
One day as I was out for a drive, I decided it was time to stop worrying and simply ask God to help me (Philippians 4:6–7). So I began to pray, “God, I need to know where I should go to college. I want Your wisdom, and I need Your help.” It was a simple prayer, but one backed by faith. I knew that only God knew my future and what would be best for my life.
Now, I don’t know if you’ll believe that what happened next was truly a sign from God or not, but within seconds of those words coming out of my mouth, right there on that country road in North Carolina, a car with a Florida license plate sped past me and pulled right in front of my car.
A sign from above? Maybe not for some, but for me, that small green, orange, and white license plate settled the issue. I immediately felt peace in my spirit and soon sent in my acceptance letter to the University of Central Florida.
I have to smile as I think back to this time. I was 18 when I asked for that help. I had little knowledge of the Word, and my faith was small. Yet God gave me a bold, in-my-face license plate, just like He gave Moses a burning bush in the wilderness. He got my attention; His direction couldn’t be missed. It was amazing—but experiences like that have been rare.
God hasn’t sent a lot of literal signs like that license plate my way. More often than not, when I ask for direction, I hear very little, if anything at all. That still, small voice the Bible refers to in 1 Kings 19:12 is just that—still and small. It’s hard to hear that gentle whisper over the noise of the world and the noise of my emotions.
Yet at every stage of my life, when I have quieted my spirit and asked God to direct my footsteps, He has been faithful to show me the way to go. He’s met me at every stage of my faith walk and given me exactly what I needed to move forward.
The primary way God leads me in my decisions is through His Word, the Bible. As I’ve searched the Scriptures, I have found direction for every issue of life. His Word has taught me how to interact with people, how to think, how to give, and how to act and react. It has shown me how to be a good steward of my finances and of other things, like my children and the ministries He has entrusted to me.
When I face decisions not specifically addressed in the Bible, God uses His Spirit to confirm the direction I should go through circumstances and people. He has also placed incredible desires in my heart, desires that rise from deep within my spirit and nudge me in one direction or another. Every time I have acknowledged my need for His wisdom and desired His will above my own, He has directed my footsteps (Proverbs 3:6).
Yet, even after decades of seeking God and knowing His solid track record of faithfulness, I still often struggle with making decisions. I’m still afraid that my decision will somehow screw up God’s plan for my life. More than once, paralyzed with fear, I’ve cried, “Help me, Lord. I don’t want to mess up!” And then, the Holy Spirit led me to James 1:5–8:
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
I suddenly realized that, while I wanted God’s wisdom and His will for my life, I wasn’t trusting Him to lead me. I wasn’t trusting Him to give me wisdom to make the right decision. As a result, I was living in a world of doubt and instability.
Unstable is a perfect description of how I felt emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Doubt has a tendency to keep me sidelined or cause me to run around in circles when I should be moving forward in confidence that God is not going to let me go astray.
I’ve been learning to lay aside my doubt and trust that as I seek God, He will be at work behind the scenes, directing my footsteps and orchestrating my life according to His will. God knows the hearts of those who follow Him. He knows whether we desire to follow His will or our own.
As long as our hearts desire Him, God will gently move us forward. If we need correction, He’ll gently bring that too. He did it for me as a girl, praying over my future, and He faithfully leads me as a wife, mother, and ministry leader today. I know that He will do it for you, too!