I’m trying to figure out whether or not we should go to Moab this year. And right now, it’s not really clear.
For the past seven years a group of guys have made a sort of pilgrimage to the deserts of Moab, Utah. We go in late April or early May, about the time we cannot bear the cold of Colorado for one more weekend. It’s warm in Moab by then — usually in the eighties — and we spend four or five days rock climbing, mountain biking, and goofing around. A classic guys’ trip. Camping. No showers. Playing Frisbee. Swimming naked. Great campfire stories. It’s a trip that has become an icon of our fellowship as men. A highlight of our year for sure.
But this year’s trip isn’t looking good. Several of the guys who usually come can’t make it. There’s only one weekend available in the calendar, and it’s earlier than we like to go. We are, all of us, really, really busy. It looks like Moab is just going to be tanked. By default.
I’m praying about it, trying to get some guidance. My first question is, Do we fight for the trip, Lord — or just let it go this year? It would be so easy to let it go. It makes sense to let it go. As I said, life is really busy right now for all of us. And when life feels busy, isn’t our knee-jerk response to say no to stuff like this? I can’t take a few days off right now. I have too much to do. Even though we love the Moab trip. Even though it’s precious to us. Even though it’s the very thing we need to rescue us from the busyness. Remember —
we need joy. Lots and lots of joy.
Pause. Isn’t this our first reaction when life seems overwhelming — we start lightening the load, dumping cargo overboard so we don’t drown? The problem is, we can dump the wrong things overboard! We think nothing of tossing over joy while hanging on to the very things that overwhelm us.
So I’m seeking God on this. Only the clarity isn’t coming right away.
When we are seeking God for clarity and it’s not coming, what we need to do first is pay attention to our own posture. What are we feeling? What are our desires? It’s a given that where we are will affect our ability to hear God or color what we do hear. I’m torn about this year’s trip. On the one hand, I really want to go. I love Moab, love the first warmth of summer, the first real green, the beauty of the desert, the adventures, the time with men. We have never regretted going, not even two years ago when it rained. On the other hand, it’s a hassle. I’m busy. I have this book to finish. Nobody else seems to be fighting for it. It would be far easier to let it go.
How many precious things do we let go, give up, surrender because it seems that life is too busy, it’s a hassle to fight through to make it happen, or we assume we know what’s best or inevitable, and we don’t even stop to ask God?
We need to stop and ask — especially when it seems like giving up some joy is inevitable. God might not agree.
You see, the pace of life in this world creates a momentum to our lives. Like cars on a freeway. And the truth is, quite often God’s desire for us will run against that prevailing current. Get off at the next exit. His guidance sometimes (often?) seems counter-intuitive. It would be easier to let Moab go this year. Race on by. Everybody’s busy. And it won’t be the same without the whole group of guys who have made the trip what it was in the past. On the other hand, Sam and Jesse may be headed off to college in the fall, and it’s not likely they’ll be able to make it for next year’s trip. This could be the end of an era. The last of its kind. And how will we really feel about letting it go when it’s late April and there’s two feet of snow outside and we’re going stir-crazy?
Even now, I’m trying to see into the future to figure out what’s best. I’m filling in the blanks. We all do that. We try to figure it out. It’s not the same thing as walking with God. We simply don’t see all that God sees. God says,
My thoughts are not your thoughts. — Isaiah 55:8
He knows what’s ahead. He knows what we need. So ask Him. I am asking, but the reception isn’t super clear right now. I don’t have a signal. So what I’ve done is write out the questions on a pad of paper, one at a time:
Do we fight for Moab this year? Or let it go?
This way I can sit with the question before God, praying, listening specifically on one issue at a time without all the other evidence pro and con clouding my thoughts. One question at a time, without weighing all the facts back and forth in my mind. I am not trying to figure it out. I’m trying to hear from God. There is a difference. “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” remember?
Sometimes I’ll let the pad of paper sit on my desk for a week and pray over it from time to time before I’m confident that I’ve heard from God. But today, after a few moments, I hear Him saying, Fight for it. (Actually, that’s what I heard Him say a few days ago while praying about it as I drove to work. But it seemed so counterintuitive, I didn’t trust it. Or maybe at the time it just seemed like a hassle and I didn’t want to hear it.) Fight for it? Really? Really. Okay. Fight for it.
Notice your reaction as you begin to close in on what you believe God is saying. If it produces joy, you’re onto something. If it produces sorrow (or fear or discouragement), stop and ask why. Don’t leave your heart behind in this process. I notice my reaction is good, and hope for the trip begins to rise in my heart. (I’d written it off.) I realize that though it would be easier to let it go, my true desire is to make the trip happen. I don’t know that I would have gotten back to my true desire had I not prayed about this. It was buried under all sorts of stuff.
I have my first piece of guidance. We are supposed to fight for this joy. (And you will have to fight for joy, friends. Remember that.) But the puzzle isn’t solved yet. The conversation doesn’t end here. When we go is a big issue as well. I have to ask about that too, or I could charge ahead and be just as mistaken as not having asked about going on the trip at all. Don’t just stop with the first question. Ask the next question.
Late April is a gamble with the weather. It has been chilly a few times when we’ve gone in April, but it has always been warm when we’ve gone in May. We want warm. May makes sense. But I don’t see how we could possibly pull it off in May. (There I go again, trying to figure it out.) So I write on the page:
April? May? I hear, April 21–24, which is the weekend we do have open for this. Okay. We’re going to Moab, and we’re going in April. Something in me feels a little “out there” with where this is landing. I realize I’m going to need to trust God on this. Smile. Isn’t that the point — that we trust God enough to follow Him? That we live by faith?
The Christian life is not the common-sense life.
Oswald Chambers said that the only explanation for a Christian’s life has to be the existence of God. Otherwise, it makes no sense. I’m really comforted by that. My life often feels like it makes no sense.
Now, I’m not encouraging a senseless approach to life. I’m not saying that you should follow every thought that passes through your head. There is wisdom, and there is revelation. They go together, hand in hand.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. — Ephesians 1:17
From the Spirit come both wisdom and revelation. We need them both to walk with God, need them in generous doses to navigate the dangerous waters of this world. If you’re the sort of person who tends to lean toward revelation (just asking God for direct guidance), then you need to balance your approach with wisdom. If you lean toward a wisdom approach to life, you must deliberately and consciously include revelation. Ask God.
And if you operate for the most part with neither, you are in real trouble.
Knowing that, we need to admit that risk is always involved when we encourage others to walk with God. People have done a lot of really stupid things in the name of following Jesus. For that reason there are folks in the church who don’t want to encourage this sort of risk, this “walking with God.” Over the centuries they have tried to eliminate the messiness of personal relationship with Jesus by instituting rules, programs, formulas, methods, and procedures. Those things may have eliminated some of the goofy things that happen when people are encouraged to follow God for themselves. But they also eliminated the very intimacy God calls us to.
What’s Jesus’ take on the issue?
When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. — Luke 12:11–12
It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to Me. — John 6:45
The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. — John 10:2–4
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. — John 14:26
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me. — Revelation 3:20
Don’t surrender this treasure of intimacy with God because it can get messy. Walk with God — wisdom and revelation — all the while seeking the holiness we know He is after.
The next thing on my pad is Who? Who goes is an issue. I think I want to go back to the guys who said, “It just doesn’t work for me this year,” and ask them to pray about it. Make sure they’ve asked God about it.
I’m going to fight for joy.
For more on this topic watch Video 17 at RansomedHeart.com/WalkingwithGod.
Excerpted with permission from Walking with God by John Eldredge, copyright John Eldredge.
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Are you fighting for joy in your life and in your walk with God? John’s right that too often life is so busy and sometimes chaotic that joy goes right out the window. What if Jesus has something far more fantastic in mind than what we’re willing to settle for? Come join the conversation on our blog!