Suppose we work hard at discovering God’s will, using all the resources at our disposal: we pray diligently, we meditate seriously, we consult unbiased believers, we admit what we want and surrender it to God, we allow sufficient time. We work hard and eventually, we make a decision that God is calling is to write a blog or teach a kindergarten Sunday School class or become a trustee or pastor a church. We have put our best effort into the process and made the best decision that we can.
Unfortunately, once we get involved, we discover that it was the wrong decision. What do we do then? Are we stuck in the wrong place? Are we going to be punished for doing the wrong thing? Can we get out of it and still be doing what God wants?
Given that church leaders often pressure people into filling church positions that they are not called to, this may well be a issue for more people than it first appears. As I have thought about this over the years, I have developed some ideas on what we can do in such situations where we have sincerely sought the leading of God but have somehow got it wrong.
First, I think we need to remember that this isn’t the end of the world. Since all of us are human and thus imperfect, we are all going to have this situation occur in our spiritual journey at some point–or, more likely, at many points in our life.
We can then look carefully at where we are and where we are supposed to be. It may be a relatively simple process–we confess that we are in the wrong place and leave it to go where we are supposed to be. A long time ago, I responded to a call to be a Sunday School teacher because it seemed like the right thing at the time. Shortly after that, I was called to another volunteer position which was clearly where God was leading me. While it was a bit hard on the pride to resign as a Sunday School teacher, it was the right thing to do.
Some things may be more complicated and harder to get out of. The Sunday School I was leaving was blessed with more teachers than they really needed and I could be replaced immediately. Had they been struggling to find teachers, I may have had to stay there a while until a replacement was found.
If, as a pastor, I accept a call to a church and discover after a short period of time that I have misread the call, the problem gets more complicated. It is both demoralizing and expensive for a church when a pastor moves in and resigns almost immediately. It demoralizes them because they feel rejected. It is expensive because they have paid a lot of money to move the pastor and will have to turn around and spend more for another pastor.
In that cases and others where the misunderstanding of God’s call puts us in places where leaving immediately will cause hardship to others, we should think carefully about what to do. It may be that we will have to accept the mistake and continue on. This isn’t as bad as it might sound. We serve a truly wonderful God who is able to do all things, including make use of us in a place where he might not have wanted us in the first place but since we are there, he will use us.
God has a primary will for all–but since the entry of human sin, he has been working on other levels of will as he seeks to repair the damage of human sin. This is the promise we find in Romans 8.28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (NIV)
If I sincerely seek God’s will and make the best decision I can at the time but it ends up being the wrong one, God is not stopped nor angry. In his love, he will either show me a way back to the primary will or he will begin to use me where I am. It may not be his first choice for me or the situation, but such is his love and power that he and will take my mistakes and weave them into his plan to being about the fullness of his kingdom.
May the peace of God be with you.