We all do it. We make goals, we set plans, we have a direction we want to go. It can be for our careers, competitive sports or our relationships. Or maybe we have big dreams — wild dreams that God has laid on our hearts. Then something happens: things take a long time, or they get hard. And we’re faced with the question: Am I going the right way? Are you making the right choices? Are you moving in the right direction? Or have you somehow missed it? After all, how do you know if you’re on the right path?
What is that feeling?
For the past seven weeks, I’ve been navigating what it’s like to have a 2-year-old and a newborn. Even though I was “taking a break from work,” I was constantly pondering how I could get better at my job. I spent fragmented hours thinking about writing, marketing and influences. After week four, I realized something wasn’t working. I was mentally stuck and an ugly feeling started rising inside my head.
I’m sure you’ve felt it. It’s the feeling that makes you question your core: who you are, what you’re doing, and where you’re going.
That feeling has a name: doubt.
I loath doubt
Whatever the reason, in those first four weeks I began to doubt myself: if I was on the right path, if I was taking the right steps, if I even understood my correct purpose.
That’s why I loath doubt.
Doubt is a tricky little booger. Sometimes it’s loud and catches us off guard with its boldness and paralyzes us. Other times it’s sneaky and weasels into our thoughts one tiny whisper at a time.
Now there’s a big difference between asking questions to gain clarity on your journey and doubting. Clarity asks questions so you can move forward. Doubt always puts on the brakes. And if you’re used to seeking answers through prayer and reading the Bible, you know God never uses doubt to guide us. (James 1:5-8)
But how do you really know if you’re on the right path?
If realizing you’re just doubting yourself instantly fills you with relief and get you mentally unstuck, awesome. If not…it’s okay. You just need a little reassurance. It happens to me all the time. Personally, I’ve got a list of criteria that help me be sure.
1: Does it challenge scripture?
Pure and simple. Is the path (and end goal) I’m pursuing morally upright? Do any pieces of the puzzle go against scripture? If yes…I drop it.
2. Have I prayed about it?
If yes, and I don’t feel any red-flags pop up, cool. If not, I hit pause until I’ve spent some time praying. And if I’m uncertain, I pray more.
3. Does it make sense for my life right now?
This one can be tricky, because sometimes we cater our sense of logic to approve of what we want to pursue. Take the emotion out of it and try to be objective. It’s hard, but doable. And if you can’t, find a black-and-white-thinking friend to talk it through with. Just don’t overthink it.
4. Is it stressing out my husband?
Seriously. Ryan doesn’t stress — so if I’m making him anxious, I know I’m in the wrong.
Maybe it’s not a husband for you, maybe it’s a child. Or a sister, a friend, a parent… I believe God places people in our lives for a reason, and as long as they can take the Bible, prayer and you into consideration, don’t be afraid to listen to their opinion.
So there I was: I knew I was on the right path, but I wasn’t sure what the next step was.
Like I said, I was stuck. After all, I was dealing with a path I believe God has put me on. But I also needed the next step. So what’s a gal to do? You bet I prayed. And prayed. But here’s the funny thing about prayer: you need to be ready to listen back. Aaaaannnnd….that’s the part that took me four weeks.
And here’s the funny thing about your path – it’s not up to you to determine the steps. (Proverbs 16:9) What I mean by that is, we can set goals or have wild dreams. As long as they are God-honoring and we’re moving forward in faith, we’ve got a job to do. If you work with your hands, make what you’re good at making. If you teach or speak, say what you’re supposed to say. We do what we’re supposed to do. That is our job. And if we’re doing our jobs, then it’s up to God to fill in the rest.
After those four weeks of overthinking and doubting my path, I was able to turn off my perfectionist brain and rest. And while I was resting I realized God only wanted two things from me:
First, to be obedient. After all, he is in control. I’m not. So I needed to be obedient by surrendering control. Not just of this season of my life, but of everything. Work, goals, dreams, all of it.
Second, God wanted me to be present. Because when I’m living for those long-off goals, I’m living in a fantasy of what I think things will look like in the future. And I’m deciding what steps to take based off that fantasy.
After all, the future doesn’t exist yet, and when I’m not present I miss the opportunities in front of me. God exists outside of time, but we exist in the present. And when I’m not living in the present, I miss all of the ways He shows me that he loves me today. And I miss the steps He tells me to take — big or little.