What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
Panic? Especially when the pressure is on because a decision needs to be made either quickly or well because the stakes are high. Go with your gut? Think it through? Seek help? Embrace the uncertainty and mystery, shrug your shoulders and move on with life? Probably depends on the situation and circumstances, but more specific to what I’m thinking about: who or what do you go to and how (and maybe even why)?
It is a daily reality in my life. I find myself in situations where I don’t know what to do, say or even think for that matter. The gift in these situations, as opposed to when we do know what to do, is we face our limitations. Or, better put, our limitations are in our face. For some of us this isn’t very comfortable. But if we pay attention to how we handle situations like this, it can tell us something about ourselves (our personality, decision-making patterns, our basic worldview and more). And more specifically to the focus of this blog post, it can show us what we depend on when we are in a place of dependence.
What I’m suggesting here is pay attention when you don’t know what to do or say. What do you feel? What do you think? What do you do? How do you handle it?
Why bother with this? One of the things that comes up consistently in the New Testament, put very, very succinctly is that the Spirit replaces Torah. Torah was the Jewish legal code and then some. It laid out God’s special covenant with the Israelites and includes the ten commandments and other specifics about behavior along with the key stories of the first five books of the Bible. For adherents to Torah, it was among other things, a place to go to get guidance on what to do. Over time, where “the law” was not specific enough, rabbis would interpret and flush out more detail to help those who wanted to keep covenant with God know what to do when they didn’t know what to do.
In the midst of Paul talking about a new reality, a new covenant, in Jesus Christ and addressing some very specific issues pertaining to a specific community in his day, he makes statements like: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25). Jesus, again addressing a specific circumstance instructs and assures his disciples before sending them out: “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20). Or Paul again, in the midst of living in the tension of challenges and suffering, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26).
Anytime being guided by the Spirit, hearing God’s voice, discernment, etc. comes up it raises many questions and complexities. But, let’s put the focus on a simple practical, even daily opportunity. What do you do when we don’t know what to do? As I mentioned, this is easier when you don’t know what to do or say or even think, because it makes it just abit easier to see what we depend on to guide us in our life.
In these passages above and many more and in the testimony of so many throughout human/church history there are descriptions of a reality in which: God is near, he is talking, and it is possible to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ him. Whom or what do you go to when you don’t know what to do or say? How do you do it? And what does it look like for you, in these situations to be aware of and guided by the Spirit? Daily…