When I was in high school, I was known for two things: my love of Duke basketball and my love of Jesus, and it was probably in that order.
It would’ve been hard to not know that I was a Duke fan in high school. I literally had enough Duke shirts to wear a different one every day for a month. My friends knew not to call me during games. I had pictures taped up in my locker of myself with Duke players that were taken when I met them and the 8×10 team picture displayed in the front of my binder. The teachers I had that were basketball fans talked sports with me, and those who were UNC fans picked on me in a friendly way. When one of my Spanish classes did Secret Santa, my friend Matt told me he wished he had my name for it because all he’d have to do is get me something with “Duke” on it.
You could tell I was a Duke fan from looking at me, but you could tell I loved Jesus from talking to me. I took my relationship with God very seriously. So when I reached the point of applying to college, praying for God’s guidance was natural.
This was a crucial point for me and in my relationship with God. I didn’t get into my first choice school, Duke University, which was probably for the best. I told God to not let me be accepted if He didn’t want me there because we both knew I would go there anyway if I could. I ended up attending Western Carolina University, never visiting once prior to orientation. And while my heart still pines for Duke on some level and probably always will, I wouldn’t trade my four years at WCU for anything in the world. The people I’ve met, the things I’ve learned, the ways I’ve grown, and my fondness for the mountains are invaluable to me and never would’ve happened if I’d gone to Duke. The plot twist of me attending Western Carolina strengthened my trust in God and His guidance.
I think we speak so much about the guidance of God that it’s become almost cliché when the benefits of God’s guidance are actually underrated.
And I think that David would agree with at least the latter part of that. Let’s join him about halfway through Psalm 16 (although I encourage you to read the entirety of it) where he says, “I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever” (Psalm 16:7-11, NLT).
One could argue the when David writes “night” that he literally means night, but let’s look at it here as more of a symbol. Nighttime is dark. Without any sort of tool that sheds light or adjusts your vision, you can’t see in darkness. Not being able to see is one thing, but it’s not knowing what’s around us or what’s coming due to being unable to see that’s scary. So if we take the word “night” in this scripture to mean in the darkness when one can’t see ahead, it takes on a new meaning.
David is saying that God is guiding him at all times and that is why he praises God. It’s also why he trusts God, why his faith in God is so strong. David knows there’s nothing he’s going to face without God and nothing that can defeat him when God is with him.
Not that the faith we find here isn’t good at face value, but it reads a lot like faith that is tried. This is faith that has experience and knows, as if second nature, to trust God.
Experience is a great supplement to faith, and by that I mean that my faith has grown and been reinforced through my experiences. Experience is not a substitute for faith, though. While it may enhance your faith, it cannot replace your faith because experience has already happened with certainty whereas faith looks to an uncertain future.
If we pray for God’s guidance, whether it’s new to us or not, God will guide us. It might not be to the paths that we want to take and it may be to a road that we can’t see very far along. That’s where faith comes in, and although faith must be worked out like a muscle, it must have a foundation to start with. So whether you’re a new believer or a longtime friend of God’s, He wants to guide you and help you reach what’s best for you. If you do it enough, it’ll become second nature to you as it was for David.
Has my life turned out as my 18-year-old self would’ve wanted? No, it hasn’t. But it has turned out better than I could’ve hoped, and that is only because I asked God for His guidance and had enough faith to take Him up on what He presented to me. The very same can happen for you. I won’t tell you that it’ll be easy or that it’ll always be fun, but I can tell you that it’s worth it and it strengthens your relationship with God immensely.
As uncertain as the future may be, we know that if God is guiding us, we can also be unshaken and rejoice. We can face what we don’t know with peace because we do know that God is with us and won’t leave us. And when we stand in the light on the mountain, we can look back in the dark of the valley and celebrate the grace and goodness of God.
By Carrie Prevette