She asked me for advice.
The three of us were sitting together in a coffee shop, my wife, myself and Angela (not her real name). Yet again, for it has happened to me so often over the years as a pastor, I was asked for advise. But who am I to give advice? Only God knows all things, I certainly do not. Though I am willing to live out the consequences of my own mistakes I would rather that others did not have to. So I react with great caution at times like this, and did so on that occasion. I listened carefully, and in addition to her words I could hear the anguish as she agonised over the choices before her.
The seriousness of some decisions is that after we decide, we cannot turn back and retrace our steps, we can choose only one course of action and then be stuck with it. These are the choices we agonise over. An illustration I have thought of is of a car journey where we look at the map and see a traffic island is coming up with a number of exits off it. A decision must be made, I can not take each exit, I can only take one. I must choose one course and say, “No” to all of the others.
What could I say to Angela? I explained the choice must be hers alone as she looked to her Father God for advice and guidance. But I knew she wanted more than that from me or she would not have asked to meet in this way. Angela already knew what the Bible teaches concerning the foundational truths about God’s guidance as outlined in the excellent Alpha Course. But Angela needed more than that. Angela needed help and she was asking me!
As she spoke, each option seems to have repercussions, consequences, troubles. Each option, every one of them. I concerned heath and medical choices concerning treatments.
This is what Jesus brought into my mind. I remembered some advice given to me many years ago by a senior pastor when I was just starting out in Christian service. I had a decision to make and each of the choices before me seemed to lead to disaster. He has spoke of the book, Pilgrim’s Progress. I clearly remember what I heard and how it helped me. I told Angela of the day and the advice give. This is what I told Angela.
I asked her if she had read Pilgrim’s Progress, and she had (all Christians should have). I reminded her of an incident when the traveller walking in the Kings way is brought to a stop because there are the lions on the road. In the story, Pilgrim thought he could go no further. If he took another step the fierce lions, ready to leap to the attack, would devour him. He was brought, after much turmoil, to the conclusion that he must believe God and go ahead even if it meant his end. Pilgrim took the nervous step forward and the lions leaped. They were suddenly pulled short and were unable to reach him. What he had not seen was that the lions were chained, and though he could feel their breath on his cheeks, they could not reach or harm him.
The advice I received all those years ago was that I should trust what Jesus showed me, I should do it, and disregard the lions in the way. I should remember the scripture, (Deuteronomy 33:27) “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
I told the same thing to Angela. I told her that she should trust what Jesus showed her, she should do it, and disregard the lions in the way. I explained that as she recounted her situation to me it seemed to me that all her possible paths had lions in wait. But perhaps on the one path where Jesus would lead her, the lions were already chained. She must find God’s will and go along that path trusting, that though the breath of the lions may be felt upon her cheeks, they will not reach her but have already chained.
There was one final thing I needed to say to Angela of course. There is the possibility that the lions will not be chained. Christians suffer awful things too. For believers though we know that at the end all will be well. At the end we will bow the knee and confess, “Jesus is Lord.” We will be in that place where all tears will be wiped from our eyes and sorrow and crying will be no more.
If you are facing difficult choices at the moment I suggest you keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus and not upon the lions.