What's Stopping You? - Obstacles to Following God's Call
I recently had the amazing opportunity to speak at my parents’ church. It was a very good, stretching, terrifying experience (longest I’ve ever spoken in public, and public speaking is not a preferred activity of mine). But I did it, and my husband videotaped it for you! You can watch the whole thing, or you can read it down below (basically, with some changes...I didn’t transcribe exactly what came out of my mouth, and I didn’t keep in the inside jokes at the beginning). It’s a bit of a long post, but I decided it would make more sense to keep it all together. So, without further ado...
What’s Stopping You?
Sometimes it’s hard for us to see the purpose in certain events, or to see our purpose in the world, but God can see His whole master plan and is working all of it and all of us together.
Purpose is a big deal for us. Starting as young children with “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to high school students being grilled about what they’re going to take in school to adults asking each other, “So, what do you do?” We even ponder our purpose ourselves, wondering, “What am I doing with my life...?” I know I have asked myself that question once or twice.
We’re so focussed on purpose, that we can often feel we aren’t living up to our purpose or our “calling”, and sometimes even go so far as to say we haven’t found our calling. I’m about to make it real easy for you and tell you exactly what your calling is. (Whoa, weren’t expecting that from this post, were you?)
I am currently reading a book called The Call by Os Guinness, which you can probably guess is all about calling and purpose. In the first few chapters, he talks about what “calling” is and how we often view it as some mysterious force pulling us to our true passion and purpose. Where it comes from isn’t important – it’s all about the call.
Now, that doesn’t really make sense. I mean, think about the word “call”. When our phones ring, even when there is annoyingly no one on the other end, we don’t think, “Oh, my phone decided to start ringing again!” No, someone had to dial the phone – someone had to call!
If there’s a call, there has to be a caller!
That’s important to know, because once we know the Caller, we can know what we’re being called to.
So, in case you’re still not quite putting it together yet, the Caller I’m talking about here is God. So what is God calling us to?
As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 NLT
Our primary calling is to know and believe in the One that called us, and to live our lives following Him.
Salvation and holiness.
There you go. You can stop reading now, because you know exactly what your calling is and what you’re doing with your life.
If you were looking for something more specific, that is between you and God, and I can’t help you. But, I can tell you the specifics don’t actually matter all that much as long as you’re following that primary call.
One sort of big thing that I have felt called to do is create this blog! Sharing Jesus with people is crazy important. I think I’m pretty gifted at writing, and I feel that God has given me that gift to bring glory to Him. But just because I’m pretty good at writing doesn’t mean I’ve had any schooling or training in that field. And blogging is much more than just writing. I’m not the most qualified or experienced person to be running a blog. There are others who are better writers, better at website design, better at marketing, etc, etc. There are loads of things that could keep me from following my call to blog. But I do it anyways, because God has called me to.
My blog is kind of a big, overarching life calling, but there are smaller, situational callings that have occurred in my life as well. One day in church, a family was going through a difficult time. I was praying for them during our worship service and got a picture of Jesus standing with them and supporting them. I didn’t know this family at all, so when God asked me to share that with them, we had a very long discussion (which you can read more about here). I thought there had to be someone better to share this message and was afraid to come out of my comfort zone. But God had asked me to do it, so I did it.
Following God’s call is, I think, actually rarely related to what we would deem our “calling”. Following God most frequently occurs in the day-to-day and the little moments.
As I’m sure you gathered from my stories, there are a lot of things that can stop us from following our calling.
The Chronicles of Narnia
Ever heard of C. S. Lewis or The Chronicles of Narnia? Just in case you haven’t, C. S. Lewis is a British author from the mid-1900s who is very well known for his theological writings.
The Chronicles of Narnia is a children’s series he wrote with biblical themes and analogies. In one of the books, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we meet the four Pevensie children. They find their way into the magical world of Narnia, that is under the terrible rule of the White Witch (who represents Satan). But there is a great lion, Aslan (representing Jesus), who is going to help them conquer evil and save Narnia.
Back to the Pevensies. As siblings tend to be, they are very different from each other, and they respond to Aslan’s call in different ways. They each struggle with different things that could keep them from coming to Aslan or following him.
These four siblings represent four things that can keep us from following God’s call. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I think it includes four very common issues that we struggle with in our faith.
Obstacle #1: Sin
Let’s start with Edmund, the second youngest. As I said earlier, Narnia was under the rule of the White Witch. But her hold could be broken by having four humans on the throne at the legendary castle. The Witch obviously didn’t want this to happen, so when she met Edmund alone, she persuaded him to join her side and betray his siblings. But when he does, it doesn’t go as expected.
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe it says:
“And oh, how miserable he was! It didn’t look now as if the Witch intended to make him a King. All the things he had said to make himself believe that she was good and kind and that her side was really the right side sounded to him silly now.”
- C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
We later find out that, beyond the obvious consequences of his traitorous actions, law states that because of his betrayal he also belongs to the White Witch to be put to death.
Edmund was trapped – not only physically by the Witch, but also trapped by his own sin. Edmund regretted his actions, and wanted to return, but he saw no way out.
Often sin tries to hold us back and trap us so we can’t follow God. We can be trapped in a pattern of sinful actions or be trapped in the shame and guilt of previous actions. But either way we are trapped.
The only way out for Edmund was for Aslan to die in his place. And the only way out for us is through Jesus’ death.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20 NLT
Our old self and our old sins are over and done with and can’t keep us from following God if we live in that salvation.
Obstacle #2: Feeling Unqualified
Now, Peter was the eldest sibling. He was a very good older brother, always trying to watch over his younger siblings.
So, Aslan is gathering an army to defeat the White Witch and her army. While at the camp, a wolf comes and attacks one of Peter’s sisters. Instead of sending one of many seasoned warriors, Aslan commands Peter to go save her.
“Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do. He rushed straight up to the monster and aimed a slash of his sword at its side.”
– C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Peter ends up winning – not because he’s a skilled swordsman, but almost more by accident.
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. – Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV
There were many others around Peter who would’ve seemed more equipped for battle, but Peter had all he needed – a sword.
Oftentimes, we can feel there must be a better person for what God is calling us to do, but He has chosen us and will make sure we have what we need to do what he asks.
Obstacle #3: Age
Onto Lucy, the youngest of the four. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy was the first to discover Narnia, and while they others thought she was being childish, she always had a strong, unwavering faith in Aslan.
In another book called Prince Caspian, the Pevensies are brought back to Narnia to help put the rightful king on the throne. They are trying to find their way to their army’s camp, but are lost in the woods. Aslan appears to show the way, but is only visible to Lucy. The others don’t believe her and so refuse to follow. Later that night he appears to Lucy again alone, while the rest are sleeping.
"Lucy," [Aslan] said, "we must not lie here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today."
“I’m sorry,” said Lucy...“But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”
The Lion looked straight into her eyes.
“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I - I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that...oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you.”
– C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
After this, Lucy wakes up the others and persuades them to come with her, as she follows a lion only she can see. Being the youngest, Lucy is often looked down on and discounted. But she’s my favourite Pevensie – she’s courageous, and has unwavering faith and a beautifully intimate relationship with Aslan.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV
While age can certainly add to experience and wisdom, it isn’t the be-all-end-all. Being young is no excuse to keep you from following God’s call on your life. God doesn’t have a certain age as a minimum requirement. He just requires faith and obedience.
Obstacle #4: Fear
Lastly, Susan. Susan was always a bit fearful and cautious; a reluctant adventurer. In Prince Caspian, she was the most vocally against following Lucy’s invisible lion.
When Aslan finally makes himself visible to her, she apologizes to Lucy saying:
“But I've been far worse than you know. I really believed it was him - he, I mean - yesterday. When he warned us not to go down to the fir wood. And I really believed it was him tonight, when you woke us up. I mean, deep down inside. Or I could have, if I'd let myself. But I just wanted to get out of the woods and – and - oh, I don't know. And what ever am I to say to him?”
- C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
A little while later, Aslan speaks to Susan:
“Susan...You have listened to fears, child,” said Aslan. “Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”
“A little, Aslan,” said Susan.
- C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
Susan, liking her safety and comfort and the known, let her fear stop her from following Aslan.
It can be a little scary to follow God into dangerous or even just uncomfortable situations.
The week leading up to speaking at my parents’ church was a hard one. The previous week at my church, God had been speaking some amazing things over my husband and I. During that week in between, I was struggling hard with anxiety and fear. I wasn’t entirely sure where it was coming from and was a big ball of anxiety, until I finally took a moment to be with God and realized that my anxiety was an attack of the enemy. I spent time praying and reading my Bible (which you can read more about here) and God helped me to overcome my fear.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10 NIV
Susan and me and you don’t need to let fear take hold and stop us from following the call. There are so many things – change, failure, embarrassment, the unknown, whatever – that we can be afraid of, but they’re all nothing when God is with us.
Follow the Call
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. – Ephesians 4:1 NIV
Remember whatever specific things we are called to in our lives, we are primarily called to salvation and to follow God with our whole life. There are many obstacles that we put in our own way or the enemy tries to stop us with – sin, feeling unqualified, age, fear.
But none of those things matter to God.
He calls us and will help us follow Him. He breathes on our face and does away with anything that would keep us from Him. We just have to answer the call.
What obstacles can you see in your own life? Either that God has helped you overcome or that still need to be torn down?