What Can We Expect from God Now? (Essay 2 of 7)

Truth 2: Expect God to be at work in your life, leading and guiding you….

Contemplating, after walking 500 miles on the Camino (Finisterre, Spain)

[For this essay in Burmese or Mizo Chin dialect, please contact me at tim.geoffrion@fhlglobal.org or see my Facebook page later this week.]

It was early March. The COVID-19 crisis was mounting globally. No confirmed cases were yet reported in Myanmar, but the novel coronavirus was spreading throughout the world and heading toward my home state in Minnesota. I was in Yangon, preparing for a month of ministry to approximately 200 pastors in three weeklong workshops, in Mandalay, Kanpetlet (Southern Chin State), and Sittwe (Rakhine State), respectively. What should I do? Should I play it safe and get out of the country immediately? What was the most loving thing to do, as a husband and father? What was the most responsible thing to do as a minister and teacher? Should I press on to conduct these workshops for the sake of these pastors, who had been counting on this training for themselves and the benefit of the churches they serve—or get home, ASAP?

In retrospect, the answers seem clearer. But at the time, as is often the case in the midst of impending crisis and uncertainty, the “right” choices were not so obvious. In this situation, for me, the values of caring for my family, protecting my own health, and fulfilling my ministry commitments and responsibilities were in raging conflict within me.

For so many of us, we pray for guidance in such circumstances, but the answers don’t always come readily. Our inner turmoil makes us feel anxious or confused. If the crisis is big enough, instead of making a Spirit-led decision, a fight-flight-(or) freeze response might kick in. That is, we may boldly ignore the danger and attack the problem head-on but may do so blindly or foolishly. Or, we may run away as fast as we can, only to discover later that we had panicked. The danger was not as great as we feared, and we missed the opportunity to serve those who were counting on us. Or, we may become so anxious that we freeze, unable to make any decision; but by our indecision we fail to make a measured, wise, timely response. Any one of these fight-flight-or freeze instincts may be quite natural to us and common, and sometimes even helpful in times of danger; but Spirit-led decision-making relies on more than impulses, intuition, or personal intelligence.

Spiritual Truth 2: Expect God to be at work in your life, leading and guiding you; and act accordingly. (Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:5-6)

What trust in God looks like

As my wife, staff members, ministry partners and I agonized over these questions, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I needed to trust God to guide us in our decision-making. Instead of having to bearing all the weight of these unanswered questions on my shoulders, I felt relieved remembering that I was not alone in this anxious time of uncertainty. God was there to help. I needed to believe it, and act like it. Solomon put it this way nearly 3000 years ago:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own

understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

If we rely (exclusively) on our own wisdom and understanding in times of crisis or difficult decision-making, we may easily misread the situation or jump to the wrong conclusions. The biblical path of discernment, in contrast, leans heavily on God as leader and guide. First, we are told to “acknowledge” the Lord God in all our ways—that is, we have to slow down, humble ourselves, and surrender our will to God’s. Then, we must “trust in the Lord with all our hearts,” meaning, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide as we proceed with gathering information and weighing our options. Clearly, this kind of trust is not passive. It’s involves actively reaching out to God for wisdom to see things clearly and to better perceive what cannot be seen with our eyes or minds alone. It is only through this kind of God-centered discernment process that we can hope to make the best decisions. James talks about the process this way:

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.

But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6 NRSV

It’s not our circumstances that make us unstable, it’s our lack of faith. In times of crisis, Spirit-led decision-makers do not abandon reliance on God, who is often more silent than they might like. Rather, they both take responsibility to assess the situation, seek help in discerning the best course of action, and then make thoughtful (not impulsive) decisions when they need to and simultaneously trust that God is very much present and active to lead and guide them, often behind the scenes, so-to-speak.

This both-and approach requires creating enough space to quiet ourselves and take time to listen for the Spirit’s voice through Scripture and prayer. We will reach out to reliable spiritual guides, pastors, mentors, co-workers, and friends for input. We will not try to push our way forward, regardless of warning signs. Neither will we run away out of fear, unless we must protect ourselves from imminent danger. We also will not get stuck, frozen, unwilling to think things through and make a rational decision in a timely manner. We will fix our eyes on Jesus, considering his example of faith and sacrificial service in setting our priorities. We will trust God with our whole heart, and then take action when as the way forward becomes clearer.

A Spirit-Led Leadership workshop was held for 56 pastors in Mandalay (March 10-13, 2020). Tim is dressed in traditional Burmese garb, appropriate for teachers and leaders in the culture.

My experience

March in Myanmar reassured me again that God does indeed lead and guide amid upsetting and confusing circumstances. I had to stay fully engaged in the decision-making process, and I had to manage my fight-flight-freeze types of impulses so that they didn’t take over. Yet, the more I kept putting the workshops and decisions into God’s hands, and the more I was willing to listen for the quiet voice of the Spirit and listen to the voices of others around me, the more I was able to hear what I needed to hear and to see what I needed to see. Over time, answers emerged.

The final itinerary was different from any of the scenarios I was first considering, but the result was 12 Spirit-blessed days in Myanmar and a timely return to my family afterward. Graduation week at MIT was full of meaningful connections and ministry. Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries staff member, Saw Newton, and I conducted the Spirit-Led Leadership workshop in Mandalay, as planned. Then, when circumstances suddenly changed again (civil war and unexpected crises), it was time to go home. I arrived back into the loving arms of my wife, Jill, three weeks early. I felt grateful for how God had worked through the ministry, peaceful about letting two workshops go for now, and equally assured that home was where I now needed to be.   

Spiritual Application

In the midst of needing to make difficult decisions, do not expect God to necessarily give you the answer you’re looking for right away. Instead, fully engage in the process of decision-making while trusting God to guide you along the way. Face the crisis or important decision at hand, surrender your will to God’s, release your attachments to your plans and original desires, ask for the ability to see whatever you need to see. Then, when it’s time to act, don’t be afraid to make a decision or to change plans, if need be.

No, you will not always make the “right” decision, but your judgment is much more likely to be Spirit-led with a both-and approach. And, no matter what, you will learn from the experience. As you engage in the hard work of making difficult decisions, earnestly seeking God in prayer, and trusting God with your whole heart, your faith will grow, too. You will become stronger and more capable of making good decisions in the future. Ultimately, through this kind of God-centered approach to discernment and decision-making, you will grow closer to God and will become more capable of serving as Spirit-led elders in your community when they need you the most.

This essay series, “What We Can Expect from God Now?” was created in response to the 2020 COVID-19 global crisis. It focuses on how believers can better trust God in troubled times. The essays expand on the practical suggestions offered in Chapter eight, “Trusting God,” in The Spirit-Led Leader: Nine Leadership Practices and Soul Principles (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 2005), pages 184-190.

Photo Credit:

  1. Photo of man siting by the water, two photos of men walking in the woods, ©JILL K H GEOFFRION, HTTP://WWW.JILLGEOFFRION.COM

Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.


Filed under Faith, What can we expect from God now?

10 responses to “What Can We Expect from God Now? (Essay 2 of 7)

  1. wayne greenawalt

    Tim, thank you for sharing your experiences and insight regarding God’s guidance during the present Covid 19 crisis. Individuals are not the only ones experiencing hardships and curtailment of activity.
    Ministries like Wayside Cross in Aurora are experience challenges as well and need faith and courage in the difficult decisions they must make in the days ahead.
    Because of the crisis Wayside has had to close two thrift stores which provide 25 percent of it ‘s income.
    Hundreds of volunteers who teach, mentor, counsel, resident men and women and minister to prison inmates cannot serve.
    Food donations from restaurants are no longer being provided
    Donors cannot keep their pledges because they are out of work.
    Your prayers for guidance are much appreciated.


    • Tim Geoffrion

      Wayne, thank you for your comment. The news about Wayside is heart-breaking. At a time when their services are need more than ever, it is distressing and sad to hear about the shut down of both services and the thrift store. I do not have any wisdom, except to continue to pray and ask God to show you a way that has not been available or visible before. My prayers are with you and the Mission today.

  2. Eh Thaw

    After reading and then had learnt that, the first thing is, i got the answer what i want to be clear in facing the currect situation!
    The second one is the articles that had based on and filled with the promises of God which refreshed and motivated me to be more submitted in relying God’s word.
    The third one is every situation i have to put my faith in God hand and need ,expect and seek God’s best way of guideance in any Decision making.

    • Tim Geoffrion

      It’s so important that we stay grounded in the teachings of Scripture. I’m praying for you as you seek to inspire and encourage the many minister directors throughout Myanmar in this time of crisis. May God give you the right words and empower your spirit by his Holy Spirit.

  3. Thank you for your inspiring message!

    • Tim Geoffrion

      You’re welcome! Thank you for reading and commenting. Please pass the essay on to anyone you think may benefit from it.

  4. Hser Nay Gay

    Thank you So much Dr. Tim for your meaningful and valuable message. May God continue to bless you, your family and your ministry always.

    • Tim Geoffrion

      Thank you, Hser Nay Gay, for your response and blessing. May God bless you and your family, as well. Blessings on your new role through KBC. I was sorry you and I did not get to meet before I had to leave the country. I look forward to seeing you when it is safe for me to travel to Myanmar once again. Stay safe and well!

  5. Ar Naing

    Dear Dr. Tim,

    I often asked these questions in this present days many times: “where is God in the midst of this bad situation?” How can we see God’s concern for his people? How can we define God in this situation? How can we hear the voice of God? Why did God allow this pandemic virus whether it is madmade or God-made; whether this happens according to God’s permission? Is this like the time of Noah in Genesis? What does God want human to do with?

    This is very important! Dr. Tim said, “Expect God to be at work in your life, leading and guiding you.”

    This essay teaches me to “seek help in discerning the best course of action, and then make thoughtful (not impulsive) decisions when they need to and simultaneously trust that God is very much present and active to lead and guide them, often behind the scenes, so-to-speak.”

    This essay answers me to decern: Not Sometimes but many times we decide things without taking a time with God. That is why we could not hear, see, learn, speak, do, act and perform according to God’s will. God’s will is to take time for descerning. God is speaking all the time to us. Then, I can see and hear God’s.

    Ar Naing

  6. Tim Geoffrion

    Thank you, Ar Naing, for your thoughtful response to my essay. I hear the same questions all the time, and even ask them myself! It seems to me we will always have questions about God that we can’t answer. So, we have to make a choice–get stuck in unanswerable questions or go forward in faith, based on the teaching on the Bible. My life has been so much more meaningful and fruitful when I choose to trust God, and, as you say, take time to listen to God to discern his leading. Thanks again for you comments!

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