Personal revelation is a tricky thing. Too much of it and our agency may be infringed upon. Too little of it and we’re literally on our own, rudderless in a sense. Receiving direction from the heavens when needed in quite a blessing–a miracle in any sense of the word. The problem is, I’m not expert, even after decades of trying to become one. I’m not sure I’m better at recognizing promptings and direction now compared to a year ago or even a decade ago. Maybe I am. I really just don’t know.
Sometimes when we’re sharing an experience with someone (in a class or a personal conversation or a post) we say something like, “The spirit told me to…” or “I felt prompted to…” and we go on with the story. I’ve done that, I’m sure of it. And there are worse things in the world. The funny thing is this: I rarely know the Lord is prompting me when He is. On a few occasions I’ve felt sure the Holy Ghost was whispering to me, but those occasions are actually pretty rare.
More often, I think that maybe there is a chance I’ve been prompted. Not totally sure, but maybe.
I’m just not always sure. So I will have this thought or feeling or nudge (probably my favorite description of a prompting from God) and I’ll wonder about it a little. But it is a nudge toward something good or helpful or charitable, so I’ll move forward not knowing for sure if God’s hand is in this moment or not. Often, good things will come of it. Periodically, amazing or miraculous things will come of it. And as I look back over the situation and story it will become obvious that I had received a prompting or guidance and that the Lord was working in our lives. But I typically don’t know for sure until after the whole story is over.
Interestingly, we find this idea in the Book of Mormon, in the report of Nephi:
12 For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;
13 And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.
14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.
15 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence. (1 Nephi 17:12-15)
The Lord seems to be saying to Nephi, “You’ll be led, but you won’t really know it for sure until after you’ve arrived in the promised land and avoided the destruction in Jerusalem.” They would hopefully trust the Lord and sense that there was a divine hand in their lives, but they wouldn’t know for sure until after they had arrived in the promised land (v. 14). Nephi determined to strive to keep the commandments so that he could eventually received that assurance (v. 15).
We can trust the Lord. We can act on promptings. We may not be totally sure that we’re being prompted, but as we act in faith, the assurances will come as we look back.
Sometimes our lives are like neo-impressionistic art. The dots of color that make up the moments and events of our days can appear unconnected and chaotic at times. We can’t see any order to them. We can’t imagine that they have a purpose at all.
However, when we step back and take an eternal perspective, when we look at our lives in the frame of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can begin to see how the various dots in our lives interconnect. We may not be able to see the entire picture just yet, but we’ll see enough to trust that there is a beautiful, grand design. And as we strive to trust God and follow His Son, Jesus Christ, one day we will see the finished product, and we will know that the very hand of God was directing and guiding our steps.
We will know that the Master Artist had a plan for those random dots all along. We will see that He has amplified our talents, prepared opportunities, and introduced us to possibilities far more glorious than we ever could have imagined or accomplished on our own.
I have certainly seen this in my own life.
Maybe the “trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6) that has to come before you receive a witness is, at least sometimes, just not knowing for sure but moving forward anyway…