“The simple fact that a door is open does not confirm that walking through it is the right thing. “

When I heard these words, they gave me pause. The pastor was preaching on the importance of being good stewards of our opportunities. He emphasized that our lives are rich with opportunities to share and honor Christ in our actions, words, and decisions; when we take these opportunities, we open ourselves up to His transforming love.

With a wide range of beliefs about how to discover one’s purpose in life and understand God’s will, it becomes particularly important for us to know where our confirmation and direction comes from. Often times, we allow convenience to become our key standard of discernment. “If this door is open, “ we think, “then that must mean that God wants me to walk through it.” The Lord plans and orchestrates every detail of our lives; even so, Scripture does not support this notion that the readily available option is always the best one. Often times, it is quite the opposite.

When I think about the ways in which God guides His followers, I’m reminded of the Israelites in the Old Testament. A friend of mine once told me that geographically speaking, the Israelites could have realistically traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land in a matter of months. This was much more shocking to me than it should have been. There are very few locations on earth that it actually takes 40 years to travel to; by “very few,” I mean none.  But that’s beside the point.

Here’s my point. If the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness was one that could have been traveled in less than a year, it’s safe to say that in their 40 years of travel, they at times felt like they were taking the roundabout path because… well… they were.  They would go one direction for days only to find that they needed to turn back and take another path. They were wandering.

This reality is quite telling of how God works in our lives today. Ultimately, everything God does in our lives is meant to grow us in holiness and draw us closer to Him. With this in mind, we must remember that holiness is a high calling and it doesn’t come without surrender and faith. Through Christ, we are counted holy before God. The fruit of this holiness however is not easily cultivated. Some times, it means going through challenges or even following paths that we think are right just to find that we need to turn back because they don’t align with the holiness to which God calls us.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” When I read this passage, my eyes immediately focus on the “he will make straight your paths,” and subtly avoid the “do not lean on your own understanding.” The Lord will make our paths straight, but He in doing so, He will require us to “lean not on [our] own understanding” and to “be not wise in [our] own eyes.” God’s direction in our lives redefines what it means to be led safely home. It teaches us that the easy path is not always the right path and that our strength and purpose can only be found by trusting Him.

All things considered, we need to approach each opportunity with discernment and wisdom. Yes, the Lord certainly leads us through our circumstances. There have been countless times in my life when I have seen His hand guiding me in a clear direction through surrounding circumstances. In those situations though, circumstance was not the only factor on my mind.  Scripture, prayer and mentorship were at the core of these decisions, and my circumstances simply supported the affirmations that I was receiving in these other areas.

With each opportunity that we have to honor Christ, we also have the opportunity to dishonor Him. Some times, honoring Him means taking the opportunity that’s right in front of you; other times it means walking away.

Make Christ known in each of your decisions. Be a discerning steward of each opportunity.