How Does the Holy Spirit Show Me What to Do?

I have an amazing daughter. Six of them actually, counting daughters-in-law, but this story is about my oldest. Ashley is mom to seven boys! It’s shocking, right? She and her husband are also foster parents. Their house is bursting with children!

And it’s also bursting with messes. Though she juggles more than I can imagine, she isn’t perfect and neither are her kids. Cleanup time is a regular call to action with all hands on deck needed to restore order to the Lego, Nerf gun, cars, and trucks chaos.

She could afford a cleaning service once a week, but even that wouldn’t last more than a couple days. Besides, Ashley wants her boys to learn to work hard, know how to vacuum, scrub toilets, and dust. She reasons that someday they may be husbands and dads whose wives will be grateful for men who understand working as a team to keep a house running.

A year ago, when she began assigning them each a room to clean, her oldest five expressed cries of, “That’s not fair!” Like all of us do, they each compared their job with their brother’s and concluded theirs was the hardest. Never mind the teens should have harder jobs than the eight-year-old.

After months of hearing this refrain, Ashley asked God for guidance. She needed His help with ideas to manage this parenting dilemma.

The Holy Spirit gave her an idea.

From her Bible study, Ashley knew that decisions in the Old and New Testaments were made many times by casting lots, similar to drawing straws.  Over 20 times this practice is mentioned, including when soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” God is sovereign over lots.

So she decided she’d let God choose who had to clean what. She wrote the name of every room in the house, including the bathrooms, on paper, cut them in strips, and put them in a jar. The boys had to pick a slip of paper and clean that room on cleaning day.

They still didn’t like what they drew, but it’s a little harder to be mad at God than Mom! Ashley said it has been amazing to watch how God orchestrated the “lots,” giving just the right job to each boy. And there is actually a lot less complaining too, which was her heart’s desire.

The Holy Spirit is our guide. “When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13).  Not only did the Spirit guide Ashley to a creative solution, but He guided the choosing of the chores for her boys!

Here are some ways the Holy Spirit has guided me and others:

  • He has guided us to the right house to buy each time we needed to move.
  • He has guided us in our job decisions.
  • He orchestrated details with our daughter’s recent wedding because He loves weddings. You can read the story here.
  • He gives wisdom to guide us in our schooling choices for our kids.
  • He gives peace as His confirmation when making important decisions.
  • This summer He clearly guided my dear friend, Mary, to the right hospital in another city for brain surgery to remove a tumor. He also guided her and her husband in arranging details for their children.

In His great kindness and love for us, He often goes before us, working out details or circumstances, so when we get to that moment in time we see evidence of His provision and preparation.

His guidance is always divinely directed

Jesus made a stunning announcement to His disciples, repeated at least six times in the book of John. Each repetition is tucked into longer sentences, and then into larger conversations. Like tiny jewels sewn into a satin ribbon wrapped into a gown, these repeated words—unseen by me for decades—now sparkle with clarity in my vision of who Jesus is and now also of His Spirit. The tiny yet cosmic truth is:

“I do NOTHING on my own initiative” (John 8:28).

Stop and think about those seven words. Jesus didn’t do one single, tiny thing—not one word, not one action, not one reaction—on His own initiative.

  • Jesus didn’t stay in Jerusalem when He was 12 on His own initiative.
  • Jesus didn’t travel through Samaria, when He met the woman at the well, because one day He decided it would be a good idea.
  • Jesus didn’t go to the Feast of Tabernacles when His brothers urged Him to go, because He hadn’t yet heard it was time from His Father (John 7).

Now ask yourself: How many times a day do I think, act, or speak on my own initiative? Without asking for His direction, His guidance?

If you are like me, the obvious answer is: way too many times, all day long.

Jesus’ one ambition was to please His Father. Therefore, He did nothing on His own. He listened and did only what the Father said or showed Him to do. He modeled the kind of relationship God made us to experience in Eden.

The Holy Spirit is from the Father, sent to us by the Son. Jesus said of His Spirit, “He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13).

How does that make you feel about the Spirit?

Can you trust Him?

Is He worth following?

Therefore, if we ask and listen, if we pay attention, those nudges, promptings, whispers are God’s Spirit guiding us.  And even when we hear nothing, He is with us for He never leaves or forsakes us.

He loves us.

He wants us to know and follow God’s will.

He will always guide us according to what He hears from the Father.

Sometimes the Spirit Leads by Taking Over

After Jesus was baptized (Luke 3:21-22), and before He worked His first wonder turning the water into wine at the Cana wedding (John 2:1-11), He was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness …” (Matthew 4:1). Mark uses the word impelled to describe how the Spirit worked in Jesus, “Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness” (NASV).

Might it have been a moment when Jesus knew what was ahead and asked if He could skip this test, similar to the Garden of Gethsemane’s prayer? Reluctance to follow is not a sin. Refusing to follow is.

God had a plan. The wilderness was a part of the divine plan from before the foundation of the world. It was God’s will that Jesus face the devil and be victorious. We can’t imagine the pain of His hunger in that desert place but somehow it was necessary. We don’t understand. We do know the Holy Spirit never left Jesus during His wilderness experience.

Sometimes He does the same with us. He leads us into our own wilderness experience for reasons we cannot see or understand. The Spirit never leaves us alone out there either.

A blog reader commented on the week 1 study, sharing the story of her husband’s death a year ago. She described the raw pain of walking ahead in life alone and ended by declaring her hope in the God who never left her, even though she felt He was silent most of those long days.

God did not ask her or inform her before He took her husband. Psalm 139:16 tells us our days are numbered: “In Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed [ordained] for me, when as yet there was none of them.” God is in control and in charge.

We experienced this in June 2008, when our daughter and son-in-law’s first baby lived only seven days. As much as we all prayed for a miracle, we believed was fully within God’s power to perform, He took Molly home to His presence for full restoration instead of leaving her here on earth. He answered our prayers for healing.

The Holy Spirit also will take over and guide us, as explained by Jesus to His disciples when He said, “Do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit” (Luke 13:11).

Gratefully and graciously, God does this kind of Spirit-led intervention for me, as a woman.

-In my marriage, I have experienced the Holy Spirit giving me clear words to express. A few weeks ago, Dennis and I weren’t resolving a conflict. I was able to explain how I felt in a simple sentence that made perfect sense to my husband. The clarity that resulted felt almost magical. I know it’s because I’ve been writing these study posts and have been talking to the Spirit, my Friend, more than ever.

-With my children, I have also experienced the Spirit giving me words to help direct and instruct them.

-With friends and coworkers, the Spirit helps me answering a question from a woman asking for advice, and when speaking publicly. I want my words and my actions to honor God. So I am asking the Holy Spirit to guide me, speak through me, and give me wisdom to know what to say, that I will grow in doing nothing on my own initiative.

-In my daily moments, He intervenes to redirect me. Even today as I was writing this, I had to leave home for an appointment. As I walked to my car, I heard, “Call Mary.” Having been thinking so much about the Spirit, my Guide, I knew the words were not imagined. Mary is my friend who will be having brain surgery on July 20. I’d love for you to pray for her with me. I didn’t question my hearing or take time to evaluate if it was God’s leading. I simply called Mary.

Remember, you are growing a relationship with God your Father. Relationships take time and learning comes from getting to know Him and practicing hearing His Spirit’s voice.

Gather with Friends

  1. React to the idea of the Holy Spirit helping my daughter Ashley with household chores. Have you ever relied on God in such practical ways? Name one practical way you need His guidance this week.
  2. Refer to my list of ways the Holy Spirit has guided me and others. In what ways has He guided you in your decisions?
  3. How many times a day do you think, act, or speak on your own initiative? Together, brainstorm some ways throughout the day that will remind you to lean into the Spirit for guidance.
  4. Have you ever been reluctant to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance? Share when and why. Were you able to move forward in obedience or did you end up refusing to follow?
  5. Pray together, asking God for His Spirit-led intervention for each woman in your group. Ask God that each group member be aware of and have the courage to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.


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7 thoughts on “How Does the Holy Spirit Show Me What to Do?”

  1. Margarita Carreon

    I love your blog. I’m still finding myself doubting when I hear God’s voice inside me. I usually “doubt” because it takes time, money or I just don’t feel like it. But truly, God is within us, loving us and eager to help and guide us if we call Him. Let’s open our hearts and ears to listen to Him, whispering his tender loving words!
    “Come Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
    Send forth your Spirit, and you shall renew the face of the earth.”

  2. Thank you Barbara, this truly blessed my heart and challenge me to be more mindful of His voice. There is nothing I want most than to totally be led by his Spirit.

  3. Carolyn Wilkins

    Thank you. This is just what I needed today to minister to my Grandson who is facing some severe health problems. He is finding it hard to trust God right now for his future.

  4. Thank you Barbara! I know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit guided me to your post tonight. My husband, 2 kids and I are taking the day tomorrow to go on a hike as a mini prayer retreat. We have MANY upcoming transitions and decisions that are weighing heavily on our minds-job, college transition, and possible change to public high school. It was good to be reminded that the Lord is indeed our guide, especially in preparing my heart and mind for tomorrow’s prayer time. Praise the Lord!

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