Latter-day Saint Life

What an Impression That Didn't Work Out Taught Me About God (+4 More Insights)


A few months ago, I received a strong impression to write on a specific topic. It was a welcome revelation, because as far as my writing has gone, it has seemed that God has had no strong feelings on what I should write. I know He cares about my hobbies and interests, of course, but as I’ve prayed about what to write in recent years, passing ideas by Him or asking for direction, it’s almost been as though His answer has been, “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. You could do that. Whatever you feel you want to do is fine with me.”

That’s not always the answer I want, because honestly, sometimes I want God to tell me what to do. I want Him to give me an idea or a direction. Not because I can’t think of my own ideas—I can—but because there’s a part of me that is perpetually checking and rechecking that I am doing His will, not mine. I want to write what He wants me to write, not what want to write.

When I went through a period of time where impressions regarding what to write didn’t come, I was concerned and talked with my husband about it. Was I praying wrong? Not being specific enough? Did God not want me to write?

My husband reminded me of a truth I knew but somehow had forgotten applied to me. He said something like, “Maybe God really is okay with whatever you write. Or even if you write at all.” I have always been a firm believer that God is extremely invested in our lives and that we have a collective purpose and an individual purpose—that all we do is important to Him. So, it had not really occurred to me that there were some things in this life that He could go either way on.

And it was . . . scary. What do you mean, I could write or not write? It’s a huge part of my life. Why wouldn’t He have an opinion?

I’ve had many more conversations with my husband on this topic, and I’ve come to realize a few important things about God’s involvement in developing our talents.

1. God Cares About Me

First, God does care. Whether I am writing or not, He cares about me, the things that make me happy, and my desires to make Him happy. This reminds of a quote by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “The Lord doesn’t care at all if we spend our days working in marble halls or stable stalls. He knows where we are, no matter how humble our circumstances. He will use—in His own way and for His holy purposes—those who incline their hearts to Him.” As long as I am striving to connect with Him and do my best to repent and improve, He gives me agency to use my circumstances to do good. Whether I want to be a writer, a banker, a parade dancer, an artist, or an athlete, God cares not about my perfection in my quest, but the joy I get from righteous creativity, effort, and companionship with Him along the way.

2. God Trusts Me

Secondly, He trusts me more than I allowed myself to believe. I think sometimes the heavens quiet down not because God is far from us but because we are closer to Him. We don’t need to be told to turn right or left, to wear the purple shirt or the blue, to write or not write. We can think and pray and consider and choose what we feel is right for us. Then we can take it to Him for confirmation. I learned a lot about this principle when writing my first book, Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat? One quote from it still stands out to me and reminds me to commit to use my writing talents for good: “Be confident in the eyes of God. ‘And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men’ (Colossians 3:23). Do it for yourself. Do it for Him. Have faith in yourself, because He has faith in you.” 

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I love that He trusts me, and it strengthens my resolve to keep my focus on Him, use my talents to follow inspiration and the commandments, and show Him I love Him in all that I do. If I do these things, not only will He give me His trust but He will bless my efforts. Even if no one else sees some of these efforts, God does, and I believe He is pleased. 

3. God Wants Me to Be Happy

Third, God wants me to be happy. Sometimes we are asked to do hard things because they are the right thing. Because of this, it can be easy to equate righteousness and His will with suffering and a need to agonize over a decision until He confirms it is the “right” answer. But sometimes the right thing is simply choosing what brings us joy. I love this statement by Elder Richard G. Scott: “Attempt to be creative for the joy it brings.” Writing brings me joy, and I believe that makes Him happy. In fact, that might be the main reason He wants me to be do it. I don’t believe He would want me to feel badly about doing something good that also brings me joy.

4. God Won’t Micromanage Me

Fourth, as I considered all of these things, I came to believe that God wasn’t going to tell me what to do in every facet of my life. He won’t micromanage me. I could, and should, choose for myself. He does have faith in my ability to recognize His Spirit, but he also has faith in my ability to discern what will make me happy and if I should pursue it. 

But—and this is a really big "but"—these things only worked if I kept my communication with heaven wide open and often. Rather than asking Him for constant direction and validation, I realized that if I focused on staying close to Him through obedience and prayer and strived to become like Him, by default, much of what I wanted would already be what He wanted for me. He could give me the space to learn and grow because, even if I stumbled, I was stumbling in the right direction.

When we are facing God and moving towards Him, our desire for and ability to choose the life that is best for us grows. We can make choices—even really important ones—without His constant handholding. We can be spiritual grown-ups as we begin to walk by His side, not in His shadow. And it can bring us joy because we—He and us—are a team, working for the same purpose, the same intention, the same goal. Facing any other direction takes us away from His side and His goal.

I am not saying we don’t need to pray for direction. We should pray to Him in all that we do, everything. But we do not need to be immobilized when specific revelation doesn’t come. It doesn’t mean He is ignoring us, or can’t even hear us. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. Sometimes, it simply means that He knows we can choose for ourselves what He would have chosen for us, and He wants to give us that chance—that freedom to do it. 

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When I sat down and had a serious talk with myself about what wanted to write, I checked my desires and decisions against what I thought He would want for me, then I did it. Eventually, I received confirmation that He was truly pleased with me and my direction. I learned my life wasn’t a scripted path I had to follow. Yes, the way to heaven is straight and narrow, but the path can be colorful and filled with things that bring me joy. 

5. An Impression to Move in a Direction Isn’t a Guarantee of an Outcome

This brings me back to the impression I received a few months ago and the fifth lesson I learned from writing.

I was plugging along, writing what brought me joy, when I received an impression to write something very specific. I welcomed it and began writing at once. The words came to me easily and joyfully. I knew I was writing what He wanted me to write, and I was happy and confident that I was doing something that pleased the Lord. I submitted it promptly to my publisher, knowing they would offer to publish it on sight. After all, it was God’s idea and He approved. Why wouldn’t they?

It took them weeks and weeks to discuss the project. Waiting was easy because I knew they’d pick it up. 

But they didn’t. 

They rejected it, and I was left to ponder about the entire thing. Did I not feel impressed to write it? Was this not the home it was destined for?

After some internal deliberations, I came to realize my fifth lesson: Just because we feel the Spirit guide us to do things, it does not mean the way we hope or think it will end is how it’s going to end up. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, thinking that if I feel impressed to do something, then that confirmation is the same thing as a promise of the outcome. But it’s not a guarantee.

When things don’t turn out according to our expectations, it is tempting to question God or doubts ourselves. But the truth is, sometimes He has other plans and needs us to take two steps towards one thing so He can lead us to another. And, sometimes, things just simply don’t work out.

That’s what I’ve learned through all of this. Trust God. Keep close to Him and try to be like Him. Do your best to choose what you feel is right and what will bring you joy. Communicate with God every day. And accept what happens. 

So, I keep writing. I am prayerful and doing what I can to stay close to God and seeking His guidance. But when it doesn’t seem to come, I step ahead in the confidence I feel He has in me, moving forward towards Him and the things that bring me joy. And it is not only okay, it’s good. Really good. 

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