Jesus Christ can free us from paralyzing concerns that we could be choosing the wrong path in life.
About six years ago, my husband and I were faced with a decision many adults face: to stay or to move. We were both working, new in our careers, and he had the opportunity for a big step forward in Boston. We talked it out, weighed pros and cons, and took our decision to the Lord. From there, we continued to make many choices both individually and as a couple, some right and some clearly wrong. Every time we made a choice, we had to wonder, “Where will this lead?” In April 2019, President Dallin H. Oaks gave an address by that title. He remarked, “Our present and our future will be happier if we are always conscious of the future. As we make current decisions, we should always be asking, ‘Where will this lead?’”1
Remaining conscious of the future can be taxing, especially when you are concerned that you might be making the wrong choice. Mounting pressure to make perfect choices can often “rob our freedom, heighten our anxiety, and lower our productivity. . . . People who try to make the perfect decision every time tend to suffer more anxiety about their decisions, feel less satisfied with them afterward, and, unsurprisingly, are less productive.”2
Remaining conscious of the future can be taxing, especially when you are concerned that you might be making the wrong choice.
Part of the journey to eternal life involves exploring—exploring our likes and dislikes, our passions and talents. Exploring relationships, opportunities, and environments. When my husband and I moved to Boston, we had destination days and exploration days. Destination days were days we went to work or ran errands. We set about with a destination in mind, typically to accomplish a task. Our exploration days were mutually beneficial to making Boston our home. It is how we found new places to eat, discovered our favorite spot in the park, met neighbors, and learned our way around town. As you make both daily and life-changing choices, I encourage you to consider, “Where will this lead?” Whether you have an exact destination in mind (such as a specific career) or are setting aside time to explore, always be mindful of where it may lead you and how it will benefit you today and tomorrow.
What if a destination choice doesn’t quite take us where we intended to go? What if a decision we made at work, in a calling, or as a parent is not yielding the desired results? Or why would the answer to our prayers send us down the wrong road? Elder Matthew Holland, son of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, once shared a story of driving home from the Grand Canyon with his father.
“It was dusk, and we had only gone a bumpy mile or two when we came to a fork in the road. We stopped. Dad was not certain which trail we had come in on. He knew he had to make the right decision. There wasn’t much light left, light he desperately needed to ensure he could make the correct turns the rest of the way home.
“Wasting time on a wrong road now meant we would face the difficult task of making our way home in the dark.
“As we did whenever we had a family problem or concern, we prayed. After we both said amen, Dad turned and asked me what I thought we should do. I answered and said, “All during the prayer, I just kept feeling, ‘Go to the left.’” Dad responded, “I had the exact same impression.” This was my first experience receiving and recognizing revelation.
“We started down the dirt road to the left. We had traveled only about 10 minutes when our road came to a sudden dead end. My father promptly whipped the truck around, roared back to that fork in the path, and started down the road to the right. Fortunately, there was still just enough light to help us navigate the web of dirt roads that would take us home.”
As they reflected on this experience, Mathew was confused. They had prayed but felt prompted to drive down the wrong road first. Why? His father responded,
“The Lord has taught us an important lesson today. Because we were prompted to take the road to the left, we quickly discovered which one was the right one. When we turned around and got on the right road, I was able to travel along its many unfamiliar twists and turnoffs perfectly confident I was headed in the right direction. If we had started on the right road, we might have driven for 30 minutes or so, become uneasy with the unfamiliar surroundings, and been tempted to turn back. If we had done that, we would have discovered the dead end so late that it would have been too dark to find our way back in totally unfamiliar territory.”
Matthew Holland summarizes their lesson to us, stating:
“Sometimes in response to prayers, the Lord may guide us down what SEEMS to be the wrong road—or at least a road we don’t understand—so, in due time, He can get us firmly and without question on the right road. Of course, He would never lead us down a path of sin, but He might lead us down a road of valuable experience.
“Sometimes in our journey through life we can get from point A to point C only by taking a short side road to point B. We had prayed that we could make it safely home that day, and we did.”3
When we realize that a choice might be the “wrong road,” we should adapt a new mindset.
First: You are not a failure.
Let me repeat this. You are not a failure. It is often by missteps that we learn some of the most valuable lessons and become better versions of ourselves. If our intentions are good (intentions such as loving our neighbor but our words fall short) and our choices stem from righteous desires (such as seeking an eternal marriage but it’s falling apart), if your intentions and desires are right, then you are not a failure. You are learning.
Second: You are learning.
When wrong choices manifest, it can be a win-win. You have the opportunity to course-correct while learning valuable lessons about yourself and the plan Heavenly Father has for you. You can turn around and know for a surety that the other road is the way home.
Third: You are not facing this misstep alone.
If you choose, you can take a step in the right direction as you move forward with faith in Christ. Mistakes are an antagonist to self-confidence. When you find yourself doubting in your abilities, have faith. Proverbs 3:5–6 reads, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
In the summer of 2019, my husband and I became parents. We welcomed our healthy son to this world with all of the excitement and anxiety you would expect from new parents. Since we had recently moved to a new area and didn’t have family nearby, I decided to step away from my career and stay at home full time. As weeks passed, all of the change combined with hormones darkened my world. What started out as self-defeating thoughts grew into a depression so deep that I began to think my life had no meaning. I cried to God in desperation. “If I am worthless, why am I even here? I don’t have anything left to give. I want to give up.” As tears soaked my face, I felt loved. I then had a perfect knowledge that my life was not meant for this moment and that this is not the whole plan God had for me. I clearly remembered that Jesus Christ suffered so that I can have joy. The love I felt turned into a type of light that lifted the darkness enough so I could have energy to get help. His love and light never left.
The love I felt turned into a type of light that lifted the darkness enough so I could have energy to get help.
I wasn’t joyful overnight, but when I was suffering, my faith in Christ helped me move forward. Making the choice to attend church, pray, and read the scriptures, along with having righteous desires, has brought me closer to the Savior so I could reach Him in my most desperate moments. I can testify of the truthfulness of these words by President Russell M. Nelson:
“When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do.”4
In order to reach Him, we must choose to reach out. “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). The Lord does not want us to emotionally suffer. He will help us make hard decisions, provide us with strength to reach the finish line, and comfort us in corrections. When we choose to invite Christ into our journey, we’ll find a strength beyond our own.
Last year my dad was called as the mission president for the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission. He retired a few months prior and was financially and spiritually prepared to answer the call to serve. My mother’s circumstances were different. As his companion, she would need to “straightway leave [her] net” to serve (Matthew 4:20). Since my mother was a teenager, she had dreamed of working for NASA. After graduating from college, she got her dream. She was a NASA employee.
I took pride in and loved seeing my mother give her all in both of her jobs: as a NASA engineer and as a mother. After about 30 years, she was in the height of her career. She oversaw part of the development of the Mars Rover project. To fulfill this role, she and my dad split their time between California and Florida. As the project wound down, she was back full time in Florida when they got the call, and they both immediately said yes. “Yes” meant that my mom had to resign from her dream job at its height. “Yes” meant that she missed the launch of the rover by days and would miss being present for the landing. “Yes” also meant that she had developed a deep and sincere love for Christ and chose to put Him first.
Her actions have been the ultimate testimony of her faith. She made the decision to put Him first so long ago that she was going to say yes regardless of the sacrifice required. Her passion for space is nowhere near her passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and so many are benefitting from her sure foundation.
Where will our decisions lead? Are the decisions we make daily leading us to our desired eternal destiny? Are life-changing choices being met with faith and prayer? Are our missteps teaching us more about ourselves or strengthening our faith in Christ? Are we prepared to make sacrifices for the choices we made yesterday and move forward with faith in Christ? I hope so. “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the July/August issue of LDS Living magazine. Find past issues as well as learn how to subscribe for inspiration straight to your mailbox at ldsliving.com/magazine.
- Dallin H. Oaks, “Where Will This Lead?,” Ensign, May 2019.
- Dr. Margie Warrell, “Overthinking the Small Stuff? Five Ways to Make Better Decisions, Faster,” Forbes.com.
- Matthew Holland, “Wrong Roads and Revelation,” New Era, July 2005.
- Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2017.