Should we move? Which spouse should work? How many children should we have? Can I miss church this Sunday? How can I help my kids without pushing them? How can I break this bad habit? How can I deal with everything?
And how do we answer these questions? The Lord rarely lays down black and white rules for the big personal choices in life. But do we take that trust in our spiritual maturity and use it as a green light, as an excuse to do whatever we want or what’s easiest?
Hopefully not. “I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.” (2 Nephi 4:34). “If he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsel of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall…” (D&C 3:4). “And if any man shall seek to build up himself, and seeketh not my counsel, he shall have no power…” (D&C 136:19).
If green lights are bad, then is life full of red lights, making us constantly freeze and doubt? No. “It is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant… men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will…” (D&C 58:26-27).
So if life is neither a permanent stop nor a constant go, then how do we find solid help? “Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.” (Jacob 4:10). To put it another way, “Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord…and serve the Lord your God…” (2 Chronicles 30:8).
Yielding, cautiously halting our own agenda to determine the best way to proceed before moving forward, is a great spiritual metaphor for how to live by the Spirit. Other scriptures give specific direction for gaining strength by yielding to God. “For the natural man is an enemy to God…and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him…” (Mosiah 3:19). “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger… unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” (Helaman 3:35).
Prayer is the foundation of yielding: “Ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” (2 Nephi 32:9). “Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord… Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good…” (Alma 37:36-37).
“But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart…” (D&C 46:7). When we make a decision with prayer, we will always be right; when we make a decision without prayer, we have no such promise.
These aren’t just generic commands to pray, fast, and be more obedient and Christlike, though. Read them again; these verses promise that the way to be spiritually cleansed and physically led is to seek the Father’s will. Doing these simple things more often, and doing them more deeply, will bring us the answers we need.
And it starts when we yield our whole lives to God. Isn’t the Savior the perfect example of this? “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38). So did we.
As we let go of worry, pride, selfishness, and anything else that’s getting between us and the Spirit, and as we do this by accepting the Lord’s invitation to live by his plan for us, our questions will be answered, and our problems will be solved. We need less of stressful overworking or comfortable coasting in life, and more meditating in our homes and in God’s temple.
And continuing the road sign analogy, let’s point out that sin and the spiritual apathy it breeds are just speed bumps, each one slowing us down a little in our efforts to come closer to God. Repentance smooths out the speed bumps.