Have you ever been paralyzed when faced with a decision? In moments like these, it can be easy to think, What if I make the wrong choice and fail to accomplish the work Heavenly Father desires me to do in this life?
We are often told that Heavenly Father can guide us in our journey through mortality, but how do we follow President Russell M. Nelson’s counsel to “choose to let God prevail in our lives,” to “choose to let God be the most powerful influence in our lives,”1 while still making our own decisions? Does Heavenly Father dictate where we will go or what we will do or what our life will look like from day to day?
Of course, while God does have a great plan of happiness that makes it possible for us to return to live with Him again, He doesn’t control every aspect of our lives. He wants us to choose for ourselves when it comes to our life expectations and ambitions.
Here are a few things to remember when considering that truth.
Because we face numerous potential paths in life, agency can seem scary or overwhelming. Sometimes I’ve been so afraid of making the “wrong” decision that I have felt stuck, unable to move forward in life or progress.
But as I’ve learned to trust in Heavenly Father and in myself, I’ve learned to appreciate this gift of choice (see 2 Nephi 2:16).
Even with our agency, we should always counsel with Heavenly Father about our big, life-changing decisions and what His will may be. As we do so, He can help direct us toward good paths. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “We must be careful not to miss the hand of the Lord when it is offered, when it is his desire to assist.”2 But when we are living righteously, He also trusts us to use our agency wisely and to follow our righteous ambitions to find joy as we move along the covenant path.
I have a friend who chose not to serve a mission because of some personal struggles. Years later, he felt puzzled and disheartened every time he read a line in his patriarchal blessing that said he would have the opportunity to serve a mission. He felt like he had messed up what God had in store for him and was often filled with shame and uncertainty about the future.
But as he prayerfully pondered this situation, he realized that the key word in his patriarchal blessing was opportunity. Heavenly Father invites us to obey Him and to choose good opportunities throughout all seasons of life.
And what if we miss an opportunity? Or we don’t accept all of His invitations?
Thankfully, because of our Savior, there will be more opportunities for service and development throughout our lives.
Heavenly Father is a God of forgiveness and love. As the prophet Isaiah taught, “Let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
Whether another chance for opportunities includes repenting and returning to the covenant path or simply having a change of heart and allowing God to prevail once again in our lives, know that, as Elder Thierry K. Mutombo of the Seventy taught, “when we choose to follow Christ, we choose to be changed.”3
My friend may not have served a mission, but he has deepened his faith in Christ and his willingness to act on opportunities and callings given to Him. And he has found joy and fulfillment in making good decisions and allowing God to guide him.
I think a lot of us grow up having a step-by-step outline for our lives. Take me, for example: I planned on working in the medical field, getting married by the time I was 21, and having a bunch of kids before age 30, all while raising my perfect family in the gospel and living a blissfully joyful and unbothered life.
(Cue the laughter.)
This is where life has actually taken me as I have trusted myself to make good decisions, seized opportunities, followed promptings, and let God prevail:
I am a writer. The sight of blood and needles makes me squeamish.
I didn’t get married until I was 27 (and in the middle of a pandemic). And I married someone I had known for almost 10 years, even though I had dated other people during that time.
I struggle with a painful chronic illness that can make life hard sometimes. This illness has also led to infertility, making the possibility of children a big question mark.
As I have turned to Heavenly Father for guidance, I have found joy in my circumstances despite how drastically my life has differed from my original expectations. And I have faith that the future will be bright as I continue to do so.
It’s good to have hopes and expectations for our lives that will lead to growth and fulfillment. But being flexible and open to change in those expectations can allow us to find joy in any circumstance.
Life will not always go exactly the way we want or expect, but we can exercise faith that Heavenly Father can continue to point us toward good opportunities and joy. President Russell M. Nelson taught: “Everything good in life—every potential blessing of eternal significance—begins with faith. Allowing God to prevail in our lives begins with faith that He is willing to guide us.”4
Because we are faced with so many potential paths in life, our journey will constantly take new turns. What matters is that we are remembering to counsel with Heavenly Father in our decisions and that the path we are on is the covenant path. Letting God prevail in our lives increases His trust in us to follow a fulfilling course that will lead back to Him and to make good decisions along the way. He and Jesus Christ want us to experience joy, to choose for ourselves, to grow, and to pursue the things we love (see 2 Nephi 2:25).
And when our life expectations go unmet, we can let God prevail by trusting in Him, keeping our covenants, and acting in faith. Doing so will always lead us to more fulfillment, more happiness, and more opportunities than we ever thought possible.
This has been true for me.