Why is it that when I follow God’s leading, it doesn’t always work out?

Have you ever experienced a time when God was leading you to do something? Perhaps it was a big step of faith, or perhaps just a small thing He wanted you to do. You do it – to the best of your ability – you follow His leading and do what He has told you to. But it doesn’t work out…

There have been times in my walk with God when I felt that He was leading me to do something. Perhaps it was to share a word with someone, or something different.

I recall a time when, during a church service, I felt strongly that there was someone there with an injured wrist. After checking with the pastor, I shared this with the congregation.

“I believe there is someone here with pain in their wrist,” I started. “I think it is their left wrist, but I could be wrong. If that’s you, please come forward at the end as God wants to heal you today.”

What happened at the end of the service? Nothing. No one came forward.

Was I wrong? Possibly, and it is always worth considering that. We are not perfect, and if, like me, you are still learning to follow God’s leading, then you may find it hard to know whether you have really heard from God.

Later that day, I shared with some from the church that I perhaps missed God on this occasion. At that point, someone confessed to me that they had been having trouble with their wrist, and it had been particularly bad that morning! It turned out however, that the painful wrist was the right one and not he left as I had thought. That being the case, the individual decided it was not for them.

I take some of the blame here, and maybe should not have shared which wrist I thought was injured. However, I think that this word was very much for that individual and on this occasion, we simply missed it.

When God leads us, it is entirely possible that we mishear Him. But sometimes, when we have genuinely heard His voice, it doesn’t work out. The reason is simply “people”.

Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Acts 9:8-19 (ESV)

Here we read of the conversion of Saul. After encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus, Saul (later known as Paul) is blinded. His companions take him into Damascus where he waits – for three days.

We are told in verse 12 that Paul has a vision of a man named Ananias who will come and pray for him.

Likewise, Ananias hears from the Lord and is instructed to go to Damascus (note how specific the instructions are) and pray for Paul.

Note the co-operation that is now required. Paul must wait on Ananias’ arrival, and we know he had to wait for three days. This is no short time when you have become blind and are not eating or drinking. Ananias also must obey the Lord’s instructions. He must face this “persecutor of the church” and lay hands on him.

But what if one or both of them don’t obey the Lord? Paul, let’s say, cannot move due to his condition and so waits on Ananias. What if fear got the better of Ananias and he decided, like Jonah, to go in a totally different direction? Paul’s had a vision; he’s certain he knows what to do to and what God is leading him to. But it only works if Ananias also obeys.

I’m sure you can recall a time in your life when you were sure – certain even – that God had spoken to you. But when you acted on it, it did not work out. You probably assumed you had misheard, and while that’s not impossible, it could be something else.

It could be that someone else in the chain did not follow God’s instructions. We are fallible people but we’re the best God has to work with!

All any of us can do is to try and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as best we can. If someone else along the line makes a mistake, then it may not work out as planned, but I am certain God can find another way to fulfil His plans in our lives.


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