Many years ago, I'd been praying diligently about finding a new job. After more than a year, I was hired by a company. It seemed this was the answer to my listening to God for a new opportunity.
On the first day, my boss called me into his office and said he hadn't wanted to hire me. He'd wanted the other candidate, who had the right education and more experience. He also was older, and male. My boss felt I wasn't qualified, but he'd been overruled by the district manager, who had now returned to his out-of-state district office. He told me he wouldn't train me or teach me the product line, which was quite extensive. He wouldn't tell me who the customers were that already existed in the territory. He recommended that I quit immediately.
As he talked, I thought about how I was in this job as the result of prayer. God, who is divine Mind, had been leading me to a job that was right for me.
God was really my employer. God was approving of me. And since God had put me in the job, I felt absolutely calm and confident that God would tell me what I needed to know in order to succeed. Actually, I appreciated my boss's honesty. So I thanked him for telling me how he felt, and assured him that I wouldn't bother him.
After leaving his office, I just turned to God and prayed. Opportunities for being trained on the product line opened up within a week. Sales representatives in other territories willingly assisted me and answered my questions. In fact, I was making 20 calls a day, going into the field and calling on 20 businesses each day, and receiving 20 "nos" every day.
But I wasn't discouraged. I was certain that I was following the guidance that God had for me each day. Every time I made a call I'd go back to the car and thank God for leading me there, for all that I'd learned on that call and I was learning a lot.
After six months, I made my first sale, and within a couple of years, I became sales representative of the year for our district, which was a quarter of the United States.
After about a year and a half, my boss stood in front of my desk and apologized. He told me that, as I knew, he had hired a man a few months earlier and had spent a lot of time training him and taking him into the field. He was firing this man for non-performance. He acknowledged that he hadn't spent any time with me or done anything for me, yet I had succeeded. But I was convinced the reason I had been successful was that I hadn't expected anything from him and had turned exclusively to God.
So how do you know whether a particular path is divine direction or a mistaken notion? To differentiate between God's guidance and merely our own human opinions, I think about three things:
1. Am I afraid? It's difficult to hear God's direction or differentiate between God and our own thoughts if we're fearful. When we put fear out of thought and are still and calm, we're more likely to discern what God is telling us.
2. Am I limiting myself? Sometimes we put limits on ourselves because of our education, our past experience, or how we perceive ourselves. We box ourselves in. If divine Mind is leading us to do something outside of this box, we have a tendency to dismiss that direction. Trying to remove limitations in our view of ourselves makes us more receptive to God's direction and guidance.
3. Remove doubt. Know that your ability comes as the result of your relation to God. For example, I wasn't hired because I knew so much about that particular field. In my view, I was hired because of my understanding of God, my turning to God, and my ability to pray.
One of the things I worked with was: "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" (Prov. 3:5,6). I couldn't lean on my own understanding; I didn't understand anything about this job. But I could acknowledge God and know that He was directing my paths. This passage was also helpful: "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass" (Ps. 37:5). My commitment was to God, not to a company.
The lessons I learned at that job continue to remind me of God's unfailing love and guidance.