Guided by Hindrance?

Does your spiritual walk ever feel like a multiple choice test?  Things are going well.  You're serving God to the best of your ability, and then suddenly you're in the midst of a mighty storm.  At first, you simply shrug and keep on.  After all, God never promised us an absence of storms.  But when the winds continue to blow and the rain continues to pour to the point where you feel you're about to drown, something within you says, "Now, wait a minute.  Is this a typical storm or not?"  Suddenly, you're staring down three possible explanations for your current, seemingly never-ending valley:

1) I'm under spiritual attack.
2) God is punishing me for sin in my life.
3) God is trying to get my attention and tell me something.

But which one is it?  How can you know?  The first one is a little tricky, but be assured that spiritual attacks typically come when you're serving God with all your heart.  So, if you know you're doing all the right things, but the storms still come, the likelihood that you're under spiritual attack is a good one.

As for God punishing you, well, the Bible is clear that God does chastise His children.  But let's face it, we all usually know when we've done something (or are doing something) that isn't right.  If you're not sure, you can always do what the psalmist did and ask God. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)  Obviously, if God is punishing you because of sin in your life, He's not going to keep you in the dark about it.  After all, His purpose of punishment is so that you'll get right with Him.

The last one is usually where I get confused.  After all, long-lasting storms can rattle the brain and shake your faith to its very core.  Those trials can dissolve everything you thought you knew and have you questioning, "Lord, am I where I'm supposed to be or not?"  Unfortunately, that question only leads to more.

"If I'm not in your will, what do you want me to do?"
"What are you trying to tell me, Lord?"
"You have my attention, Lord, but where are you leading me?"

We've all heard the old saying, "When God closes a door, He opens a window."  Well, that is actually Biblical, to a degree.  There are instances in the Bible where God guided His people by hindrances.  Take, for example, Acts 16:6-10:

Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

Paul was doing God's will--no doubt about it.  He was preaching.  Souls were being saved.  The church was growing both physically and spiritually.  Then, all of a sudden, Paul ran into a couple of closed doors.  First the Lord forbade them to preach in Asia.  Odd, huh?  Then, He thwarted their plans to go into Bithynia.  If I were Paul, I would have been confused.  As respectfully as I could, I would have asked, "Okay, Lord, do you want me to preach or not?  Everywhere I turn, there's a roadblock!"

Sound familiar?  I hope you've never been in such a state of hopelessness and frustration, but I have a feeling that you're all too familiar with the scene.  I know I am.  So, what do we do?  Well, for one, we pay attention.  Notice that Paul received more than just roadblocks.  He also received instructions.  God didn't only tell Paul what not to do; He also gave him clear instructions on what to do.

So, if you're wondering if the roadblocks you're facing are God's way of trying to tell you something, remember this:  I can't think of a single instance in the Bible where God's children were hindered by a roadblock that He didn't give them further instructions.  When the Israelites were cut off from the Promised Land by the Red Sea, God gave them directions on how to get across.  When the famine came to the land, God gave Elijah orders of where to go to receive both food and water.  It seems to me that if the Lord is trying to tell you something, He won't keep it hidden.  He may put up barriers to prevent you from going down certain paths or making particular decisions, but I believe He will also direct you in the way you should go.  After all, He understands that "No, not that way" is not clear enough for us to understand.