Even in the
utmost prosperity, the advice of friends is to be
very greatly employed. (Cicero) Do not speak too
quickly against things you do not understand. (Anon)
before we were due to take charge of a lively
six-week old collie-spaniel puppy called Brandle,
people came to us from all directions warning us
that we would find it too hard. After a lot of
thought and prayer we decided to go ahead anyway.
Fifteen lively years with Brandle brought many hairy
moments – in every sense of the word – but much love
and comfort too.
Whenever we are on the
point of pushing out the boat to attempt something
new, we almost invariably receive a barrage of
suggestions to take the opposite course of action.
We have nicknamed these well intentioned but
decidedly discouraging comments ‘The Brandle
Does the fact that we receive
contradictory guidance imply that we should give up
consulting others before we take important steps? By no
means. Scripture is emphatic that ‘For waging war you
need guidance, and for victory many advisers.’ It is
only realistic, however, to accept the fact that not
everyone will agree with us, even when we have heard truly.
The way of the cross sometimes sets us on a course that
others – even those we love dearly – will find it difficult
to follow us on.
It is a difficult balancing act to remain open to counsel,
without being unduly swayed by when the Lord really is
leading us in another direction. On the assumption that it
is more important to be on track with the Lord’s purposes
than to be well thought of by others, may we, with great
humility – and some diffidence – suggest adopting the
following principle at such times: ‘If the Lord is
calling you forward, focus on the Shepherd. If you look over
your shoulder to see who is following you, you will get a
crick in the neck!’
It helps if we can make allowance for people’s upbringing or
experience, and realize the extent to which it may incline
them to reject something as being God’s leading. Most of us,
after all, have learned to make mental additions or
subtractions when reading certain newspapers according to
their political leanings. But may we always be open to
discern the authentic accents of the Lord’s leading or
The pain is much greater when our differences are with
like-minded people. Paul must have faced the ‘Brandle
Factor’ in spades when he felt compelled by the Spirit to go
to Jerusalem, even though his fellow believers pleaded with
him not to do so.
Back in the 1996 the Lord showed us that the time had come
for us to take possession of the large country house He had
been telling us for some time that we would one day live in.
After some months of searching, we realized that the only
way we were going to be able to buy such a property was to
do so jointly with my parents. This was when the Brandle
Factor cut in, with numerous friends warning us not to go
ahead on this basis.
The best and kindest way to view apparently contradictory
guidance is to realize that people may be glimpsing how
difficult certain aspects of a calling may prove to be. That
is entirely different, however, from a project being either
wrong or doomed to failure. To hold back from following the
Spirit’s leading just because there will be difficulties
along the way is not an option – not least because it would
prevent the Lord from fulfilling many of His purposes.
As things turned out, the Lord used our six year sojourn in
the house in really special ways – including the hosting of
numerous precious retreats – before the call of the Lord
whisked us north to Shetland and then, more recently, south
For Reflection and Prayer
help us to tell the difference between Your
restraining hand, and people’s negative comments –
and between Your still small voice
and fleshly counterfeits and compulsions!