Unfulfilled Promptings

[ 22 ] Comments

by Cheryl

There have been times throughout my life when I have felt inspiration and promptings from the Holy Ghost that things were going to happen, and then… they didn’t.

In one instance, it was personal revelation affecting only my immediate family. I had been instructed very specifically by the Spirit (in the Temple, even), but when it turned out to be the exact opposite of that inspiration, I was left slightly confused. Another time I had been inspired about certain callings for myself or my husband that were coming, only to have those callings go to other people instead.

My faith has never allowed me to doubt these promptings, nor from whence they came. I know the difference between my own emotions and how the Holy Ghost speaks to me. However, I wonder… why do I experience this? Has this ever happened to you?

About Cheryl

Cheryl has been blogging for many years about --but not limited to --her children (there are six), her husband (there is one), her depression (not fun), her travels (very fun!), her religion (loves it), and anything else that strikes her fancy. Right now she's probably reading a book or changing a diaper, maybe at the same time...

22 Responses to Unfulfilled Promptings

  1. Sarah says:

    When I was on my mission, an Elder told me about a time when he was clearly prompted to knock on a specific door. Nobody was home. I can’t remember if he ever went back (he probably should have!) but he used that experience as a teaching moment; he said that he felt like it was a good chance to rely on spiritual promptings, and continue working at listening clearly. If we ignore promptings because they seem inconsequential or what have you, we may lose the ability to feel that prompting next time.

    I’ve had some promptings recently that have given me a lot of opportunity to reflect on my willingness to follow those promptings, and how far down the path will I walk, knowing that trials may lie ahead? It has been interesting to ponder these things, and wonder if the promptings I’ve felt will actually come to pass, or if they were just sent to test my willingness to obey. (sorry, that’s super vague – it’s a long story)

    • Cheryl says:

      Vagueness is okay. 🙂

      I wonder, too, if the promptings I’ve had are simply tests to show I’m willing to obey. One of them is HARD stuff. Hard. Very hard. And yet, when I was asked to do it (when I believed it would happen –it was the specific family situation that turned out completely different), I was willing. So willing, in fact, that I truly mourned a loss when it didn’t happen.

  2. Lamplighter says:

    I felt a strong prompting I would be called to the nursery, but it went to someone else, not long after I was called to something I was not suited for, but it put me in a position to recomend me as nursey assistant (another long story.) They finally took my recomendation and we were all better off and happy. Was I meant to be there and someone else failed to listen?
    I have ignored promptings on inconsequential things (look in sewing box for blue grommet) only later to find said blue grommet. From that I learned to listen, even if it seems silly or of no eternal consequence whatsoever. The listening is what is important, not the particular subject. I think with the passage of time the promptings you felt that didn’t happen will be explained to you.

    • Cheryl says:

      I will admit being jealous of those who don’t seem to need passage of time to figure things out spiritually. Okay, let me explain that a bit better: what I mean, is I’ve been privy to others who are able to follow the Spirit and everything they’re prompted to do turns out the way they believed it would be. I know that doesn’t reflect upon me at all –I also know that their spiritual talents will be different than mine. Having to wait is hard for me. Very hard. And yet, when you said that with the passage of time the promptings will be explained, I knew you were right. Perhaps half the lesson I’m supposed to learn is just how to wait on The Lord?

  3. Lisa says:

    Perhaps these were obedience tests. Even the one about the calling you didn’t get. He knows the intent of your heart, so maybe he was testing your willingness to serve in that capacity. Sometimes I’ve had promptings and follow, but never know why I was prompted that way. I follow Him in faith…

  4. templegoer says:

    For me there is little difference between my feelings and the Spirit’s promptings, so I take them very carefully and respond only to those things that are specifically within my remit-what I should say or do in relation to other family members for example. Even then, the consequences are a result of their use of agency as well as mine.Mostly I try to let specific guidance come but expect to get on with what is my duty. The Spirit’s promptings are most evident to me when it prompts me to do something new in a relationship, or outside of what I’d normally see as in character. Those have been some of my best experiences with the Spirit, those paradigm shifting experiences which mean I can never go back to who I was before. I love that.

    • Cheryl says:

      I’ve been having a huge shift in the way I view my purpose and my life right now –like you, experiences that have shaped who I am and who I’m going to be tomorrow. Thank you for mentioning agency, though. I truly hadn’t thought about that (which is interesting, to say the least…).

  5. Elissa says:

    I have this many times. I at times think it makes me stop doing/being somewhere I shouldn’t (ie knocking on that door stopped me knocking on someone elses door that would have had bad results – I served a mission and knocked many doors).

    Also sometimes the time isn’t right – but we need the impression to do it with Faith when the time is right. This is particularly with callings. I wanted to teach early morning seminary – the desire was so strong and I felt inspired the time was right. This is a calling you volunteer for – so I did. They choose someone else – who didn’t really want the calling. I was confused.

    So instead I decided to increase my p/t work to full-time as we needed the money as a family. I received an amazing job that totally fitted in with our family. The week before I started I received a call. The first sister that the seminary calling had gone to was moving from the ward. Could I do it now? I almost died – how can I work full/time and teach seminary. My husband and I wanted to say no – but I received such a strong impression that it was happening this way for a reason. Heavenly Father wanted me in both this job and calling. If I had had the calling first I would never have applied for the job. He showed me how I could do both (with a lot of His help) and it was a time of amazing growth for me and my family.

    Just because it doesn’t turn out like we expect does not mean that Heavenly Fathers purpose has not been accomplished.

    • Cheryl says:

      I love your story. LOVE. The reason is because I truly think that is the reason why sometimes I’ve felt blindsided by callings going to other people. Maybe I won’t get callings (or other things) that I expect, but certainly, being willing is just enough!

  6. Bonnie says:

    I think sometimes we get things LONNNNNGGGGG before they are to be fulfilled. It’s a test to learn to wait on the Lord’s timing for things and a heads up for us to prepare. I can name quite a few promptings that are still perking on the back burner; I KNOW they were from the Lord, but everything is still building. Sometimes there are many people involved, sometimes we just need to be aware of ours or someone else’s future so we can be sensitive and help the Lord with his work. I see myself learning things that will help me with some of those promptings/revelations and watching a larger plan unfold, and I’m beginning to see things come together. It is absolutely wondrous to behold. My respect for the Lord’s ability to strategize is indescribable. Today I taught a gospel doctrine lesson on 500 years of the Lord’s preparation for the Restoration. He has a very long timeline. Sometimes promptings aren’t fulfilled for years, but when they are, they are so right.

    Once, however, I was given a prompting (strong enough to be called a revelation) purely to test me. I failed. I can’t tell you how much I learned from that experience. The Lord asked Abraham to climb a mountain and sacrifice his son not be cause he wanted the sacrifice to occur but because he wanted Abraham to see what Abraham would do. I imagine Abraham learned as much from his success as I learned from my failure.

    • Cheryl says:

      I, too, taught the lesson about the Apostasy today, and it was amazing how everything had to come together at a certain point in time, in a certain place, through a certain family! Why would it be different for me? Much smaller scale, yes, but why not? He loves me just as much as anyone. In fact, I’m guessing that me teaching this lesson, and this question I’ve asked being published today –this was not a coincidence.

      And for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure I’ve failed the test a few times, myself.

  7. Jendoop says:

    I waited to see what the answers to this one would be because I’ve had this experience too Cheryl. After reading the comments I remembered something from Elder Christensen’s new book, Everyday Missionaries. In speaking about the challenge to set a date by which you’ll share the gospel with someone, he said that this isn’t really about baptisms – it’s about God being able to trust you. One of God’s chosen apostles has counseled that we should set a date. Yet how many of us haven’t? (I haven’t, I’m still uncomfortable) But Elder Christensen’s point is – How can God trust you? You have a testimony of apostles, you have a testimony of the gospel, you have a love of your friends, and yet you aren’t moving forward with this?

    I wonder, if like someone else said, this is a case of moving forward ‘as if’. As if what the Spirit whispered to you will happen. I believe every time the Spirit whispers to us there is a solid purpose, and 99% of the time it is a call to action. So after a spiritual experience I ask myself – What is my call to action?

    And honestly this belief of mine has gotten me into trouble. Because if I don’t want to act on something I don’t pray about it, because I know God will tell me to do something and I don’t want to disobey. (Kind of backwards thinking a bit.) So I kind of sit in limbo until I’m willing to do whatever God asks, WHATEVER HE ASKS. Then I pray about it and put on my action shoes 🙂

    • Cheryl says:

      Ha! Jen, that reminds me of my husband. We laugh about the few times I came to him and say, “I think it’s time to have another baby. You should go pray about it.” And then in a few days, I ask him if he’s prayed about it, and he admits he has not. So, I ask him again to pray about it –repeat! Finally he says, “I don’t want to ask because I already know the answer!”

      In Relief Society today we talked about Elder Uchtdorf’s talk (Of Regrets and Resolutions), and one thing he said stood out to me, and which goes along with what you are saying:
      “When it comes to living the gospel, we should not be like the boy who dipped his toe in the water and then claimed he went swimming. As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we are capable of so much more. For that, good intentions are not enough. We must *do*. Even more important, we must *become* what Heavenly Father wants us to be.”

  8. Angie says:

    Often, I think we receive promptings that test our willingness to obey. Also, sometimes we feel a strong prompting to do something that we interpret as for a certain reason, but the reason part doesn’t actually happen. I feel that the Lord doesn’t correct our reasoning because He knows it will get us where we need to be. The prompting is real, tangible, true and divine; the reasoning, however, is ours and possibly faulty. For example, we felt prompted to move our home. We thought it was as part of a career dream to enter the foreign service (diplomatic core). We followed that prompting, moved our family, worked toward the career dream and when we were right at the point to enter this new life, we felt we shouldn’t do it and a few short months later, DH was called as a bishop of the newly formed ward our new home was part of that our old home would not have been and we are not in the diplomatic core.

    I also agree with Bonnie that God’s timing is not our timing: eternity is a much longer view than we can often grasp and sometimes it takes a lot of preparation for us to be ready for the fulfillment of a prompting–a great deal more than we may understand until it is actually fulfilled. And as for failed tests, I think we all have at certain points: hopefully my failures will be as instructive and redemptive as the Lord needs them to be for me.

  9. Sometimes a prompting we receive – that we’ll be called to a particular calling for instance – and it doesn’t happen can also just be the Lord telling us we are worthy and He knows we are willing to serve but it is not yet our time.

    A couple of years ago both my husband and I felt he was going to be called to a certain calling. Felt it for weeks! He wasn’t called. Later we found out in a totally unexpected manner by those who were in “the know” that my husband had indeed been singled out to be called but then a realization that he would do more good right now where he is currently serving changed that. We learned a great deal from that experience. We also learned those promptings were very real but the meaning of the prompting was “He is worthy in every way before Me but he will not be called at this time.” As mentioned earlier our timing is not the Lord’s timing. We may receive a prompting to help us prepare ourselves – and sometimes that preparation can take years – for its eventual fruition to occur.

  10. Gerry says:

    Once as part of a presidency, I felt strongly that a particular couple should be called to a particular position. It was one of the very few times when I felt that the Spirit was “o.k.-ing” a calling and a person(s). (most of the time, I am completely clueless and get no specific answers about things like that.) However, when approached, they turned down the calling. I was sad because I had felt the Spirit so strongly and knew that the calling would have meant a great deal of spiritual growth for those persons. It also made me realize how much our Father values our agency and allows us to make our own choices regardless of what would be his choice for us. Sometimes it makes my brain hurt thinking about how many “agencies” are involved when seeking to fill callings in the church.
    I think that willingness to seek and follow promptings go along way with the Lord who requires “the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34).

  11. Paul says:

    Gerry, I appreciate your comment. I have also been thinking about both sides of this issue.

    I think when I receive inspiration that doesn’t seem to pan out (for myself) there are three alternatives:

    1. I was wrong; I did not receive the inspiration I thought I did. I’m 53 years old and still learning how the spirit speaks to me, and these experiences are part of that process.

    2. I was not the only player: if I had a sense I was to be called and was not, then I could assume that I was wrong, or that the person extending the calling did not get the same inspiration (for whatever reason).

    3. I was to use that promting to prepare, even though the “inspired” event did not happen, and that preparation was useful at another time. Like the obedience test answer above, this kind of inspiriation may be testing my willingness or readiness to serve without actually requiring the final sacrifice of my time.

    All that said, I’ve beeen on the other side of the desk, as well, seeking inspiration to extend callings to others. And I’ve had to learn to listen to the spirit in those instances, too.

    I’ve gone to my stake president as a bishop with recommendations of who to call, certain I’d had my choice confirmed by the spirit only to have the SP veto my choice. (Only once did I say to him, “President, are you sure you prayed about this?” He assured me he had, but offered to do so again. His answer did not change.) In each of those instances, time showed there were reasons for my positive answer and his negative one. Each case was different, but in each case it was demonstration of divine love for the people involved.

    One particular case I’ll share: a member was to be recommended to serve in our stake family history center. Our candidate was ideal: interest, skill, available time to serve. The nature of the assignment was such that I had to speak to member prior to going to the stake president with my recommendation. When I went to the SP, after a week of consideration, he declined to extend the call. We (the member and I) were crushed because we knew it was a calling the member would love.

    Within weeks of the decision from the stake president, the member’s father was diagnosed with cancer. The member had to spend considerable time caring for the father and would not have been able to serve. The member sent me an email and spoke about gratitude that the Lord had inspired the call, demonstrating His faith in the member, and the member was grateful that the SP had rejected the call, having acted also out of inspiriation from a loving Father-in-Heaven who knew of the trial to come. The member saw positive blessings in both bits of inspiration.

    (The member’s father, by the way, recovered and is still cancer free 10 years later, and the member subsequently served in the same position in the stake family history center.)

  12. Fraggle says:

    A couple of years ago, I’d gotten the distinct impression I was about to be released from my then current calling. Nothing happened for 3 months, and then a new call was extended. In passing, the person extending the calling remarked “we were going to extend this calling 3 months ago, but it didn’t work out”. I don’t know what the impediment was at the time, but I wonder why the Lord saw fit to clue me in *then*, especially as in the intervening time I felt like a caretaker in my calling, with really no idea what I was doing. If there was an aspect of testing in that experience, I can only assume I failed it.

  13. Bill Gage says:

    I think a great example of this is what Jeffery R. Holland shares about a similar experience he had. If you watch the video “Wrong Roads” you will see what I mean.


    Sometimes we need to go down the wrong roads so the Lord can get us where we need to be going faster.

    In the video he and his father prayed about which road they should take and the both got the inspiration to take the wrong road. Which they quickly found out was the wrong road. If they would have gone down the “right” road the first time, they may have after a while second guessed themselves and turned around, making them take much longer.

    Sometimes it is nice to have the wrong path identified quickly for us so we can be confident taking the right path.


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