What is God’s will for my life?
This is a question that has been tossed around by people for generations. It’s as if we are looking for God to provide some sort of game plan for our lives to guide us in our choices of places to live, colleges to attend, people to marry, business deals to consider. And I get that. It’s nice to know that there may be an overarching plan that will bring sense to my life.
We love to quote Jeremiah 29:11-13,
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
The only problem is that it has nothing to do with our future or God’s plan for an individual Christian’s life. This wasn’t written to us to make us feel good that somehow God was going to provide wonderful opportunities for us in the future. (The context is about Judah and the return from the exile).
The truth is God’s will for your life is that you live for the praise of his glory, that you live holy and blameless in his sight, that you live appropriately as an adopted child of his (Ephesians 1, 4).
This isn’t about where you move. It isn’t about whom you marry.
It is about how you live.
God does not micro-manage our lives. He created us with brains and common sense. He gives us a community of brothers and sisters to lean on. He wants us to grow into maturity, much the way we want our children to grow. Do I want my adult children to move where I tell them, take the jobs I think they should have, send their kids to the schools I want them to? Or do I want my adult children to make mature choices?
In other words, do I want my adult children to be adult?
I think God wants the same for us.
The truth is, often it isn’t about God’s will. We desperately look for signs to confirm what we want to do. I’ve had friends and colleagues make terrible choices because they just knew God had given a sign confirming what they had already convinced themselves they should do. In the end, they left behind a string of damaged relationships and heart-ache.
In the end, it wasn’t so much God’s will but their own.
More often than not, circumstances only represent a choice for us to make. It might be a good opportunity, or it might be a temptation. Give the devil his due–not all seemingly good situations are provided by God. Not every open door should be stepped through. Even the oh-so-attractive-and-seemingly-spiritual opportunities might be a temptation detracting us from something more important.
So, how does one ascertain the will of God in a certain situation?
First of all, disabuse yourself of the idea that God is micromanaging your life and that there is only one possible choice to make that is “the will of God.” If you are faced with several options and all options are honorable, then whichever option you choose God will be with you. It is his will that you think and act with the mind of Christ. If all of your options are good, just, and honorable–then choose knowing God will respect your choice.
Secondly, do not fall victim to the belief that all options should result in a satisfactory outcome for you. Jesus followed the explicit will of God and he was crucified. God’s will for Jesus was marked out by pain and suffering. In the end there was resurrection–but the road went through the cross.
Thirdly, determine if the options before you are both reasonable and honorable. If one option is not honorable, not in line with the revealed will of God, if you have to compromise your morals or act in such a way that actively demonstrates insensitivity and hatefulness toward others, if you have to steal or cheat or lie–then you already know this option is not the will of God.
Finally, seek and listen to the counsel of wise and discerning friends. In other words, make your decision within community. In my own personal experience, this is perhaps one of the most under- or mis-utilized resource available to us. Too often, we decide on our own what is the best course of action–or, we only listen to voices that agree with our preconceived ideas after we’ve already made up our minds.
Why do we avoid the last option? Perhaps because we have already decided what we wish to do and we do not want other voices which may dissuade us. I find this particularly disturbing. If I claim I am interested in following God’s will, then why do I avoid what was most often utilized to determine God’s will in the past: community?
Perhaps it wasn’t God’s will I was interested in, after all.
So, what is God’s will?
To walk blameless before him, to live for the praise of his glory, to live appropriately as his adopted children: to allow him to transform us into the character of Christ.
Beyond that? He wants you to use the resources he has given you for intelligent decision making: your common sense and your community of spiritual friends (those who love you unconditionally and who love God).
What do you think?