I assumed that once I moved beyond the big life decisions of where to go to college, that first post-grad job, and who to marry, I wouldn’t wrestle over my desire to know God’s will for my life quite as urgently. Are you laughing at me? Me too. Apparently, those were just some of the warm-ups for life.
In recent years I’ve found myself wishing that the Lord would hand me a road map for the ever-growing list of decisions that lay before me: Do we use public school, private school, or homeschool for our kids? Should we use the cry-it-out method, or something else? What church should we attend? Should I make a job change? Should we move closer to family? Is it time to pursue another degree?
Many of my friends have shared the burden with me of decision-making as an adult as well—wouldn’t it be nice if someone would make the choices for us, or if the Lord would just whisper a definite direction or instruction into our ears? Then we would feel confident. Right? Perhaps then we wouldn’t feel fearful of stepping outside God’s will for our lives or stumbling into a wrong or sinful decision. Do you identify?
Last year I sat in a seminar about God’s will at a local seminary and the Lord used the professor to completely change my thinking about God’s will for my life. Whether I could have articulated it or not, I’d always thought of God’s will like a bullseye. The only way for me to get it “right” and stay on the straight and narrow was hitting the center—every single time. In my estimation then, there was no room for human error, and this produced a lot of fear of getting it wrong. I believe this is a common way of thinking about God’s will. I also think it’s incorrect! God holds so much grace for us and that isn’t excluded in decision-making.
Within our belief that God is sovereign over all things, we recognize that nothing is outside of His control. We can’t fall out of His will by not hitting that bullseye. So, what does that leave us with? The seminary professor offered instead that we think of God’s will as a fenced-in field—as if in beautiful pastures, by still waters—and we make our choices there. There we cannot step outside of God’s will but instead, make our decisions within the beautiful boundary lines that He’s given for our lives (Ps. 16:6-8).
In a blog last month about our calling as women, I talked about our primary calling to be holy as God is holy (Lev. 19:2)—and we established that HOW we live is more significant than WHAT we do. The bullseye view of God’s will falls apart in light of this. Sure, there’s often a best choice but is there only one good option? When deciding school choices for my kids I knew that God could be glorified and honored in us, and in my children, if I sent them to public school. I knew that he could be as surely honored if we homeschooled. There was a best decision for our family, and we sought it carefully and wisely–with our whole family in mind. But I wouldn’t have stepped out of God’s will if I had chosen differently, instead, I still sit securely in His gracious and sovereign control.
God’s will in Scripture
But that map that we want to guide us? Friend, we have it! God’s Word is living and active for us. It isn’t a magic8 ball that will tell us exactly what to do—and if we’re honest, we’d likely resent it if it did. But Scripture gives us a myriad of directions in honoring and knowing God’s will. Let’s look at a couple:
The prophet Micah tells us in Micah 6:8 that God’s will and desire for us is that we would “act justly”, “love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
1 Thessalonians 4:2-6 tells us that God’s will for us is sanctification—that is, that we would grow holier, and reflect the image of Christ more and more. Paul writes that we do this through casting off sin and instead heeding God’s instructions—His Word! —and by living honorably with self-control.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 informs us that God’s will for us is that we would “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances”.
In John 6:40, Christ taught His disciples that God’s will was for all who believe in Him to have the gift of salvation and eternal life.
Perhaps those don’t feel like they give you the explicit directions that you’re craving. I get that. I love the Psalms because I think they often give voice to the exact struggles we still wrestle with and the ways we speak our questions and confusion to the Lord. But David’s plea in Psalm 143:10 is especially poignant for us as he writes, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” I know I too often miss the crucial step of prayer. But truly, this is a prayer that God delights to answer! James 1:5 teaches us that God generously supplies wisdom to those who ask in faith.
As you shift your thinking about understanding and pursuing God’s will for your life, you may not have the magic solution for solving that health problem or addressing your child’s sin struggle, but you will be met each time by the guidance and comfort of the Spirit as you pray for wisdom and to understand God’s will for your life.