What is God’s will for me?
Connected to prayer
This article was first featured alongside our Prayer Diary in October 2018. You can download the October 2018 prayer points here or sign-up to receive future editions by post or email.
If God has a wonderful plan for my life, as the evangelistic tract tells us, then why doesn’t he tell me what it is?
After all, our lives down here are a confusing mess of fits and starts, dead ends and open doors, possibilities and competing ideals. There are so many decisions to make and none of the answers seem clear. What should I do this summer? What should I do for my degree? What kind of career do I want? Should I get married? Whom should I marry? What job should I take? Should I be a missionary? Should I be a pastor? Should I leave home and test the waters elsewhere? Is now the time to buy a house?
With so many questions to face in the next years – or sometimes in the next several weeks – it’s no surprise so many of us are desperate to know the will of God for our lives. Which brings me back to a rephrasing of my original question: If God has a wonderful plan for my life, how can I discover what it is?
A lot of books have been written trying to answer this question, and my answer might not be what you expect. My answer is not original to me, but it is quite simple and, I hope, quite biblical. I’d like us to consider that maybe we have difficulty discovering God’s wonderful plan for our lives because, if truth be told, he doesn’t really intend to tell us what it is. And maybe we’re wrong to expect him to.
Most of the time what we’re really looking for is God’s will of direction. We hear it in the questions above. We want to know his individual, specific plan for the who, what, where, when and how of our lives. We want to know his direction.
“After all, our lives down here are a confusing mess of fits and starts, dead ends and open doors, possibilities and competing ideals.”
So here’s the real heart of the matter: Does God have a secret will of direction that he expects us to figure out before we do anything? And the answer is no. Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives. And yes, we can be assured that he works things for our good in Christ Jesus. And yes, looking back we will often be able to trace God’s hand in bringing us to where we are. But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, he does not burden us with the task of divining his will of direction for our lives ahead of time.
The second half of that sentence is crucial. God does have a specific plan for our lives, but it is not one that he expects us to figure out before we make a decision. I’m not saying God won’t help you make decisions (it’s called wisdom). I’m not saying God doesn’t care about your future.
I’m not saying God isn’t directing your path and in control amidst the chaos of your life. I believe in providence with all my heart. What I am saying is that we should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tightrope, or a bull’s-eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.
God is not a Magic 8-Ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for him. We feel like we can know – and need to know – what God wants every step of the way. But such preoccupation with finding God’s will, as well-intentioned as the desire may be, is more folly than freedom.
Fear God, not the future
Ecclesiastes may seem a strange book but it’s more relevant than ever. Too many of us are chasing after the wind, looking for satisfaction in work, family and success – all good things, yet all things that don’t ultimately satisfy. It would be bad enough if we were just restless, meandering through life, and a little cowardly. But we’ve spiritualised restless and meandering cowardice, making it feel like piety instead of passivity. We’re not only leading lives of vanity; our passion for God is often nothing more than a passion to have God make our search for vanity a successful one.
We need to hear the conclusion of Ecclesiastes: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13). If you are going to be anxious about one thing, be anxious to keep his commandments. If we must fear something – and we all do – fear God, not the future.
The will of God isn’t a special direction here or a bit of secret knowledge there. God doesn’t put us in a maze, turn out the lights and tell us, “Get out and good luck.” In one sense, we trust in the will of God as his sovereign plan for our future. In the other sense, we obey the will of God as his good word for our lives. In no sense should we be scrambling around trying to turn to the right page in our personal choose-your-own-adventure novel.
“In one sense, we trust in the will of God as his sovereign plan for our future. In the other sense, we obey the will of God as his good word for our lives.”
God’s will for your life and my life is simpler, harder, and easier than that. Simpler, because there are no secrets we must discover. Harder, because denying ourselves, living for others, and obeying God is more difficult than taking a new job and moving to Fargo. Easier, because as Augustine said, God commands what he wills and grants what he commands.
In other words, God gives his children the will to walk in his ways – not by revealing a series of next steps cloaked in shadows, but by giving us a heart to delight in his law.
So the end of the matter is this: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God.
Just do Something
This article is adapted from Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung (©2009). Published by Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. Used by permission. For more details, or to purchase the book please click the link below: