In high school, one of my favorite topics to discuss with my youth leader was Finding God’s Will, particularly how it related to finding a date for prom. I memorized Romans 12:1-2, where Paul encourages Christ-followers to offer themselves as living sacrifices in order to “prove” or “discern” what is God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.
Although I was committed to finding God’s will, I had developed some dangerous beliefs:
- God’s will was a hard-to-find path amid a myriad of alluring roads cleverly designed by Satan to lead me down a misguided maze of misfortune.
- If I couldn’t figure out God’s will, I’d never find my true love. If I never found my true love, I’d for sure never get a prom date.
- If I were a good enough “sheep,” I’d always be able to hear God’s voice, and I’d always know exactly what to do.
- God’s will was one, singular plan for my life, and if I missed it, I was doomed to live a “less than God’s best” existence. God would be disappointed in me for all eternity.
- When in doubt, I just had to ask myself, “What would Jesus do?” If I felt goosebumps, I was getting close.
I was in a pretty consistent state of fear and apprehension, because I wanted nothing more than to follow God’s design for my life. But I was afraid I’d miss it and end up taking prom pictures with my stepsister Patricia.
As my trust in God has deepened and my understanding of him has grown, I’ve learned that God’s will isn’t always as narrow as I assumed it to be. In fact, I’ve found God’s will to be a wide-open adventure , fulfilling Paul’s words in Romans 8:15, “This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’” (The Message).
Two experiences reshaped how I viewed God’s will for my life:
- I had a challenging conversation with a guy who would become my pastor and 20+ year mentor. On a napkin in a Shoney’s restaurant, he challenged me to view God’s will not as a singular dot to be found but a circle in which to live. And maybe a handful of dots were inside that circle, each equally representative of God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will.
- I read Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. One phrase from his March 20 devotion rocked me to the core: “When you are rightly related to God…you are God’s will” (emphasis mine).
What do these thoughts have in common? It’s the idea that God’s will isn’t a secret to be learned, a puzzle to be unscrambled, a treasure to be found, or a single road to be traveled.
At times I wish God would give me the gift of a handwritten note—like he gave Belshazzar, though preferably with a much more positive message. Instead, God guides me through the Bible, his Holy Spirit, good conversations with friends, and the occasional Instagram meme. While it would be easier for me to obey clear direction from God, my relationship with him grows each time I lean into him and listen for his voice.
Understanding that God’s will for my life is connected to my intimacy with God relieves the pressure I felt as a teenager. As I ask, it is given to me; as I seek, I find; as I knock, the door is opened. I may not always get a clear, handwritten answer from God, but I do get a deep sense of his presence and love for me…and eventually, I got the girl, too.
As we purposefully yield to Jesus’ leading, rooted in a mutually submitting community with other Christ-followers, every choice we make is God’s will. How do I know? Because God delights when we know him intimately and trust his leading in our lives.
What do you think?