Confession: God doesn’t speak to me.
I have never, ever in my life heard the voice of God. I have never known for sure that what I was doing was the thing that God intended for me to do with my life.
It used to stress me out. How are you supposed to determine the will of God if God won’t just tell you what to do?
Some people will tell you that God has a very specific plan for your life. That God has your spouse picked out, and your job picked out, and your house picked out. God wants you to partake of certain hobbies. God wants you to go to a certain college. God wants you to live in a certain town and have a certain number of kids. If you listen to some people, God has this huge elaborate plan for everyone, and the plan depends on everyone doing exactly what they’re supposed to do. If anyone deviates from that plan, it throws off the whole plan, and God has to find someone that’s more obedient to work with.
The problem I have with those books and articles is that they limit God to this great, cosmic chess player. It means every decision is a question of obedience, and even if both options are seemingly good, only one can be correct. Only one can be in line with God’s Plan, and the other one is rebellious.
But I don’t think that’s how God operates.
That’s not to say I don’t think God has a plan. There’s obviously a plan, because it’s detailed in Scripture. There’s a plan for the restoration of the world, to be what it was always intended to be. The plan involves bringing the world back into the image of God, eliminating the influence of sin, overcoming evils like hatred, greed, lust, jealousy, and oppression. It’s a grand plan that has been in the works from the very beginning. It finds its completion in the Gospel, where God became man and lived among us in order to draw us into newness of life.
It’s true that God calls some people to specific situations. That happens pretty frequently in the Bible. Abraham gets called to go to the land God will show him. The apostles were called by Jesus. Paul had his encounter with God on the road to Damascus. But for every person in the Bible that heard the voice of God telling them what to do, there were hundreds of thousands of Israelites that did not hear directly from God. For every person that experienced a clear calling, there were tons of people that only knew God from what they heard from other people. For every person that had a specific plan spelled out for them, many more just had to follow God as best they could.
In most instances, God’s plan for individuals is likely the same as his plan for the entire cosmos – to be brought back into the presence and image of God. To experience the joy of the Gospel, and to bring the Kingdom of God back into the world we live in.
So if we want to determine the will of God for our lives, I think the best question to ask is “Where is God moving? What can we do to assist the Kingdom?”
The answer to that question is what determines where we need to be.
Our lives should be an attempt to join God in the work he’s already doing. But God is working all over. His plan is for the entire world. So if we’re asking what God’s specific plan is for us, perhaps we need to broaden our scope a little. Perhaps God has given us the freedom to work in the Kingdom wherever we are and wherever we’re going. God’s plan doesn’t necessarily depend on us being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. It depends on God working through all of us in the situations where we already are.
So is this where God wants you to live? I don’t know. Can you work toward the restoration of God’s Kingdom on Earth there? If so, you’re probably in the right place.
Is this who God wants you to marry? I don’t know. Will you help each other grow in your relationships with God, and encourage each other to participate more fully in the kingdom of God? If so, you’ve probably found the right person.
Is this where God wants you to work? I don’t know. Can you live a life of love and righteousness, and present the Gospel to the people you interact with in the way you conduct your business? If so, you’re probably doing the right job.
Rather than stress about the will of God, perhaps the best thing we can do is to trust that God is going to be God, no matter what choices we make in service to him.
So if you struggle to determine what God’s will is for your life right now, the simple answer may just be that God doesn’t have a preference.
The simple answer may be that God is leaving it up to you.
The truth may be that God isn’t out to manage your affairs for you. He may just be inviting you to join the dance.