“I just wish I knew what God’s will for me is!”
I’ve heard it many times. I’ve said it even more. There is a hunger for clarity and direction we yearn for when we are clouded by frustration and disappointment. Following Jesus was never supposed to be this difficult, was it?
The Scriptures put a huge emphasis on being obedient to God’s will. So why does God’s will seem so hard to find?
The Will of God
The words of Jesus seem clear enough: “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:35).”
The Holy Spirit is said to intercede for us according to God’s will (Romans 8:27).
If our minds have been renewed, we’re supposed to be able to discern the will of God (Romans 12:2).
Then why the gap between what Scripture says about God’s will and my own experience? Have I done something wrong? Why does the presence and power of God in my life feel so weak?
God’s Place for Us
The uncomfortable truth is we may be looking for God’s will in all the wrong places. Could it be that we have confused God’s will for the place of comfort, ease, and success? But what if God’s will for us is meant to put us in places of frustration, dependence, and need?
Jesus learned that the will of his father was not so much a plan to know but a place to be – right where God has him.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:39).” In this moment, Jesus learned how God’s will was not a path of comfort and success but a place of faithfulness and obedience in sorrow and darkness. Theologian Donald Macleod writes:
This is what he wants; wanted with all his soul and with all his strength. He wanted God’s will to be different. He asks, “Could there not be some other way?” He knows it is God’s will, “the cup Abba as given him”. “But, Abba, could I have another cup, a different cup?” For a moment he stands with the millions of his people who have found God’s will almost unendurable, shrunk from the work given them to do, shuddered at the prospect of the race set before them and prayed that God would change his mind. But solidarity is not the main thing here. This is not a road less trodden. It is a road never trodden, before or since: the cup of the one man, the Son of God. He shudders; hesitates. For a moment the whole salvation of the world, the whole of God’s determinate counsel, hangs in the balance, suspended on the free, unconstrained decision of this man. There is dread here and bewilderment and awe and self-doubt, and fear.
If God’s will landed Jesus in a place of bewilderment, self-doubt, and fear – why do we expect anything different?
There are two places in Scripture where we are explicitly told what God’s will is for us. The first is in Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3).” Sanctification – the process by which we become more like Jesus – is God’s will for our lives. What does this look like? It’s not hard. Paul even gives us a few examples:
…that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)
Maybe God’s will isn’t so hard to find. We find it when we choose to do the ordinary things which make us more like Jesus.
Still, there’s more to learning God’s will for our lives. The Apostle Peter, continuing a thought similar to what the Apostle Paul told the church in Thessalonica, said it this way: “For this is the will of God, that by doinggood you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people (1 Peter 2:15).
In his context, Peter was encouraging a group of Christians who were living on the margins of society to live holy and pure lives that were attractive to their persecutors. In fact, these Christians were to be so attractive that their lives would lead to salvation for those outside the church (1 Peter 2:12).
God’s will for our lives is less of a map for us to follow and more of a journey for us to embark on. This means the path God has for us will often put us in uncharted territory. It is only there where our obedience and holiness can be expressed in such a captivating way to the world around us.
Author Bob Goff captures a similar thought: “…go after the things He’s made us to love. It’s not all planned out for us either, and that’s where most people get too nervous to take the next step. But know this: when Jesus invites us on an adventure, He shapes who we become with what happens along the way.”
Not so Hard – Yet it is?
God’s will is not so hard to find. It is the place of dependence, confusion and need. It is holiness in action which strikes at the heart of those around us.
So why do so many of us continue to struggle with God’s will for our lives?
It’s not wrong to want clarity and direction from the Lord. He often will provide it (through very ordinary means such as friends and present opportunities). But many of us have traded the truths about God’s will for a lie. Rather than embracing seasons of frustration and discomfort as God’s best for us – we run or try to pray them away. Rather than pursuing the difficult path of holiness, we choose laziness or apathy.
I wonder if so many of us feel discouraged because we have become too comfortable with our “acceptable” sins (jealousy, envy, gossip) while feeding on things which are not good for our souls(time wasted on our phones, watching media with graphic nudity or violence)? After all, both Paul and Peter say that God’s will for is holiness that stuns the watching world. When they see Jesus in us, how could they not be?
The lure of sin is strong, but God’s grace is even stronger.
Has your fight for holiness stunned anyone lately?