You’ve been offered two jobs. Which one do you take?
Are you really supposed to marry this person? Or date them? Or dump them? How do you know for sure for sure?
You’re about to make a major life decision. It is definitely God’s will for your life. Probably. Maybe. Except also possibly not? Or definitely not. How can you be sure?
If you are a Christian, you will hit upon this question. You will come to a defining place of importance in your life, a time of decision-making or direction-choosing, and you will feel absolutely rudderless. The skies will be quiet. No angelic choirs from heaven descend to give you the vaguest hint of what you should do, and to be frank, you really don’t know. You keep asking, though, and waiting.
So how do you figure it out? How do you figure out what job, what fiance, what move, what investment, what decision is actually, really, truly what God wants you to do?
You’re not going to like the answers, probably. But let’s go.
1. Recognize that you’re asking a question that is already answered. The truth is, we know God’s will for us. God has made it pretty clear what He wants us to do with our lives. Christ has encouraged us to believe in Him, knowing that if we do we will have passed over from death to life. He wants us to love and serve Him. He wants us to keep His commands. He was very explicit about all of that stuff!
But that doesn’t tell me whether I should accept the job at–
No, it doesn’t, because the Bank of Tuscaloosa job isn’t the point. The point, first, is to set your spiritual compass so that you can start walking in the right direction. Once you sit down and remember what it is, exactly, that God desires from and wills in your life, you can start asking the important questions about the minor details like jobs and cars and relationships. Which leads us to…
2. Evaluate the decision in the context of what you already know about God’s will for your life. What you know about God’s will for your life should already preclude you from doing things that would prevent you from loving Him, serving Him, serving others, or doing any of what He has put you here to do. If you are making a decision that requires you to act in selfishness, to cause harm to others, that would it difficult for you to continue to worship and serve God, that stems only from a love of money, that would prioritize your self over God, that would take something from God, and so on and so forth, then your decision becomes pretty easy: don’t do it! Don’t do anything that violates what you already know the will of God is.
But maybe you’re operating in a grey area here. All the alternatives you have to choose from fall within the greater scope of God’s will. What then?
3. Get godly counsel. Talk to your pastor, to godly friends and family, to believing friends. Maybe they see something you’re missing. Maybe, if they’re all saying the same thing, that “same thing” is something worth considering and praying over. Recognize that people are prey to biases, of course, but that God can use them to confirm or affirm something for you. If every believing soul in your life is warning you away from something, or encouraging you into it, it might be worth listening. And hey, if nothing else, they can pray for you.
4. Be wary of asking for signs. You’ll start seeing possible “signs” everywhere: in the grocery store, on the Internet, in a commercial on TV. Be wary. We read our own biases into everything, and some of what we see as divine “signs” may not be. Depend on God to speak to you through His word, through prayer, and through the church, and if you do see a sign out and about that seems significant, pray about it carefully and consider it with other believers before you unequivocally accept something as God’s word.
5. Be wary of your feelings, too. Anything can cause a feeling. A really bad taco or a really good pair of shoes can cause a feeling. Sometimes feelings can be evidence of a particular conviction by God…and sometimes not. As with signs, proceed with caution. You feeling particularly bad or happy about something isn’t always an indication of divine favor or disfavor. Pray about it, accept counsel about it, and consider it as part of the larger whole.
6. Look at the big picture. Once you take everything together – what you know about God’s general will, any godly counsel you’ve received, anything God’s said to you through His words or that you’ve been convicted of in prayer – you might see a pattern. Lots of signs pointing to “no” or “yes” or “do it!” or “AVOID”? Listen to them! God often speaks clearly in a lot of small ways, and when you step back those small things might have piled up to something big.
But – but! Maybe all the counsel, all the signs, everything you’ve read and heard and asked about–it’s all culminated in a giant “????” Some of your godly counsel say “it’d be great!” and some say “eh, maybe not.” God’s word is offering you a lot of illumination, but none in any particular direction. Your prayers aren’t giving any definition. Everything falls within the grand scope of God’s will, but you’re still lost. If that’s the case then, there are two more steps.
7. Pray that God prevents or prohibits you from doing anything He doesn’t want you to do. If you’re honestly seeking His will and you’ve been agonizing over this, and you’ve been close to God about it, He’ll grant this prayer. Don’t worry. He will put an obstacle in front of you if you are doing something that will take you away from Him or harm your relationship with Him in a meaningful way. And then…
8. Freely choose! It took me a long time to realize it, but a lot of times I have wanted God to make His explicit will in my life apparent in my decisions because a) I didn’t want to make a mistake and b) I didn’t want to be accountable for a mistake. But God grants us a lot of freedom within the confines of our relationship to Him. Sometimes the right answer really is A or B or C. Or neither! Maybe the job in Tuscaloosa would be fine and so would the job in Albuquerque. Maybe Move A is as fine an idea as Move C. Once you’ve asked God to prevent you from doing something He doesn’t want for you, and once you’ve ascertained that whatever you’re doing is His will, then the gate is open. Walk where you will.
Which is precisely what’s so scary. A lot of times “What is God’s will for me?” is “God, tell me what I should do so I don’t have to figure it out for myself.” Rest assured that if you’re moving forward with Him and His grand plan and desires for you in mind, there’s only so far astray you can go. Start there, and be confident in your freedom.
God has a plan for you, and the plan for you is to serve Him and love Him. If you’ve got that, you’re golden. Look at all the possibilities ahead!