photo by eternal
One of the things that I feel like God has been shepherding me through over the past year is understanding the illusive idea of "God's will." We hear people talk about this so much, but how do we really know what he wants us to do, particularly when it comes down to grey areas like "Should I take this job or that job?" or "Should I speak up and say something about her choices?"
When I was trying to figure out whether to move to Grand Rapids or not, I sat down with the youth pastor at our church who I volunteered with (and who later introduced me and Michael and officiated our wedding). We went through why I wanted to move and I remember saying soemthing about wanting to do God's will. He shared a great illustration with me about how he understands this idea of God's will: Picture God's will as a big golf-style umbrella. Though the umbrella is small compared to the storm outside, it's big enough for you to stand various places under the umbrella. And so long as you're under the umbrella, you'll be kept dry from the rain. There's not just one, single spot and if you're not standing directly under it, you'll be pelted with thunderbolts. Rather, God is merciful and gives us options of where to stand under the umbrella of "his will."
This was the first time someone had introduced me to the concept of God's will as being one that is freeing rather than one that is confusing and condemning.
Last winter, I read an article that I found particularly insightful. In it, the author shares basic insights into discerning God's will. He points out that much of what God cares about most, he has revealed to us in the Bible--sure he cares about what job you take, but what he cares about most is your heart and your relationship with him. The author says, "Much of God's will has already been made plain....We must be willing to do his will in those things he has already revealed, if we are to know his will in those things he has not yet made known."
He then goes on to remind us that God usually doesn't make everything plain upfront, but leads us (often times unnoticably) as we go along. "However much we would like to know things in advance, there is no need for it. God wants us to trust him to open the right doors at the right time. And if we get to a door and it doesn't open, maybe God is asking us to wait as he has some more work to do on us first. Or maybe he is turning us in another direction," the author writes.
He also encourages readers to remember that God has gifted us with wisdom for a reason--and expects us to use it. "If God gives us wisdom to know what is the best path to take, that is just as much his guidance as giving us some special sign. This may involve hard work in grappling with issues, seeking advice and weighing up the options; but all this is part of our growing up."
Finally, he lists some of the things to consider as we weigh a decision with wisdom: What is God saying to me through the Bible? Do I have "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding" in regards to this decision? What do other godly Christians say about this decision? Are circumstances aligning to open doors or are they pulling closed?
(You can read the article in it's entirety here.)