What is God’s Will for My Life?
I have spent several years working with middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students. A lot of changes happen from twelve to twenty, and many of the questions that are important to a middle school student are completely irrelevant to a college student. However, there is one question that pops up in lives of sixth graders and seniors alike. It also seems to be a question that can drive a young person (and many adults too) crazier than almost any other (read more about that here). That question is: What is God’s will for my life?
The will of God is an interesting theme in scripture. Compared to other scriptural ideas it is not a particularly prevalent theme. And when it is discussed, it rarely applies to the question what is God’s will for my life, at least not in the way that we tend to use it today. The bible talks about the decrees of God (they will certainly come to pass), and the commands of God (those things are up to you and me). Both of those speak of God’s will. The bible also talks about individual callings. But you cannot find a scriptural example of one of God’s people asking, “What is God’s will for my life?”
So, when you are haunted by that question you might want to first understand that no matter how much you want that questioned to be answered, it does not seem to be a very important question on God’s list. Before you get overwhelmed by the sting of that realization consider the following. You are both precious and unique to God. He values you more than any of us can really understand. At the same time, whatever it is that he calls you to do could be done by anyone else that he so chooses. That is because God’s will for your life has very little to do with what he is calling you to do, and almost everything to do with who he is calling you to be.
Go and read some of the handful of scriptures that deal with the phrase will of God (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 7:9-10; Eph 6:6; Heb 10:36; 1 Pet 2:15, 4:2, 4:6, 4:19). Take the time to read the surrounding verses and see if you notice what I notice. There is nothing there about vocational callings. Instead, they all talk to essence of the Christian life and the fruit that it bears. These are the things that are described as the will of God in those verses: having your mind renewed, having godly sorrow and repentance, striving to please God instead of men, endurance, submitting to human institutions (even ungodly ones), not living for the lusts of your flesh, to live in the Spirit, and to suffer.
So, if you really want to know what the biblical answer is to the question, What is God’s will for my life? Look no further. He wants you to live a holy life. He wants you to treat others well. He wants you to be submissive. He wants you to suffer. And he wants you to endure. Encouraging, huh?
Perhaps we wrestle so hard over the question because we don’t want to know what the biblical answer really is. We have replaced the scriptural idea of God’s will for our life with questions that center around our individual comfort and importance, and that’s what really makes us struggle so hard over the question in the first place. Here is the irony. Our struggle with that question is a sign of just how far out of God’s will we are in the first place.
[…] you ever studied the phrase “will of God” in the New Testament? (You can read more about this topic here.) Do you know what God seems to specify in regards to His will? Research it for yourself, but […]
I need to hear this over and over and over. I know young people do, too.
God bless you and Happy New Year.
Thanks Scott, Happy New Year to you too!
Looking at those verses, I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s more than just suffering and enduring. Frankly, that’s just depressing. The good news of the Gospel is that we rejoice in suffering, that we are content in all circumstances, that “your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Suffering according to God’s will creates joy, glory, blessedness, and life in our heart. Though outwardly we are perishing, inwardly we are being renewed, filled with every good and perfect gift. I think that’s why the world can’t understand it. Outwardly, we look like those most to be pitied, but inwardly, we are more fulfilled and joyful than all the rest of humanity. Happy holiness, joyful righteousness.
Agreed, and point taken. Joy is all too often missing in the lives of Christians today, especially American Christians.
I would only add the following. It is “more than just suffering and enduring.” But it still IS suffering and enduring. One of the things that has made western Christianity so hollow has been the pursuit of happiness. I’m not into a faith of self-loathing, but understand the joy of the Lord to be much deeper and more profound than the human emotions that we tend to be looking for when we say we have lost our joy. The bible is full of stories about the faithful simply suffering and enduring. I think of Jeremiah when he felt deceived by God, Job’s devastation (in which his friends were judged by God for having misunderstood his holy sorrow), Nehemiah (whose grief put him to action), Mary as her son died on the cross, John the Baptist (who was so disillusioned before losing his life that he questioned whether or not Jesus was really the Messiah), and of course two thousand years of Christian history filled with the blood of martyrs.
I think there is a balance. And we can suffer AND be filled with joy. But I think it’s a tough, hard-fought place to get to. I’ll tell you if I ever make it.
Yea, i hear you man. I have a post about this subject actually, called happiness is the point, fittingly enough, but it is so essential to remember that it’s happiness in God. C.S. Lewis and John Piper write a lot about how it is good to pursue joy. We are made that way. But we tend to settle for hollow joys, and a gospel that says God wants you to have a new car instead of God wants you to have a joyful heart. He is meant to be our source, our pleasure in Him, not apart from Him. Anything less is settling for a life of half-hearted existence, which as we both know, is not the gospel. Good conversation. I enjoy your insights.
I’m with you Karsten, and agree with everything you have said. It’s like we’re saying the same thing, but coming at it from the other side of the tension. One passage that sort of pulls both sides together in my mind is James 1:2-4 “My brothers and sisters, whenver you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
You nailed one of the main issues I had in mind when you said “we tend to settle for hollow joys.” I think both the issue of shallow happiness and the issue of gloomy faith are a lack of maturity. And that’s what both of us long to see, a deeper, maturer, more compelling faith. I kind of hit that again in today’s post, by the way. Check it out: http://jonathanstone.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/the-path/
Enjoying the dialogue and your insights as well.
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