No question seems to bring up more anxiety in people’s lives than that very question. Because in that question is contained people’s anxiety over who they should marry (Because what if I don’t find my soul mate?), or what is my vocation (Because what if God really wanted me to be a missionary, but I’m a teacher?), or why did this bad thing happen to me (Because what happens if we suffer loss in a flood?). Underneath those ideas are people’s struggle to understand what is their role (freedom) in seeking out God’s will for their life if it is already predetermined in his sovereignty.
I believe that God, in his freedom, has endowed us as the image bearers of that freedom as well (Gen. 1:27). I no longer have to live in fear that I may miss out on God’s will for my life, rather I can embrace the freedom he has given me to go out into the world and to be in relationship with him.
The great philosopher, theologian and psychologist Soren Kierkegaard writes about this anxiety that I think we all feel when we talk about the freedom God has granted us. He says, “Anxiety is always to be oriented toward freedom.” He goes on to define this freedom as possibility, and it is exactly that possibility that separates us from the animals. In fact, it is this possibility (freedom) that beckons us, and allows us to creatively live into the actuality of it. But between possibility and actuality is the anxiety that freedom brings with it.
In all my years as a pastor and now a therapist I find that a lot of people’s anxiety revolve around the freedom that God has given them in their lives. With all the possibilities that life offers, it can often be too overwhelming for people, especially if their theology tells them that everything has already been predetermined for them ahead of time. Rather than freedom and possibility, people would often just rather be told what to do, or be given one option, not multiple possibilities.
What Does the Bible Say?
I have been finding that the will of God is more about how I live as a follower of Christ, than it is about making that one perfect decision, or you are out of God’s will. This is a topic I will continue to wrestle with I’m sure, but here are a few things that I have been coming to some conclusions on:
1) I believe that the will of God is more of a moral command, to not be conformed to the world, but rather to be transformed through the presence and power of God, than it is about choosing one thing over another (i.e. a job, or a relationship, or a school). “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2.) Or, “As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.” (I Thess. 4:1-5)
2) Seeking out God’s will, discerning what He wants you to do, is more about pursuing God, and living among and treating others with Christ’s love, than it is about finding the one perfect thing…that one perfect decision. “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess. 5:12-18.)
3) Constantly fretting over the one, right, will of God paralyzes us from living freely in Christ, or experiencing the abundant life he has brought us. (John 10:10)
4) Because the will of God is more about conforming to the mind of Christ, and not the ways of the world, how you live then will greatly affect how you discern future decisions. For example, if in I Thess. 4 I am urged to be sanctified, and not live like the pagans, then how I am living can either cloud, or bring clarity to the decisions I want to make. Maybe your lack of discernment is less about God not revealing this one perfect thing to you, than it is about how you live, how you use your body, or whether or not you give yourself over to passionate lust, and not living in a holy and honorable way.
Isn’t it interesting how we all want to have free will, and make decisions in life, but we really don’t want to take responsibility for them when they fail, or we make a mistake? We say, that must have been God’s will.
Or isn’t interesting how we want to give some decisions to God, and others we do not? It’s like we trust Him with this, but not these?
Or isn’t it interesting how we want to give God complete sovereignty, but then when something bad happens, we want to take the responsibility off of God, and blame it on people’s free choices? The problem of theodicy. Very inconsistent of us.