How Do I Know God's Will for My Life? Part 2
This week, I continue my thoughts on a question from a reader. Here’s the question:
What latitude do we have in our life choices, and how do we determine if those life choices conform to God’s plan for our lives?
The first part of the question deals with God’s sovereignty and our free will. We briefly looked at that a few weeks ago. I concluded that God establishes the boundaries and gives us real freedom to choose within those boundaries. He also allows us to partner with him, to have real input in life (like a jazz musician improvising) while he keeps things going in the direction he intends (like the jazz band director).
The second part of the question involves knowing God’s will. How do we know? Last week, I suggested that if we keep our eyes on Jesus, he’ll tell us what we need to know when we need to know it. I want to explore that further by considering the question, “What do I do if I ask God for direction but don’t hear anything from him?” Note that my thoughts below are just that, my thoughts. I will share things I’ve picked up from my own experience, but my musings are not on par with Scripture, and I encourage you to study the Bible for yourself on this question.
First, if you’re asking God for guidance but not hearing anything, stop and examine your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you if God has already spoken something to you that you haven’t done. A couple of years ago, I was frustrated with the Lord because I hadn’t heard him speak in my quiet time for several months. And then he spoke: You haven’t done what I asked you to do in January. Or perhaps you’ve been in conflict with someone and need to resolve that conflict first. Oftentimes, God places a higher value on forgiveness than we do, and his next step is for me to ask or extend forgiveness. He won’t tell me step 3 if I haven’t obeyed step 2.
Second, consider the question you’re asking God. Is it a “why” question? In my experience, God rarely answers those. I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t care but that we can’t understand the why with our finite minds. Also, when I present two options to God, “Should I do A or B,” I seldom, if ever, receive a direct answer. It’s better to ask, as author Jamie Winship suggests, some form of “What do you want me to know? And what do you want me to do?”
Third, be consistent in your listening. Remember the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8? There was an unjust judge and a widow who was asking for justice. Because she persisted in asking him, he eventually gave her the justice she sought. God is not an unjust judge! If that judge could give justice to a widow, how much more will God, in light of his goodness, give us what we need? And what I need most is time with God. Even more than an answer to my question, I need time at the feet of Jesus. I think this is one reason why God often answers questions I’m not currently asking, yet they are the exact answers I need now. God knows what I need better than I do! So, my practice is to tell God about all the things I need and questions I have, and then listen for whatever he has to say and trust that what he says is what I need.
What if, however, you still aren’t hearing a direction from the Lord? You have a few options. You can (and should) ask others to pray for your situation. You can (and should) seek the wisdom of an older, experienced disciple. Depending on the situation, you might decide to wait to move forward until you have more clarity. Or, it could be an instance in which God trusts you to make a good decision. In that case, you would cautiously move forward, keeping your posture of listening and time with the Lord, and trust that if you’re about to step in the wrong direction, God will stop you. I can personally attest that that very thing has happened to me many times in my life.