“I just wish God would show me what to do!”
God’s will has been the focus of much prayer, angst, hope, and confusion. Our prayers for God’s will often centers around the need for God to fill in the blanks of our lives. “Who should I marry?” Which school should I attend?” Should I take that job?” For many of us, we have spent too many years with this sinking feeling that life has slipped through our fingers because somehow we must have missed God’s will or feeling frustrated because we fell like God is holding out on us.
It seems the struggle to “find God’s will” is universal. Most of us, at one time or another, have lamented, There also seems to be a lot of misconceptions in our understanding of God’s will.
God’s will is not a bull’s eye.
We often think of God’s will as a target, a bull’s eye, which we hopefully “hit” or a corn maze which must be strategically navigated to reach the desired end. God’s will, we surmise, looms “out there” and it’s up to us to figure it out.
Unwittingly, when God’s will is seen as something we achieve or possess, we will spend most of our life in endless striving. Hooked on outcomes, our pursuit of God’s will will tend to be defined by our tireless actions that ensure its possession. The hidden premise in our frustration is if we could only know what it is, then we could secure it. We could stay in control and make it happen. (Who, then, needs faith?)
In essence, we think it’s up to us to obtain it, yet all the while we are not sure if we found it, missed it or simply messed it up. This chronic striving can leaves us exhausted, frustrated and terribly anxious.
Notice how one person describes this struggle:
I have always struggled with the question of “What am I called to do”. If I am not doing then I am not being faithful to His call. I have spent years wrestling with the need to know the call – the need to be faithful – the need to not fail Him. A year ago I literally collapsed physically, mentally, spiritually from years of running around the “chair.” (A figurative and “real” place of resting in Jesus’ presence.) Jesus gently helped me to my feet and bid me to sit with Him but I couldn’t/wouldn’t sit. I basically stood in front of the chair saying, “I’m here with you but you just need to tell me what to do so I can get going again.” I didn’t understand that the rest, the wholeness, the faithfulness to His call was actually in sitting next to Him. I was ready and poised to run as soon as I heard instructions…asking on-going questions and demanding answers and pleading with Him to fulfill my need of knowing so I could just get going again.
God’s will is not out there; it is here.
Rather than a place or possession, God’s will is a daily, unfolding journey nestled in the ins and outs of our lives…right now.
To wait for a distant time, we act as if today doesn’t count. Not recognizing the significance of God’s invitations in the present moment, we can blow past the magnitude of ordinary living and all the ways God is creatively and actively at work in our lives…now. Too often we falsely perceive God’s purposes are only lived out in sensational ways, and we can miss sensational moments cloaked in ordinary ways. Truth be told, we grow impatient in the wait for God to do something sensational and frustrated the “right” door doesn’t seem to be opening up. Judging God as uncaring or uninterested, we do something, anything. Any movement, we surmise, is better than seemingly no movement at all.
When we are free, however, from the burden of trying to discover God’s will ahead of time, we can live with a daily responsiveness to all the invitations to live by faith no matter how frightful or insignificant they seemed.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Phil. 2:13
Say yes to what is in front of you.
God’s will is right in front of you and it hinges on your willingness to say yes.
I just receive my doctorate in leadership. If you had told me ten years ago this would happen, I would have either: 1) not believed you, 2) panicked, 3) got my hands all over it and try to horse my way to make it happen. Receiving a doctoral degree was never on my radar. Ever. However, I promised myself years ago that I would always say yes to God. (I knew without a doubt He was good; and his ways are so much higher than mine. I figured he knew a better way to shape my path than anything I could create on my own.) So I decided if fear was the only thing keeping me from saying yes, then that was not a good reason to say no.
Of course, this is not formulaic. It is personal. Daily we sense God’s Spirit taking us down a path and abandon ourselves to it. We don’t say yes to everything that comes down the pike but yes to what God is doing; yes to what stirs your heart; yes to desire no matter how afraid you are…and what we soon discover about God’s will is it means growing into habits that encourage us to lives as grateful responders.
Mike Beraux succinctly notes, “My life is taking off in proportion to my willingness to say ‘yes’ to God every day.”
To continually say yes to a different kingdom that invites us to live beyond our fears; to step into places that require more of us than we think we can give; and to live creatively and bravely knowing we am participating in something greater than ourselves.
Way leads on to way
The daily unfolding of our lives takes us someplace we never imagined and never expected. Soon we find ourselves at a place we never expected to be; doing things we never expect to be to be doing; with people we never expected to be with and it’s exactly what God in mind for us all along. Every yes leads to another and before long we find ourselves living in way for which we were created.
I don’t think we find our purpose. I think our purpose finds us and becomes more defined with each step of surrender and obedience.
What happens here; matter for there.
As Robert Frost poignantly penned, “Way leads on to way.” Saying “yes” to this; leads on to that. You can’t have one without the other. My journey to my doctoral pursuit, began years ago, in mostly small, persistent, seemingly insignificant ways not knowing these decisions formed my life in ways I never imagined or dreamed. When people ask me what I am going to do with it, I tell them I am not sure. I love the freedom and embrace mystery of not knowing.
My friend concludes her story this way:
I am moving forward again. Not with a plan and a checklist but with a focus on staying in my chair and taking each day for what He has in it for me. I have learned that it is exhausting to carry the weight of all the possible outcomes on my shoulders as I try to figure out all the answers to keep my life and those who depend on me running on a smooth course. I no longer have to do that. The chair is freedom. The chair has started to feel comfy and I find that I like it here. I am looking forward to what He will show me next and where we will go from here. I don’t expect staying in my chair to ever be easy but I have faith that the more I practice just “being” the easier it will become each day to live from that posture.
We can’t control or manipulate God’s will; we can only submit and respond to it. When we finally let go of our “death grip” on trying to make something happen, only then do we became aware of the many graces that punctuate our days. This is when we begin to live gratefully instead of frantically.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God,” (Phil. 1:9-11).