During adolescence we naturally question what we want to do with our lives. It evolves from fantasizing what we’ll do when we grow up to a realistic, oft-asked, anxiety-riddled question as we age. But as we become more aware of our faith, the question add another dimension. We wonder “What’s God’s will for my life?” “What does God want me to do?” or even more ambiguously terrifying “what is God’s will?”
It can be a frightening question–combining ultimate authority and discretion into our life goals and dreams. The issue is that God’s authority doesn’t often comfort us in this sphere, but paralyzes us. For where there is an ultimate authority, we run the risk of disobeying it. What would happen if I chose a career, or moved somewhere, or married someone that God had not intended?
The whole concept of this conversation used to terrify me. I didn’t want to accidentally do something that was not in God’s plan for my life.
In my English class senior year, we had a group discussion about decisions such as these. My teacher made an example of me and asked what colleges I was considering. I politely responded that I was in between Cedarville and Malone at the time. He then posed the scenario that should I go to Cedarville I would find the woman of my dreams, get married, have a large family and die happy, whereas should I go to Malone, I would never find a wife and would die lonely. He asked us how we go about making those decisions without knowing what the ripple effects will be. I don’t remember what was said after that–I was terrified!
I went to Cedarville (and I was banking on my teacher’s prediction). In my freshman year, I took a class called Christian Life and Thought. The professor of that class posed a similar situation to the one a year prior, this time explicitly questioning God’s will. He asked “How do you know how to marry? Hypothetically, if you have two people whom you could marry, and whom are equal in your eyes, how would you choose between them?” There was some class discussion but ultimately the question was resolved by his explanation.
As a class, we were caught in dualism–the idea that there is a right and a wrong, a binary of decisions, that you were either acting in accordance with God’s will or not. But my professor furthered the scenario. You had married the “wrong” woman. What then would happen? If you marry the “wrong” person, then you are going to have “wrong” kids–children who should have never existed! But when those “wrong” kids grow old they will marry people who will be inherently “wrong” because they were never supposed to be able to marry them in the first place! The trend would continue until the world is consumed by “wrong” people and has completely fallen away from God’s will!
That scenario rests upon dualism though. If there is more to God’s will than the “right” person and “wrong” person, the “right” career and the “wrong” career, then the whole discussion changes. But I don’t think God’s will is dualistic. In terms of morality you can make a strong case for right and wrong, but in term’s of God’s will for my life? That’s a harder stretch to make.
In his book “Follow Me To Freedom: Leading and Following for Ordinary Radicals,” Shane Claiborne rights:
One day I caught this idea from a priest: Good things come to those who wait, but great things come to those who get off theirs butts and go find God at work.” That’s a very different way if thinking of things. And it’s very liberating to know that I don’t have to wait for God to write a magical formula on the wall for me, but I can look around for where God is at work and join in.
God’s will is bigger than my life. I don’t need to wait for him to open some magical door, but to look into scripture and see what he wants from mankind. To go and find him at work and join that work. To see a need and to fulfill it.
As to how we should know what ministries to join, what programs to start, what careers to begin, and what experiences to have, God has already built that into us. Claiborne adds:
As we seek God’s will, it seems to me that one way to discern our calling is to ask: how do my gifts interact with the needs of the world? We really come to life when our gifts meet with the needs of the world around us. That’s where the Kingdom happens.
So don’t be paralyzed. Don’t fear. Don’t get caught in dualism of your life, but run after God and join him where He is at work and where you come alive.