I have a graduating Senior this year. There are some huge decisions that must be made by her in the next few months. We’re already deep into the world of ACT scores, college applications, and scholarship essays. She often feels overwhelmed by the enormity of the decisions that she has to make right now.
I remember vividly my own anxiety at this time period in my life. I went to a small Christian school and I remember preachers and teachers talking about “the Will of God” and how important it was for young people to figure out what THE WILL OF GOD was for their life and to do it.
Then, there was this thing called “The Perfect Will of God” and “The Permissive Will of God.” The Perfect Will of God was God’s ideal plan for your life. The Permissive Will of God was the second-rate plan for your life. It was okay, but if you fell into God’s permissive will, then you were doomed to a life of mediocrity.
I remember stressing out so much trying to figure out God’s Perfect Will for my life. I didn’t want to settle for second best. But there were so many huge decisions to be made. How could I be sure I was in God’s Perfect Will? It seemed so nebulous, and it felt that without meaning to, I’d be stuck in the Permissive Will with one wrong misstep. *
It was confusing.
I was to pray about the Will of God with regards to my future spouse. But, I wondered, what if that one perfect spouse marries someone else? How is it right that someone else can mess up the Perfect Will of God for me?
I was to pray about God’s Perfect Will for my future. But, what if I didn’t choose the correct major? What if I attended the wrong college? I could lose years of my life at the wrong school or in the wrong major.
Looking back, I can now see how messed up my thinking was. I’ve thought about this considerably in the past few years, studied the Word, and I think I’ve figured out some interesting things about God’s Will and Me.
First of all, there was only one person who perfectly worked out God’s Will in His life. That was Jesus. It’s not God’s Will that people do anything wrong, so every time we sin, we are stepping out of God’s Perfect Plan for our lives. But the amazing thing about Grace is that we don’t ruin our lives with these missteps. He will still use someone with all sorts of problems and mistakes in their lives. Think about it! The Scripture is full of examples of common people with dumb mistakes and poor choices who were mightily used of the Lord.
Second, God does want us to listen to his guidance for our lives. I feel strongly that God does work personally in the lives of those who love him. He does communicate with us. It is vitally important that we regularly pray for His direction. However, sometimes when we don’t feel that we have direction in one way or another, it’s okay to just make a logical, wise decision. For instance, one can pray about the choice of a college major. It’s perfectly fine, after a time of intense prayer and seeking God’s heart on the matter, to choose what makes the most sense to you, provided you feel that all choices are equal. Many times, I’ve prayed “God, I’ve asked you about this many times. I don’t feel a particular direction is more pleasing to you over the other. I plan on doing x. If you don’t want me to do x, please make it plain to me.” God has never let me down. If I’ve asked him to interrupt my plans to show me a better way, he always has done it. However, there have been times when I’ve gone ahead with what I’ve considered, and things have worked out perfectly fine anyway. The key is to keep an open heart that is willing to listen for His voice and obey.
Third, God’s will is broken down into daily increments. We can’t get so wrapped up in seeking the “Big Picture” Will of God that we neglect the little things. The little daily things are important too. Scripture is plain that God rewards faithfulness in the small things. So if you are looking for the “Big Picture,” start small. Be faithful today where you are. Develop your personal Christian life: read the Word, study it, be faithful to church, pray all the time, grow as a Christian. And develop your outward-focused Christian life: be kind to others, love your neighbor, help those in need, work hard at your job in an ethical manner. God will work out his Grand Plan for your life through your daily faithfulness.
Fourth, don’t be afraid. God’s will is bigger than our mistakes. If you mess up, repent and do your best to move forward. Don’t give up because you’ve fumbled around and lost time. Don’t feel that God won’t use you because of your past problems. God is in the business of taking our messes and turning them around to bring Him glory.
If yesterday, you made one of the biggest mistakes of your life, wake up this morning determined to do right from this point forward. Of course, sin has consequences. Make amends with those you’ve hurt; accept the consequences with a grim determination that you will never go there again. And then move on. You can find God’s will again after making some royal blunders. Just look at the lives of Jacob, Rahab, David, and so many others in the Scripture.
Don’t allow your fear of “missing God’s Will” to paralyze you. Don’t allow Satan to tell you that it’s too late for you because you’ve already missed out on God’s “Perfect Will.” The Will of God is a Big Thing, but it’s not a fearful thing. God loves us so very much, and he wants what’s best because he knows what will make us happy and holy.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18
Last, I’ve learned that God’s will isn’t so complicated. Each day, surrender your heart and life to Him. Stay as far from sin as you can. Listen for his voice, and read the Word. Cultivate a Godly worldview and examine yourself for wrong attitudes and motives. That’s it. Doing those things will put you in the position of knowing what God wants for you each day. When God says, “Follow me,” just obey.
There’s no reason to get overwhelmed and scared about God’s will. He is faithful to let us know what we need to do and when we should do it.
*I understand what my well-meaning leaders were attempting to do. They were trying to stress the importance of seeking God first above our own personal ambitions. They were trying to get us students to take our life plans seriously and not think that options like “sowing wild oats” were okay. Perhaps in my youth, I misunderstood the points that were trying to be made. I do not fault these people for their attempts to guide us. I know they meant well.