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Sunday, November 26, 2006
Finding God's Will
I read in one of the comments to a recent post here that they were shocked that "seeking God's will for such an important decision [motherhood] was completely a non-issue." When I hear the phrase "seeking God's will" I can't help but feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention. It's such an overused (and often misused) phrase. Is God really so mysterious about what He wants for us? Are we honestly on some sort of cosmic Easter egg hunt? I wrote a short post on this topic earlier this year on our faith community's blog.

Take the idea of a "soul mate" as an example. Is there really one man out there predestined for each of us and we must spend our lives seeking him out and worrying over each guy we date before we get to him? Or is it possible that God has given us a list of what we must be as godly women and what we must seek in a godly man, and once we fall in love with and commit ourselves in marriage to a man that that one becomes "God's will" for us? That at the point when we take those vows we become committed to living out God's specific will for a married couple as laid out in scripture? If we buy into the first theory, it would be possible for us to drive ourselves nuts even after marriage wondering if we had found "the one" or settled too quickly.

Here's a piece from my original post: Are prayer and the Bible really intended to be some sort of crystal ball that we look into whenever we have a decision to make and then wait until some sort of clear sign falls from the heavens before making a move? Is God some sort of Easter bunny mischievously flitting around hiding little pieces of His will here and there for us to try to find and then zapping us when we choose the wrong path? Obviously, God has laid out some Truths to guide our lives. But is it possible that sometimes we're just too scared to make a tough decision in our lives, so instead we hide behind the idea that we're just waiting for a clear sign? What are your thoughts on seeking God's will?

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posted by Cary Fuller at 3:44 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


22 Comments:


  • At 11/26/2006 05:25:00 PM, Anonymous Valerie

    Very good thoughts - especially about the soul mate. (Tried to go to your post on your faith community blog...but for some reason didn't get anything.) And thank you for the soul searching quesitons.

    You wrote:
    "Obviously, God has laid out some Truths to guide our lives. But is it possible that sometimes we're just too scared to make a tough decision in our lives, so instead we hide behind the idea that we're just waiting for a clear sign? What are your thoughts on seeking God's will?"

    I would love it if God were to drop a neon sign right in front of me fully explaining his direction for my life.

    I believe that God's truths are there to guide us on our spiritual journeys and I don't think he's intentionally hiding them like Easter Eggs...in fact, I think God had pretty much laid them out in the open. In my own life, it's not so much about being afraid to make tough decisions. I often become so focused on the circumstances in my life, that it's almost impossible to see God's truths. The decisions I make, both the good and the bad, are centered on my own self-will, not God's will So for me, "seeking God's will," is an intentional action on my part to focus on the things of God and not myself. To focus on my relationship with God. And while I was hoping that with age (I'm one of your older - but new - EW) this would get easier, I've found just the opposite. But part of the beauty in my relationship with God is in the "seeking of his will." In the pausing of my own self-centered busy-ness to sense his presence, in the calming of my heart, in quiet of my spirit...that is when I sense his presence. And it is there I find the precious truths for my own life.

    I hope I will always seek his will.

     
  • At 11/26/2006 05:38:00 PM, Blogger Wendy

    I agree ... I had an insight on this years ago when I was trying to decide which was God's will for me: to have a second child or to seek out a D.Min. program. I prayed and prayed. After a few months of agonizing prayer the answer came to me; it went something like this: I created you to make decisions for yourself; either of those options are within the realm of my blessing. I get my joy in watching you make your decisions."

    Turns out I did neither, but I was at peace with my decision. It's not that I was afraid to take responsibility for my decision, it was that I felt that I so wanted to follow God's path for my life ... I just didn't realize that God's path for my life is not laid out in specifics ... God's path allows for me to make some very meaningful decisions of my own.

     
  • At 11/26/2006 05:58:00 PM, Blogger Linea

    Valerie - your words are so appropriate and well put. Seeking God's will is perhaps an overused phrase but it is not necessarily an overused practice.

    You said,""seeking God's will," is an intentional action on my part to focus on the things of God and not myself... In the pausing of my own self-centered busy-ness to sense his presence, in the calming of my heart, in quiet of my spirit...that is when I sense his presence. And it is there I find the precious truths for my own life.


    Seeking God's will is part of carrying on a relationship with him. It is not usually because he is so mysterious just that I know he cares and if I pay attention to his direction, I will make better choices.

     
  • At 11/26/2006 07:03:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    Good topic, Cary.

    But is it possible that sometimes we're just too scared to make a tough decision in our lives

    I once knew someone who spent months after their graduation agonizing over what God wanted them to do next. Was it missions work? Finding full-time, secular employment? Additional education? Although I don't know everything that was going on in this person's life at the time, it did appear to me that they weren't doing much to make a decision on it other than asking God's opinion of it.

    From what I could see they weren't taking any pro-active steps by job hunting, applying to other schools, or talking to various missionary programs. (Although it could be that they were doing these things without talking about them.)

    I like what Wendy said a few posts ago: "God's path for my life is not laid out in specifics ... God's path allows for me to make some very meaningful decisions of my own."

    Yes, talking to God about The Plan (TM) for your life is a good idea, but so is taking initiative and making a decision when a certain amount of time passes without a definitive word from God.

    God can work with and through any situation. I think we forget this sometimes. :)

     
  • At 11/26/2006 07:14:00 PM, Blogger Past the Wishing

    Cary .. your questions are answers to my own spiritual journey outside the slogans of institutional Christianity. My life has reflected God as a faithful Partner and Friend in; reviving, reforming, reminding, remembering, re-energizing, retooling, restarting ... Dynamic.

    Wendy... I thought your two paragraphs of how you live life in the practical realm with a Divine Partner were really cool. For people who've come to the conclusions you have about how our lives weave and intersect with the Divine, no one could have said it better!

     
  • At 11/26/2006 08:40:00 PM, Blogger lynnette

    college was the time when i got really wrapped up in this notion of God's will. what is God's will for my major? what is God's will for who to live with? what is God's will for my career path? what is God's will for who i should date/marry? God's will. God's will. God's will. make a bad decision, and you're out of God's will. you've messed up your future.

    the problem was, things i thought for sure were God's will turned out not to be. they were hurtful and damaging. the fallout was a big part of what completely shattered my view of God and my faith in general.

    i think God's will has a lot more to do with who we are supposed to be than what we are supposed to do (in terms of plain old decision making). that is to say, we are called to be people who are loving, forgiving, merciful, peace-loving, and so on. character seems much more important than some sort of choose-your-own-adventure God's will approach.

    a good book is kyle lake's understanding god's will. this came out of a sermon series that was really helpful to me at the time.

     
  • At 11/26/2006 09:43:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I really appreciate the thoughts expressed here. My experience is that there is no formula, no easy way to say God's will is always generic or always specific. My sense is that more often than not it's about the stuff people have already beautifully described in terms of being with God and becoming more like Jesus and taking responsibility for choices, which are centered in that place of loving God and loving people and being open to any special leadings but not overly obsessed with inventing them just to feel spiritual or reassured.

    In scripture it seems usually people go ahead and make plans and try to live in a loving, honorable way and that's good enough -- but here and there God interrupts, gives new directions or specific instructions, whether about a missions destination or a marriage. I think the point is, God is perfectly capable of making something clear to us if we are open to it and willing to listen -- and if God isn't making it clear, She probably doesn't want us to become obsessive compulsive trying to tease out obscure clues while we miss the joy and beauty of the moment. And besides, God is always redeeming imperfection into poignant grace, and we need to remember to show ourselves and others compassion when we make mistakes.

    I do have to say that I feel God very clearly communicated with me not to marry my first husband -- and I directly disobeyed God because I wasn't strong enough to find a more mature way to move away from a dysfunctional family -- and I paid dearly for not listening to what God was trying to say to me.

    Subsequently, I listened when I felt God leading me to move back to the Boston area before I was finished college, in the midst of an abusive marriage and mother of an infant daughter, and was very blessed. I had felt led to pray for a tiny methodist church, and soon we began attending, and when the Sh*t hit the fan completely, I believe the pastor of that church was partly responsible for saving the life of my ex husband. It was also at that church that I met my current (very wonderful) husband. Now God didn't tell me to marry him, though it seemed that God did sort of miraculously provide for me through him circumstantially, but in that instance I had to take responsibility for my choice, which was a risky one considering this man I fell in love with was about to start medical school in another state and we both had just left long-term relationships. But God has truly blessed that decision, which was made in the context of seeking God, using mind and heart and taking personal responsibility.

     
  • At 11/26/2006 10:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Thanks to all the posters thus far on this topic - greatly helps to experience company in the arena of discernment!

    Heck, weren't people all bent out of shape when Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod, because it should have been "God's will" that a house struck by lightning should burn down?

    My personal experience has been that most of the time, I am able to make decisions on my own without "consulting God," and it is only the challenging and weighty decisions that I really make it a point to consistently request God to kindly weigh in as an act of explicit communication. I take the ease of the other decisions as an indication that God is working in my life on a daily basis because I try to welcome God as much as possible, so that it sometimes feels unconscious to me, and the allocation of God versus "me" in any given decision is less important to me than getting it right most of the time.

    To indulge a slight tangent, I just finished reading Barry Schwartz's "The Paradox of Choice" which is 100% secular but I think provides some interesting perspectives on the mixed bag that has come with the boon of so many choices to more of us, in our country and culture, at least.

     
  • At 11/27/2006 07:04:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    I do have to say that I feel God very clearly communicated with me not to marry my first husband -- and I directly disobeyed God because I wasn't strong enough to find a more mature way to move away from a dysfunctional family -- and I paid dearly for not listening to what God was trying to say to me.

    If this isn't too personal, would you mind sharing how you knew that marrying him wasn't something God wanted you to do?

    I'm not looking for specific examples of behavior or anything like that - I'd just be curious to hear if the warnings came from your conscience, the counsel of someone close to you, or from another source.

     
  • At 11/27/2006 07:16:00 AM, Blogger Shoshana

    The older I get, the more I view God's will to be like a parent's will for their child. God has set out some basic rules for us and wants the best for us, but our paths in life are our decisions. I feel that God wants me to be happy anyway I choose so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else and honors Him in some way. I'm sure it saddens Him if I squander my talents, just as I would be dissapointed if my daughter doesn't fulfill my high hopes for her. But I'll be happy for her if she's happy.

    This my be a bit simplistic, and I know God's ways are not our ways. But, this is the framework that I can use to help me "seek God's will." I think Wendy put it beautifully when she said, " After a few months of agonizing prayer the answer came to me; it went something like this: I created you to make decisions for yourself; either of those options are within the realm of my blessing. I get my joy in watching you make your decisions."

    Yes, some of those decisions I make have been and will be "mistakes." But I feel that God will still love me, as long as I love Him and my fellow man.

     
  • At 11/27/2006 07:41:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Lydia,

    I am not one of these people who constantly gets "words" from God, but before I married my former spouse, I got two from other people. One was initialy put in the generic at a small charismatic conference, 'there is someone here who is unequally yoked,' and later the woman who gave the word approached me and told me she felt it was me, that she sensed, "stuff" on my ex.Subsequently, another woman with prophetic gifts prayed for me specifically for my upcoming marriage upon my request and said, 'There's someone in your life who is dragging you down, who you need to cut ties with.' I can't remember exactly what she said, but the person it could possibly apply to was my former spouse. Then one day in church, I was praying and I really sensed God's presence and felt God say that if I married this guy, the glory would be removed. Then when I got up and walked back to my seat, having resolved that I simply couldn't break up with him, I already sensed God more distant. I passed by a conversation which I overheard where someone was talking about a friend who broke off an engagement because she didn't sense it was God's will or God's best, and how much courage that too. A professor of mine, in whom I confided a few things also told me not to marry him. I read a book with a list of characteristics in someone you should avoid as a life partner, and he had all of them. It was written on the wall -- by the holy spirit and by common sense.

    In this particular case, someone a little more grounded and mature than I was probably didn't NEED a word from God about the situation -- they could have clearly discerned the situation would not foster the fruition of goodness and blessing. In my case, even all the prophetic words were not enough -- but I believe they were God's desperate attempt to get through to me and spare me unnecessary pain, even if in some way God already knew I probably wouldn't be strong enough to listen. Sort of like the parents of a teenager, I suppose :)

    Of course God is a God of redemption, hope and love, and out of that marriage I have a beautiful, very funny and amazing little girl, and when I look at her, I am reminded that the line of Jesus included children conceived as a result of other people's mistakes, and it just makes God's grace deeper and more unfathomable. And despite some very dark spiritual times and alot of baggage, I am now beginning to believe that God has not given up on me.

     
  • At 11/27/2006 09:01:00 AM, Anonymous soulster

    Knowing God's will is a hot topic, but here is a passage that's meant a lot to me:

    I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. [Psalm 39:8-9 NIV]

    It seems to me that God is about participation and not control. It is not his will to use us utiliarianly for his own benefit. Rather, it is his will that we develop our own will to work with his in the symphony of his mission.

     
  • At 11/27/2006 09:32:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I like your phrase about 'developing our own will to work in symphony with his missions.'

     
  • At 11/27/2006 09:05:00 PM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    When my husband and I started out in ministry, we left beautiful southern California to the north woods of Minnesota. We had two of the worst years of our lives. It took a lot of guts to pack up our bags and go there, to leave everything we had ever known, to risk it all...but we thought we were perfectly in the center of God's will for us. We had two other offers, but this one just seemed to be the one.

    Well, not even two months into it, it was very clear that this was going to be hell. We were treated horribly and now, even more than 13 years later, it still makes me angry and very, very sad. I felt like those people took so much away from us. Two precious years of our lives and from the lives our our very small children.

    At that time, we had bought the whole "If we were doing God's will, then bad things won't happen" mentality hook, line, and sinker. When bad things did start to happen, we started to ask ourselves how on earth we got out of God's will, how did we get out from under his umbrella of protection.

    We left and came to Arizona, where we have ministered for nearly 13 years. The first five were prety awesome. While healing from the last horrible ministry, we came to the conclusion that our former way of thinking was simply crazy making and we had to come to a place of knowing that God is not a mean parent who would punish us for making a wrong move. Part of what really helped us to understand that was raising our own children. We consider ourselves to be pretty loving parents and we realized that we would never treat our own children that way. Could we honestly say that we were better parents than God?

    After those five good years, we had some even worse years where we are now. We are just coming up on 7 of the toughest years ever. I don't think we could have survived if we hadn't ditched that old way of thinking. God has always walked alongside us, and sometimes even carried us through this really difficult time. The story is still being written and I'm not sure how it will all end. I've been severely hurt by the church and not sure if I'll ever be able to truly engage in community ever again.

    But, I am confident that it's not becuase somewhere along the way we got out of God's will or that the blessing was removed, but because life just sucks sometimes.

    We had a staff member who left say once about our church that God had removed the blessing that we had once enjoyed in better days...I guess they thought that blessing only followed them around wherever they were going (sorry for the poor grammar, but I don't want to elude to any particular staff member that has left our community--be it male or femaile--and we've lost many in the last seven years).

    I don't believe God's blessing is doled out in little tiny doses. I believe the blessing is everywhere, in every situation...we just need to patiently linger in his presence expecting to be amazed at how things will all somehow work out. After all, God does promise to make it all work out somehow, right?

     
  • At 11/27/2006 10:37:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    Wow! I've apparently hit a hot button considering the amount of comments in the short time since I posted. I apologize that I'm not able to respond to each of you individually, but let me say in all sincerity that I read each and every one of your comments and I was encouraged and inspired by each and every one. What beautiful words and what amazing personal stories regarding God's will. I loved what linea said:

    Seeking God's will is perhaps an overused phrase but it is not necessarily an overused practice.

    How true! We talk about "seeking God's will" so flippantly without really stopping to think about what it truly means to put that into action. Great thoughts! Thanks for welcoming me into such a wonderful group of thoughtful, Truth-seeking sisters (and brothers).

     
  • At 11/27/2006 11:25:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I am jumping in a little late. I have been able to read the comments while I was out of town, but not able to comment.
    I have always struggled with this idea. It always seemed as if "God's Will" in those around me, was whatever "they" wanted to work out...or if they didn't want to take responsiblity for certain things. I personally think that phrase gets abused and thrown around a lot. In all my life, I have not had a time that I felt comfortable with stating something was "God's Will", I have gotten sucked into saying "things happen for a reason", which I am now rethinking some. I think life is life. We aren't perfect and make mistakes. Some times we are easily redeemed, and others can be very hard and painful. Some times it is poor decisions, and some times it is just circumstance. I think through all things God walks with us. We are redeemed over and over. Some times outcomes aren't what we would like, but those times can transform us and build us.
    I have a family member that has a handicapped son. They have always struggled finacially, and the husband has had health problems all of his life. The son was a surprise (she was 40). They didn't use birth control and had the thought that "if it was God's will" then they would have more children. When they found out they were having a child, I watched as my female family member struggled with the news. She seemed very overwhelmed. Then they found out he was Down Syndrome. This person is very faithful, and has a very sincere walk with God, but I watched as she seemed to struggle with what life was dealing her. Her thought was God must have had a plan for them, but I think she has struggled the last few years with depression and feeling overwhelmed. Their son is such a blessing, and what a cute little guy, but I have a hard time thinking that with everything that she was already dealing with, God decided he would give them a handicap son to top it off. Maybe that is just life, and we don't know why. I do think God is there for the hard times, but I don't think he drops things in our lives to see if it will break us.
    In my own life I have had many hard situations. Some of them I have been dealing with for a very long time. I don't know what God's will is. I do think that "we" have a will and choice. I am not one to believe that the path is layed out in front of us, and if we miss a turn, we're screwed. I think we should try to do the best we're capable of and seek God's constant presence.

     
  • At 11/28/2006 07:17:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    Interesting topic and encouraging posts. Just this morning, in my quiet time, I was reading the thoughts of Francois de Fenelon who assured us of suffering in this life and suggested we "embrace" it. It is our "opportunity" to carry the cross of Christ. He described the cross as "a consoling bond of love between you and him (Christ)".

    Times of suffering in my own life have certainly been periods of great growth emotionally and spiritually. Sometimes it comes from my own stupid decisions, sometimes as a result of the dumb decisions of others and as one poster noted, sometimes it is just the "circumstances" I find myself in. No matter, suffering is not the punishment we tend to see it as. Suffering is something we can expect in life, it goes with living. Living under God's will does not make us exempt from suffering but does give us an to experience growth and new understanding of God. AT least this has been true in my own life.

     
  • At 11/28/2006 09:02:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    Cary, another book that basically says what you are saying about discovering God's will is Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Gary Friesen.

    His basic point is that there is not just one single correct action for every choice we face in life. Rather, God simply wants us to use wisdom and the resources he's given us to make good decisions; recognizing that there are often many potentially "right" options and we don't have to agonize over finding the only perfect, predestined one.

     
  • At 11/28/2006 11:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I'm the guilty one who said it. And I usually try hard to stay away from cliches or catchphrases that might have ambiguous meaning.

    After reading these comments, especially this one,


    take the ease of the other decisions as an indication that God is working in my life on a daily basis because I try to welcome God as much as possible, so that it sometimes feels unconscious to me, ,

    I am humbled. Forgive me for assuming to know what's in anyone's heart.

     
  • At 11/28/2006 08:40:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    Marcia, I'm not sure what you mean there?

     
  • At 11/28/2006 10:08:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At 11/28/2006 10:09:00 PM, Blogger Cary

    Nancy, Marcia is referring to the comment I referred to in my original post.

    Marcia, I didn't mean to be accusatory. That's why I didn't link to the post you were commenting on or mention your name. Your comment just sparked a thought in me that I felt was worth delving into with our little community here. What a beautiful, completely humble response, though. I hope you will participate here more often. We'd love to hear more of your thoughts.

     

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