What We Get Wrong About 'Finding God's Will'

God's will is not a mystery to be solved but a road to be traveled.

What is God’s will for your life?

This question tends to haunt us while we go through our college years. We struggle through it by choosing our major, deciding where we will spend our summer, figuring out where to go to grad school, and so many other decisions.

If you are like me, anxiety creeps up on you every time you think about your future plans.

But why do we get so anxious? For me, I start thinking about how I have one opportunity at every decision I make, and when I choose one path, I am saying no to another. But how do I know the path I choose is the right one?

The phrase we have all heard in answer to this question is we need to find God’s will for our life. And for the past 21 years, I thought I had to keep praying for God to open my eyes to the will he had laid out for me. That if I just kept searching long enough and hard enough, I would know exactly what I was supposed to do in the future.

But Kevin DeYoung blew up this idea for me while I was reading his book Just Do Something.

We Never Find God’s Will for Our Future 

In the beginning of the book, DeYoung says, “We should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tight-rope, or a bull’s eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.” This rocked my world. I always thought that if I made a wrong decision or took a wrong turn, I would be removed from God’s plan.

We are free from the burden of trying to discover God’s will ahead of time.

But what he is saying here is that we are free from the burden of trying to discover God’s will ahead of time. It is not a maze for us to perfectly navigate in order to reach our end goal, but instead, God desires for us to trust Him with all of the twists and turns. 

Yes, God is sovereign over my life. Yes, He has specific plans for my future, but He does not expect me to find out the details of His plan before I get there. So this whole idea of finding God’s will for my life has been me searching for something God does not want to reveal. But why does He choose to withhold His plans from us?

An Unknown Future Leads to Faith in a Known God

If we knew every step and detail of our lives, there would be no reason for us to have faith in God. When times get tough, we realize we need someone greater than ourselves to direct where we are going. That’s why God doesn’t always want us to know the perfect road He has laid before us. It would be like someone spoiling the incredible plot twist of Fight Club or Inception. What makes the story great is the  confusion and uncertainty, and then in the end, every puzzle piece comes together to create a beautiful picture.

Not only does God have an epic plot for your life, but He wants you to trust in Him. God has given us these tough decisions not to be stressed out but to make us realize we can’t do this on our own. He gives us more than we can handle, so we are forced to lean in on Him to find strength. Just as Provers 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” So instead of praying to find God’s will, let’s start praying to find faith in God’s guidance.

God’s True Will for Our Lives

Now if we never find God’s will for our future, then what is Paul talking about in Ephesians 5:17 when he says, “Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is?” What Paul is describing here is a different definition of God’s will than we normally think about.

Many times, we only think of God’s will for our life in regards to the future, but there’s so much more to it. No matter what your future plans are, God wants you to seek and glorify Him right now. Simply put, God’s will is your growth to be like Christ and glorify Him in all things.

We need to do away with the idea that He wants us to go to Him in order to find out our future. Instead, God wants us to go to Him to be transformed in our heart and mind. God’s past, present, and future plans for your life have one constant: His glory. And if God has transformed our hearts, our decisions will be made with His glory in mind.

As DeYoung says, “God is not a Magic 8-ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him.”

So Make Decisions With Confidence

If God has given us a new heart that desires what He desires, our decisions are going to line up with His plan.

If God has given us a new heart that desires what He desires, our decisions are going to line up with His plan. We work through these decisions with the wisdom He gives us through the Spirit.

We are often so intent on looking for some hidden plan God has laid out for us that we forget to consult the passions and desires He's given us.

We will never find the perfect road God has laid out, but He will give us desires He wants us to chase after.

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Find those passions and pursue them.

Make decisions and stand firm in them.

Have faith in God and trust in Him.

God is bigger than your major. God is bigger than your job. And God is a whole lot bigger than the worry you have about your future.

This article has been updated from a version published in 2014.

Top Comments

AH85

2

AH85 commented…

I found the piece of this article that discusses having faith in God's guidance to be helpful. A lot of times, I have had to make decisions regarding goals and plans, where I did not have a clue what the next step should be. I found that, after prayer and thanksgiving, I would receive an answer in terms of a thought, another person's words, or an event that would lead me to the right decision.

Stefan Stackhouse

44

Stefan Stackhouse commented…

We need to start with God's word. The scriptures will seldom give us specific guidance about our particular situations, but they do provide some basic standards, values, and guidelines. We had better take those to heart and commit them to our memory. One thing we can be absolutely sure of: God doesn't contradict Himself, so He will NOT be guiding you down a pathway that is contradictory to what He has already revealed in scripture.

Once you've got that down, though, I would suggest just entrusting yourself and your decisions to God in prayer, use the brain God has given you to the best of your ability, check your thinking with a trusted godly friend, and then decide to decide unless there are strong indications not to, trusting in faith that God will guide your steps, open or shut doors as needed, and hedge you in from a wrong move that is against His will. Understand, also that things that don't go according to your plan might be according to His plan. He DOES let stuff happen to His people, for the good purpose of our spiritual formation.

40 Comments

Levi Carter

42

Levi Carter commented…

I also think we misunderstand the nature of God's will when we implicitly refer to it in the singular - e.g. God wants me to be a missionary to China vs God wants me to be kind or God wants me to love my neighbor, be a great neighbor, work for one industry for a couple years to lead one person to christ, then switch vocations altogether! -read more at www.theconfessionalblog.com

Michael Fox

1

Michael Fox commented…

Yes, but...it seems to me that this article, or perhaps the book upon which it is based, is nearly courageous. What if the author took one more step toward an epiphany, and realized God may not have a specific end in mind for each individual? This, I believe to be true, but it's also the final piece of the puzzle needed to complete the picture. God equips us with talents and gifts, skills and wisdom, education and experience, and he says, "Now go do something. Anything, in which you can fully immerse and empty yourself and which will glorify me." That is the beautiful, liberating, permission-giving, empowering message of truth the author almost gives. And if we so engage, we will, as the author promises, see God on the way.

Stefan Stackhouse

44

Stefan Stackhouse commented…

We need to start with God's word. The scriptures will seldom give us specific guidance about our particular situations, but they do provide some basic standards, values, and guidelines. We had better take those to heart and commit them to our memory. One thing we can be absolutely sure of: God doesn't contradict Himself, so He will NOT be guiding you down a pathway that is contradictory to what He has already revealed in scripture.

Once you've got that down, though, I would suggest just entrusting yourself and your decisions to God in prayer, use the brain God has given you to the best of your ability, check your thinking with a trusted godly friend, and then decide to decide unless there are strong indications not to, trusting in faith that God will guide your steps, open or shut doors as needed, and hedge you in from a wrong move that is against His will. Understand, also that things that don't go according to your plan might be according to His plan. He DOES let stuff happen to His people, for the good purpose of our spiritual formation.

Christine Rhyner

1

Christine Rhyner commented…

What a timely article I stumbled upon tonight! I read it with my husband. We are in the midst of trying to figure out where to move in a couple of months and if he should make a job change. And, whether I should move forward on a manuscript for a book idea. We have felt so stuck for a long time. He always prays for 'God’s will' but has a really hard time making decisions. On the other hand, I like to make a plan and then see if the Lord confirms it along the way. But on all fronts no confirmation. This article does not only give us a greater sense of peace but reaffirms that we need to stop being anxious and seek to glorify Him every moment while we work out plans. Thanks again for this reality check.

Steve Cornell

344

Steve Cornell commented…

Few of us struggle to know God’s will on clearly commanded or clearly forbidden issues. The challenge comes when Scripture doesn’t give specific guidance. This is where we are free to make our own decisions as we walk in the wisdom in Scripture. When we lack specific biblical directives, we should always look for principles and general truths from Scripture. I've used 12 essentials to assist me in knowing and doing the will of God. https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/how-can-i-walk-in-gods-will-...

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