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Does God Choose for Us?

How to decipher God's will—without the fear of messing up.

I was at a bridal brunch recently where the hostess praised the bride for her patience in finding a husband and because she "allowed God to choose for her."

It’s a recurring theme in Christian circles, a sweet sentiment, but is it true? If God chooses for us, then what role does obedience play in our faith? When we “let God choose,” are we canceling out our independent ability to choose grace?

But this goes far beyond a default Christian catchphrase. It taps into the ongoing philosophical debate of free will versus determinism. Basically, this poses the question: Do you have the ability to make independent decisions to determine your future, or are you merely a pawn in the game of destiny that has already been decided by your birth, genetics and socioeconomic status? Can you decide your future, or has your future already been decided for you by lots of independent variables all strung together?

If you are, in fact, walking down the one path God has laid out and no other path exists, you can easily derail His entire plan by making one small mistake.

For Christians, it’s of course also a spiritual issue. Can we decide our own future, or has a rigid path already been laid for us to which we must adhere? Is there room for free will, creativity and choice, or are we robots who pursue a pre-determined path? Do we get to decide, or have these decisions already been made for us?

It’s much easier to become deterministic—to believe that everything is out of our control and the end has already been decided. It’s easier to believe that God is choosing for us and that anything that happens to us, happens for a reason. This is how we comfort ourselves when things turn south.

The only problem with thinking this way is that it creates intense pressure. If you are, in fact, walking down the one path God has laid out and no other path exists, you can easily derail God's entire plan by making one small mistake. God's provision suddenly depends on your ability to be good.

Doesn't that make God a dictator? Doesn't that mean He has taken away free will? Walking with God suddenly becomes a multiple-choice test, and one wrong answer will wound irreparable damage. There is no room for grace in this story. Future blessings depend on your ability to be good and do good. When you start believing your walk with God is like this—choosing the right answer and not screwing up—you become incredibly self-righteous.

The classic counter-argument to this mindset goes like this: In order for love to exist, free will must exist as well. The two must live side by side. If you have love without free will, it isn't really love at all but domination.

God has already given you everything you need to find His plan, decipher His will and follow Him. 

In Deuteronomy 30, the Israelite children were wandering in the desert, and during this chapter, Moses stops to provide a timely dichotomy. If I may paraphrase, Moses is saying to them: "You need to be obedient because God is going to bless that. And finding God's path, dwelling in obedience is not that hard." Moses continues in verses 12-14, "It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, 'Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, 'Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?' No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it."

I think this is one of the most empowering verses in the Bible. Verse 19 states: "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." God gives us guidance on what to choose, but He will never force our hand—because without choice, love is impossible.

Think of it like this. In The Break Up, Jennifer Aniston’s character tells Vince Vaughn’s character in one telling scene that she wants him to want to do the dishes. It's like God is saying, "I want you to want to follow My will and listen to My guidance and pursue holiness, but I will never force you. I will never choose for you."

I've heard it preached before that once you become a Christian, you surrender all free will. Suddenly, you exist in a kingdom and you have no rights. But perhaps it is our very ability to choose that makes our faith all the more real.

If you choose something for your child, you can never take pride in his decision because he never owned it himself. This walk with God is not a multiple-choice test where the answers are already filled in. But perhaps it is an open-ended question, like Moses laying before the Israelites two different kinds of life. The end has not been penned.

So many times, trying to follow God seems like an insurmountable task and we find ourselves asking, "How can we be obedient? Where is this path? Is it up in heaven? Is it hidden out of reach? And who will go get it for us?" No, instead, it is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart. God has already given you everything you need to find His plan, decipher His will and follow Him. Now it is our job to choose life.

Top Comments

Iliana Gerasimenko

3

Iliana Gerasimenko commented…

This is a very interesting debate, as some already mention. I dare to disagree with some parts of this article simply because it misses the fullness and completeness of the the question.

Does God choose for us? Yes, if we ask Him we shall receive. He provides a variety of choices for us that would be pleasing in His sight.

I believe that God equips us to make better choices as we grow and become more mature in our faith. I also agree where the author mentions that this could sometimes translate into self righteousness for some people. However, if we go to God in humility and ask Him to guide us as we seek His leading on any situation, including the choosing a mate, He is gracious and is more than able to lead us by the hand to the person that He finds suitable for us.

There is nothing impossible for God and He wants to be included in every part of our lives and in every decision. Our view of God tends to determine our relationship with Him...if e see Him as only someone who set things in motion and now we get to choose everything for ourselves, then that is what we will do and experience the 'trial-and-error' in our lives. But on the flip side, although we have ideas and feelings about what we should do and what our hearts desires, if we surrender that to the Lord and ask Him to give us the Wisdom, Understanding and Discernment about the issue, He will give that to us. The thing is, we do not like to wait for His response...but the Scripture tells to wait on the Lord and that there will be seasons where we feel like the Lord is silent. Here is the thing we get to choose: are we going to take it into our own hands and end up with the 'impostor', or are we going to allow God to keep us in that dwelling place as He prepares us for what we truly desire and need?

Grant Hooper

10

Grant Hooper commented…

My question would be whether or not this writer is a Christian who believes the word of God is inerrant and sufficient, or if this is someone who calls herself a Christian, but sort-of comes up with her own rules? It's a fair question on the basis of her words. Right as she gets passed the introduction and readies to "teach us" the solution to the problems presented, it is worrisome that not only is her answer not based in scripture, but it is contradictory to scripture.

"It’s easier to believe that God is choosing for us and that anything that happens to us, happens for a reason. This is how we comfort ourselves when things turn south."

First off, this is judgmental. We all have a brain... and also a flesh... and we all look around and think that we have a higher logic. Some of it truly does make sense. But where does it end? If we decide to be "pragmatic," than Christianity itself is nullified. It doesn't "make sense" to deny ourselves. Many Biblical imperatives simply do not make sense to our fallen minds, that are corrupted by sin and finite. we are given do not seem to make sense to our fallen, limited minds.

The author misses the point, by appealing to her own logic, rather than the word of God. She says that it's easier to believe God is choosing for us. What she really seems to be saying is that it is easier to believe that God is sovereign, that we use this notion as a crutch, and that it's simply not true. Wow. Hard to argue against someone who can read our minds, eh? Hardly a crutch... God's sovereignty is a foundational truth that keeps our faith from being swept away with the winds. Why? Because we know God's character and he is good. Therefore, the BIBLICAL FACT, that God has either caused it or allowed it... whatever it is, is not a feeble notion, but an essential ingrediant to endurance. It would be hard to pick just one Bible verse as proof, since half of the New Testament attests to this fact, but obviously 1st and 2nd peter come to mind. I would also encourage you all to read God's response to Job. God is in control. And we do have choices. God doesn't sin for us. Adam and Eve chose sin, and God decided to use it for good, the same way he did with Joseph's brothers. For the believer, abiding in Christ, if we go choose to sin, God promises that he not only forgives us, but will cleanse us. He turns our bad decisions into a growing pain, rather than allowing us to perish. He refines us so that we come out of the fire as Gold, and so that we indeed, do escape the fire... He is the great recycler, as I have heard it to be said. He disciplines those he loves. Those he does not, are illegitimate children. Sometimes, he will prevent us from acting and intervene. Sometimes he won't... but when he doesn't, you better believe he is already two steps ahead of us, and that OUR plan, has already become part of HIS plan, in eternities past, when he plotted not only what he would do with us, but what he would do with our decisions--bad and good. There is no action divorced from his cosmic rein... and that makes him completely in control. And, yes, that's a good thing.

22 Comments

Grant Hooper

10

Grant Hooper commented…

My question would be whether or not this writer is a Christian who believes the word of God is inerrant and sufficient, or if this is someone who calls herself a Christian, but sort-of comes up with her own rules? It's a fair question on the basis of her words. Right as she gets passed the introduction and readies to "teach us" the solution to the problems presented, it is worrisome that not only is her answer not based in scripture, but it is contradictory to scripture.

"It’s easier to believe that God is choosing for us and that anything that happens to us, happens for a reason. This is how we comfort ourselves when things turn south."

First off, this is judgmental. We all have a brain... and also a flesh... and we all look around and think that we have a higher logic. Some of it truly does make sense. But where does it end? If we decide to be "pragmatic," than Christianity itself is nullified. It doesn't "make sense" to deny ourselves. Many Biblical imperatives simply do not make sense to our fallen minds, that are corrupted by sin and finite. we are given do not seem to make sense to our fallen, limited minds.

The author misses the point, by appealing to her own logic, rather than the word of God. She says that it's easier to believe God is choosing for us. What she really seems to be saying is that it is easier to believe that God is sovereign, that we use this notion as a crutch, and that it's simply not true. Wow. Hard to argue against someone who can read our minds, eh? Hardly a crutch... God's sovereignty is a foundational truth that keeps our faith from being swept away with the winds. Why? Because we know God's character and he is good. Therefore, the BIBLICAL FACT, that God has either caused it or allowed it... whatever it is, is not a feeble notion, but an essential ingrediant to endurance. It would be hard to pick just one Bible verse as proof, since half of the New Testament attests to this fact, but obviously 1st and 2nd peter come to mind. I would also encourage you all to read God's response to Job. God is in control. And we do have choices. God doesn't sin for us. Adam and Eve chose sin, and God decided to use it for good, the same way he did with Joseph's brothers. For the believer, abiding in Christ, if we go choose to sin, God promises that he not only forgives us, but will cleanse us. He turns our bad decisions into a growing pain, rather than allowing us to perish. He refines us so that we come out of the fire as Gold, and so that we indeed, do escape the fire... He is the great recycler, as I have heard it to be said. He disciplines those he loves. Those he does not, are illegitimate children. Sometimes, he will prevent us from acting and intervene. Sometimes he won't... but when he doesn't, you better believe he is already two steps ahead of us, and that OUR plan, has already become part of HIS plan, in eternities past, when he plotted not only what he would do with us, but what he would do with our decisions--bad and good. There is no action divorced from his cosmic rein... and that makes him completely in control. And, yes, that's a good thing.

Arny

1

Arny commented…

Here is were i cant agree with this article...its unacceptable to believe that we are "automatons". But the fact is...and largely ignored by this view, is that we already are automatons...to sin. The bible says we were slaves to sin...children of satan. There is no freewill in sin...it consumed us...since birth...controls us to death...untill there was one that could free us and become slaves to Him. Go read romans 6.

Matt Hammell

15

Matt Hammell commented…

Let's all remember that this is a complex topic that no one has an answer to that's set in stone. Both sides have valid points. Yes the article is flawed but without writing a book one can't expect much. This argument has been in the church for a long time and it will continue. Like democrats and republicans there will always be people on both sides. The author should have respected the other view more. I think both can exist if God knows what we'll pick but it's still our choice and sometimes he gets His hands dirty and changes events in the world.

Lee Kai Chi

1

Lee Kai Chi commented…

I've been struggling with this question for a very long time. If God let's us choose the path we want to follow, and it is not according to His will, then He will not bless us right?

So the thing is, we want to be BLESSED, if not, what for I gained the whole world if I lose my own soul.

SO the ONLY choice is to follow His will so that He'll bless us. Ultimately......no choice?

This thought occurred to me while a pastor was preaching about CHOICES, about the choices God lets us choose. But then there are consequences, so of course I would choose the path which leads to life, not destruction.

Then where's the choice in that? It is either follow Him or perish right? Then of course there is no choice but to follow Him. Am I wrong?

So the ONLY thing we get to choose, is whether or not to LIVE or PERISH. There's NO GREY AREA when it comes to God, right?

Grant Hooper

10

Grant Hooper replied to Lee Kai Chi's comment

no. we cannot choose to live. the bible says clearly that before the foundation of the earth God chose us. and that he first loved us. when someone says "well he simply foresaw that you would choose him," that is reading into scripture and trying to answer a mystery that we were not told to reconcile. He says he chose us according to "his good purposes." But the word never says what that purpose is. As far as our choice. We all chose sin and are slaves to it. Therefore, the only thing we get to choose is : which sin, today? .....

Sarah Hayes

5

Sarah Hayes replied to Grant Hooper's comment

The idea that once we choose Christ and therefore choose to live in God's will we have no more choices afterward is, I believe, incorrect because it leads with the assumption that there is only one version of "God's will" for our lives. The Bible never says anything about there being one way to live a life that pleases God. When you look at most of the Scriptures that talk about the will of God (I'm thinking a couple in 1 Thessalonians in particular), they talk about our sanctification, not every little individual choice that you make.

Kevin DeYoung's book "Just Do Something" is very helpful on this topic. If we have this idea that the will of God is dependent upon us making the right choice (or, in reality, not any choice at all), that can be very stressful. But when we realize that, in regard to most things, God doesn't necessarily care which one we choose as long as what we choose glorifies Him, living in God's will becomes a whole lot less stressful and a whole lot more joyful. The choice to glorify God in your daily life is not necessarily limited to choosing one thing over another. You could have the choice to do a myriad of things, more than one of which could bring glory to God.

And Grant, your argument that we are slaves to sin is negated after salvation. The Bible says that we were slaves to sin, but are slaves no longer. The beauty of salvation and grace and the cross is that we are now given a choice -- we don't have to choose sin, but yet have the ability to choose a life that glorifies and honors God.

Madeleine Jason

2

Madeleine Jason replied to Sarah Hayes's comment

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Gabriela Canchola

3

Gabriela Canchola commented…

I have always struggled with the question of free will vs.God's sovereignty. And I honestly think God offers both free will and is completely sovereign. Those two seemingly opposing stances actually offer two dimensions to a very complex, complicated, real God. He unifies the two in his Character.
The tension, for me, is resolved in one word: desire. He gives us what we really want! What ever path we choose, we choose because we were built with a desire for it! If in your deepest deep, you want love and goodness - then without realizing it, you want God, and you have him. We are built to choose what we choose. Not to choose what is natural to choose, is the equivalent of a bunny choosing to be a turtle. It goes against nature. It comes from not believing that God knows how to be God. Animals can't do that, but humans can. I think some humans are built to choose evil, so they do. But I think others are simply lost. They are so out of touch of what is natural, that they don't realize how unnatural they are living, so they haven't had the chance to personally choose what they are built to actually want.
As a mother, my son's will is my will. Nothing would make me happier than seeing my son happy. If building with blocks and eventually becoming an architect is what gives him the most satisfaction, than that is what he is built for and that is what I want him to do. But because he still doesn't know that about himself, he thinks that when I say no to him, its because I am mean and don't want him to be happy, but what I am really doing is protecting his future happiness. To please me by obeying me, is actually to do what is best on your own behalf, because my will is that he realizes a happy fulfilled life!
So while he is living in my house, he is perfectly free to do anything he wants so much as he doesn't break the rules that are meant to protect him from hurting his future! He is more free under my rules, living out my will, than he is living out in the streets with no rules! But if he is determined to live how he pleases, ignoring his natural tendencies, I can't force him to be happy...

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