I don’t think that believing in God and His plan for our lives means we are reduced to being puppets. Nor do I think that God is interested in mandating who we’re to marry, exactly what job we’re each supposed to have and just what we’re to eat for dinner. He doesn’t want to micromanage our lives.
I think God is more like a parent. Gail and I have four children (all adults now). We certainly had a “will” for them: We wanted them to be happy. We wanted them to grow up to be responsible, contributing individuals. We urged them to dig for and discover their talents and interests, and then invest them. We wanted each one of them to find someone to love and enjoy. We had a whole bunch of specific things we willed for them—specific and yet general enough to not be controlling or repressive. We did not want to run their lives.
I think this mirrors how God approaches His will for us. He has a specific will for each of us. He wants us to be happy; to live moral and ethical lives; to process our failures with forgiveness; to live long, satisfying lives; to be fruitful in our endeavors; to impact the world; to be free from addictions and destructive behavior patterns; to feel complete; and so on. These are all very specific things that He wills for us—specific and yet general enough to not be oppressive. He does not want to run our lives.
FREE TO BE
Don’t fear that submitting to God’s will means there is only one specific thing that you are allowed to do—marry a specific person or hold a specific career—or else God will be angry with you. That is not true. As long as the directionality of your heart is to love God and you are open to His influence in your life, you have the freedom to run at the things that bring you joy, love, happiness and laughter. Go for it!
God intended for life to be an adventure. He wants us to enjoy it. Discover the things that give you inner happiness—those are the things that will fuel your success. Find what makes you feel good, what resonates with your heart and you will find yourself right in the center of God’s will. Unless God makes it clear that He wants something else for you (He will sometimes ask you to participate in special projects), you can live in the joy that you are completely in His will.
PLANS WITH CAVEATS
Though we should have a great sense of freedom when it comes to personal choice, the apostle James admonished folks to always keep an attitude of submission before God as they made their plans. He warns, “And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, ‘Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.’” But his “word” of warning has nothing to do with the actual planning process. He simply tells them to add this caveat: “Instead, make it a habit to say, ‘If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that’” (James 4:13-15 MSG).
We don’t have to be nervous about planning our lives—we can think and dream about any future we would like. It is fine to do that. But we must always give God right of veto! Why would God ever veto? Because He knows the future and will sometimes warn us if we are making a bad choice. That’s a good thing.
Solomon echoed this when he penned: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track” (Pro. 3:5-6 MSG). Notice there is no challenge issued about making sure you only do what (or go where) God specifically tells you. That’s just not the case. Take your liberty, but as you go, listen for God’s voice. It’s OK to make choices about life. Just make sure you acknowledge God in the process and obey Him if He says no or seems to be leading you another direction.