There seems to be a wide misconception surrounding “God’s will for my life,” or “God’s calling for my life”. Unfortunately, a vague teaching of “God’s will” has lead to a vague understanding of God’s will for one’s life. I’ve had people say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if every morning you woke up there was a note on your nightstand from God telling you what to do.” My response is always, “Wouldn’t it be nice if He wrote an entire book?”
The question comes in many ways: How do I know if this is the person God has called me to marry? How do I know if this is the job God is calling me to? How do I know if this is the church God is calling me to serve? Really, this could go on ad infinitum. Essentially, we’re asking, “How do I know if this is the decision God wants me to make?”
There are decisions in life in which the right choice is obvious. Should I murder the guy that cut me off at the intersection? No, “Thou shall not murder.” Should I cheat on my spouse? Under no circumstances. These are made easy by the straightforward commands of scripture and I would say, natural law. We all know right from wrong in such obvious circumstances. It’s the not so obvious circumstances that give us trouble. When there is no right (or wrong) answer.
Moral dilemmas are non-obvious decisions. When it seems there is no right answer, should we choose between the lesser of evils, or refrain from making a choice? But sometimes it seems as if there is no wrong answer, and this can be equally paralyzing. Should I go to this church or that church? Well, probably you could give good reasons for both. If both are faithful churches, how would I base my decision? Should I take job x, or job y? Neither require me to compromise my faith, so how do I base my decision?
Prudence vs Rules
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2
As I mentioned, there are straightforward commands in Scripture to help guide us in our decision making. But what do I do when the Scripture isn’t straightforward about a particular decision I am faced with? For example, how do I choose a career? There is no rule to turn to that will say, “Haden I want you to be ___________.” It’s exactly that, blank. So who fills it? I say, we do with prudence. Prudence is the cardinal virtue of practical wisdom which applies general principles to particular situations. If this is correct, then this is exactly what we need in order to discern the types of decisions we have been talking about.
Prudence says that we should start with what we know and work toward what we don’t. As we study God’s word (a.k.a. renew our minds), we become familiar with God’s general plan for creation and also His character. God wants to redeem humanity from its fallen state. He has achieved salvation for all by sending His only Son to pay the price for the sins of humanity. God has commanded that those who are saved go out and make disciples of all nations. This is a very general, over-simplification of God’s will for everyone.
The question is, how does God’s general will apply to my particular circumstances? Let’s use choosing a career as an example. What job does God want me to have? Do I need to be a full-time missionary to be obedient to God in my vocation?
When choosing a vocation, I tell people they should ask a few questions:
- What am I passionate about?
- How does my passion align with the needs of the world?
- How can I use this passion to glorify God by making disciples?
This may still sound more general and less particular, but it narrows things down where they need to be. Get it out of your head that you’re going to be able to make this decision without actually making a decision. The choice is yours and I see no reason why this would be “unfaithful”. God has given you specific desires and gifts, how can you use them to meet the needs of the world? How can you glorify God with them? You’re only limited by your own imagination.
I’m passionate about writing and teaching. I don’t know that I’m particularly gifted at either, but the passion is there. So, what do I do? I write things like this blog, I’m working on some book ideas, I’m planning some video material. I work at a church teaching kids about Jesus. I’m passionate about all of those things, there seems to be a need for them in the world, and I’m trying to glorify God through them. Finding the things in my life that answer those three questions means that I wake up excited for the day ahead. I’m not saying I don’t need my morning coffee like everyone else, or that some days are better than others; but I look forward to my “work”. When you do what you love, is it really work?
Those three questions can be tweaked to apply to just about any question that requires prudence. How do you choose a spouse?
- Do you desire them?
- Do they desire you?
- Is the relationship focused on glorifying God?/Are they committed to approaching marriage as a covenant with each other and God?
Okay, so, maybe I’m not the dating guru, but do you see how prudence applies to that decision also? What general principles does God’s word reveal about marriage? Take those general principles and use what you know about God’s word and His character and use wisdom to apply it to your particular situation.
Don’t sit around waiting for a tingling sensation to run down the back of your neck to say, “This is what God wants from me!” Don’t flip your Bible open randomly and take some verse out of context to apply to your situation. Use the general principles your renewed mind has learned from God’s word and use your God-given prudence to discern the right choice. God does not have both hands behind his back asking you to guess which one has the blessing in it. He is a good Father. Walk in His will, seek to glorify Him, and He will bless you.