“I am certain,” the Apostle Paul once wrote, “that God, who began the good work within you, will continue that work until it is finally finished.” That God would finish what God started doesn’t appear to be breaking news. The real question for most of us is this: “What exactly is God trying to finish in my life?” Or put another way, “What is God’s will for my life?”
Speaking as one who was saturated in the dogmatic language and cliches of Christianity, I learned quite early to be cautious about that phrase, “the will of God.” It was a mantra with mystical implications, inferring that if I could discover, uncover, or recover this elusive, singular, “will of God,” then my life would have a divine purpose.
When, inevitably, “the will of God” remained ambiguous — which it always seemed to do — I was made to feel a failure. Why couldn’t I “get it?” Why couldn’t I unlock the secret doorway? Was my faith so defective, so inadequate, that God would punish me by refusing to reveal heaven’s plan for my life?
To remedy this problem, I would pray more. I would fast and fret. I would spend hours reading the Bible and make “deals” with God. At wits end, I would seek instruction from others whom I considered wise. Their instructions, to my chagrin, usually consisted of praying more, fasting, fretting, and reading the Bible (and yes, one suggested I make a “deal” with God as a means of showing my sincerity).
I felt as if I was going insane, and in some small way, I think I was, especially if the common definition is taken at face value: “To continue to do the same thing over and over but to expect a different outcome.” All my repeated striving only brought crazed frustration.
So, gather around children, hear my story, and allow me to save you some pain. There is no divinely disclosed, detailed, personal itinerary known as “the will of God.” Nor is there a foolproof, step-by-step, boilerplate formula for discovering “the will of God.” These simply do not exist.
Sure, the Scriptures speak of “the will of God.” It’s “the will of God” that we be thankful, holy, wise, and kind (among other virtuous instructions). But such admonishments are always offered in the general, not the specific. Exactly what God is up to with our lives is a mystery; and just as mysterious can be the process of finding our purpose, a meaningful path to follow.
Often, the best we can do is wait and listen; continue to cultivate the virtues that we absolutely know to be God’s will (all that thankful, holy, kind stuff); and go with the flow, so to speak, letting life and clarity unfold before us and within us. So, stop fretting about “missing” God’s plan. Your life will not become an out-and-out disaster because of one mis-managed decision. Life is bigger than that, and certainly God is too.