I sat in church this morning listening to someone expounding on the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, explaining how we all need to follow where God’s calling us in life. But what if we just don’t know where God’s calling us?
If you’re like me, you’ve prayed. You’ve dreamed of getting answers. You’ve asked for answers and dreamed that God didn’t tell you anything. And these are major, life-changing, earth-shattering decisions. And all you get is peace that God will work it out. And not a clue what you’re going to do.
A lot of people obsess about God’s will. Like a lot. “Does God want me to live here, or there?” “Is God going to call me to be a missionary to deepest darkest Africa?”* “Does God want me to take this job, or that one?” “What should I major in in college?” “Should I quit my job and work in camp?” “Is God calling me to ministry?” “Does God want me to go to college?” …Stop me if you’ve wondered about any of these things.
And we look for answers from heaven. A conversation. Random words on highway billboards. Scripture roulette (Pick a verse and blow your brains out: Close your eyes, open your bible, put your finger down and read the verse you’re pointing at…) Pray, asking God to reveal his divine will, then sit quietly and write down your thoughts. …Somebody tell me I’m not the only one who does this stuff.
As someone who has spent an absurd amount of time trying to find God’s Perfect Will For My Life™, I feel uniquely qualified to write this post. I’ve prayed, projected coincidence as messages from God, prayed more and gotten no coincidences, hoped that God was calling me where I thought I should go, seriously doubted whether God had called me there… you get the picture.
But in my search for God’s will, I’ve come to realize some things that have really helped me out, and because I want you to think I’m a cool dude, I’m going to share them with you.
1. God will take care of you.
No matter what decision you make, God’s not going to sit up in heaven going “Damn. Bob made that one decision that totally ruined his life forever. If only he’d prayed for another hour, I would’ve given him the right answer.” That’s not how God is. God can use us anywhere. There may not be one right answer. A better or worse answer, often, but rarely a right or wrong one.
2. Do the hard work of making the decision.
Sometimes, I’m tempted to just pray and ask God for an answer, for a decision. But that’s not me making the decision. That’s a cop-out. For most people, God doesn’t do the work of washing your dishes, cleaning your room, or keeping your car maintained. (Most of us). We have to do the hard work of mowing our own lawns (if we have them), reading our homework assignments, and running an antivirus on our computers. Why would we think that God was going to divinely do the (hard) work of figuring out the best course of action for us? If you pray and ask God if you should marry Ron or Thomas, you have to figure out if you like Ron or Thomas better, which of them shares your core beliefs most, and a whole host of other considerations. Carefully studying the inside of your magic hat (or your Bible) isn’t going to do any of that for you.
Does God care where you live or who you marry? Of course! Will God help you make the best decision as you pray and research and visit? Absolutely. Will God straight-up tell you which one to pick? …Probably not.
3. Pray for guidance.
This sounds like the opposite of what I just said. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.” We pray that God will help us to do well on our tests and in our interviews, but if we don’t prepare for them, we’re idiots. In the same way, we should pray that God will help us to make wise and Godly decisions, but if we just expect God to hand us the answer on a platter and don’t work our way through the decision-making process, we may be going about things the wrong way.
4. Don’t be evil.
St. Augustine has been cited as saying, “Love God, then do what you will.” I think his point is this: In every relationship, there are two people. God is one, and we are the other. God made us in His image, but God also made us. We’re individuals. God doesn’t call most of us into full-time ministry. If your decision is whether to embezzle people in Denver or Kansas City, the God- part of your question isn’t where, but what the heck? The point is, we know some things are right and wrong. Don’t do the wrong things; do the right things. But there’s a TON of space inside the “right things” category. Living in Maui may be no more right or wrong than living in Miami.
5. You’re going to make mistakes. Get used to it.
This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. Whether I think God’s calling me to do something and he’s not, or whether I think a decision is the best one and it’s not, I’ve lived through making mistakes. I’m not a fan of making mistakes. Which is why I pray so hard and hope God will deliver the answer to me on some golden plates. (Plus, then I could sell the golden plates and I’d be rich.) As Winston Churchill said, failure is not fatal. Mistakes are a part of life. Learn from them, move on, and make more mistakes. Make lots of mistakes. It’s not the end of the world. Try stuff.
6. Try stuff.
Seriously. Do new things. If it helps you, assume God wants you to do them. As long as they’re not evil.
*Deepest Darkest Africa. Some of us are inclined to believe that God has it in for us. Deepest Darkest Africa is really just a metaphor for going somewhere we really really don’t want to go, and we work ourselves up into the assumption that our hatred for the possible option means that it must be God’s will. Which is seriously weird.