When I was a Christian young person, I heard a lot about “seeking God’s will.” This question was especially prominent at Bible college, where young men and women training to go into ministry were trying to discern God’s leading in several key areas.
First and foremost, we were trusting God to lead us to a perfect marriage partner. Battling our hormones and feelings for the guy or girl we really liked, a lot of times, I might add. (Not me, of course, dear.) And then there was the whole decision about whether or not God was calling a person into missions. If, on the other hand, a person believed God wanted one on the “homefront,” there were questions of location, location, location.
A lot of angst, prayer, counseling sessions, Bible studies, dorm discussions, long walks, and sleepless nights revolved around “seeking God’s will for one’s life.”
Frankly, I don’t hear so much about that any more. The “traditional” view of receiving special guidance from God seems to have faded from prominence. For the better, I believe. In my opinion, we’ve come a long way theologically and pastorally in realizing that God may not have one “perfect plan” that a believer must “find” (as though he’s hiding it from his people, as though one day he might pull back a curtain and voila! there it is) in order to be in “the very center of God’s will” for one’s life.
A classic book that led to a change of emphasis in this area of Christian living was Gary Friesen’s Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View. Friesen emphasized that making decisions in our lives is more a function of wisdom than of special guidance or revelation. In the introduction to the book, Haddon Robinson says,
If we ask, “How can I know the will of God?” we may be asking the wrong question. The Scriptures do not command us to find God’s will for most of life’s choices nor do we have any passage instructing us on how it can be determined. Equally significant, the Christian community has never agreed on how God provides us with such special revelation. Yet we persist in searching for God’s will because decisions require thought and sap energy. We seek relief from the responsibility of decision making and we feel less threatened by being passive than active when making important choices.
In this book, Dr. Garry Friesen insists that we must change the question. Instead of wondering, “How do find the will of God?” a better question to pursue is, “How do I make good decisions?”
Young people, of course, think about these things more because they are at a point in their life and spiritual formation when the issue getting established in one’s life vocations is front and center. In our teens and twenties, matters of education, family, career, geographical location, and so on will be decided. What part does God play in the process?
These questions have become more important for people at all stages of life. Society has changed, and for many of us, choices like these now take the stage at various and multiple ages like never before. The simple fact that we live longer necessitates more life-affecting decisions. People wait longer to marry. More marriages break up. People often take longer to find careers, and they may change career choices several times throughout the course of their lives. Society is more mobile and we have many more options, domestic and foreign, about where to live.
Rarely does a person in our world follow the path many in my father’s generation didâ€”college/military, marriage to one spouse, family, lifelong career with one company that followed a logical course of “climbing the ladder,” retirement. And, I would answer, ongoing membership in churches of one denomination.
- Is it odd that we have more choices and more uncertainty today, but less emphasis on determining the will of God? Or am I just in the other room, missing out on the conversation?
- What are you hearing these days about this subject? If you are a pastor or someone who counsels others about making decisions, how are you encouraging them to trust God and seek his wisdom for choosing their paths?