Honestly, growing up in the church in the ‘90s had me thinking life was a maze. If I took a wrong turn, I’d mess everything up and wouldn’t find myself living my perfect destiny. I’d find myself in a mediocre life, hating my job, alone, completely outside God’s will. Every turn either had devastating consequences or a glowing green light from heaven. There was peril or pleasure, no in-between.
My 20s were horrifying. At every juncture, I would pray. I’d read scripture. I’d seek wise counsel and lay out “fleeces” for God to give answers through. It was insanely stressful.
What major do I choose? Should I switch majors halfway through college? Who do I date? Should I date? Where do I work after graduation? Who do I live with? What church do I go to? I can feel my blood pressure rise just from typing this! It was a time full of immense change and so many dang decisions. I lived a lot from the gut and banked on my intuition. I continued to pray and seek the Lord’s will, but a lot of the time His will for my life seemed to be some far-off plan that He stashed away and hid from me.
How was I supposed to make all the right choices if I didn’t know the plan? Understanding His will for my life became this elusive carrot I kept chasing. And while I chased it, I continued having to live my life–making choices.
Although I continued to seek wise counsel, there’s only so much someone else can do. It’s your life. You have to make the decisions. A lot of people call this “adulting,” which it is, but it shouldn’t be some strange experience we are dropped into like a bad dream. It’s not something that just all of a sudden happens. It should be a natural growing into freedom and responsibility.
One day, a friend suggested a book, and it changed the whole paradigm of adulting for me. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, which has the tagline “How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.” This book flipped the entire idea of God’s will on its head. It challenged the strange way I had been thinking, and it gave me a ton of freedom.
The truth of the matter is–God is bigger than your choices. I often think of the story of Joseph in Genesis when I think about how God orchestrates our lives. Was it God’s will that Joseph was sold into slavery? Was it God’s will that he be falsely accused and convicted? Was it God’s will that he was in prison? I used to think it was, but now, I’m not so sure. Our Father’s heart is always for us and never against us. I think God used the circumstances in Joseph’s life and worked them in such a way that they brought redemption to Joseph’s estranged family as well as life to thousands. God used Joseph through hard situations because Joseph chose to humble himself and allow God to work. He can work through anything. He can take the darkest situations and weave His mighty works so that good things are a result. I’ve seen this over and over in my own life. Our circumstances are never bleak enough that God can’t breathe life into them.
I think a lot of what we do and don’t do affect the outcome of our lives, not what we think is God’s will. If we want to break it down to its most basic components, God’s will is that we love Him and love one another, and that needs to be where our main focus is. His will is that we feed the hungry and clothe the poor, that we serve one another, and over time, through obedience and surrender, we are transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus. If we fail to love the one in front of us for the sake of figuring out some ‘grander’ plotline then we have done an incredible disservice to the gospel and our Savior. You can love the people in your neighborhood, or you can love the people in Ethiopia. Up to you.
I’m not saying that He doesn’t have plans for us. Scripture very clearly states that He does. I’m just saying that His plans for us cannot be deciphered by reading the stars and rolling dice. We must trust that He is big enough to lead us and guide us in all our wanderings. We must trust that He is guiding us in the middle of our choices. He is big enough to show up like He did for Abraham or Moses. To strike us blind like Paul or mute like Zachariah. For the plans He has for us, we just need to be paying attention. We don’t need to put everything on hold in order to decipher the runes and decode ancient mythology. He knows how to get our attention.
Our lives are more like a choose-your-own-adventure novel rather than a play-by-play. When you come to a page and it says you can accept a job in Chicago or you can have a job down the street, know that God will be with you either way you go. He will work it for good no matter which choice you make as long as you are surrendered to Him and listen when He does tell you something. And that’s the thing: God does speak. He does have vision for our lives. His vision for you may be very specific, and if it is, then listen and obey. If He is screaming Chicago, then, by all means, choose Chicago! It would be ridiculous not to. He’ll let you know if you need to move in a certain direction. Even if you somehow find yourself completely off course, God can always direct you back. There’s nothing we could ever do that would mean we are too far gone for God to bring us back.
I know some people who are so surrendered and walk so intimately with the Lord that He will tell them to stop in the grocery store, go to aisle 8, and pray for the woman putting rice in her cart. I also know people who can barely hear His voice but still love Him, and spend time with Him. I think that if God is speaking to you, then you should listen, but even if you don’t hear Him, that shouldn’t cripple you. You know His heart. You can read the Word. You know that it would be better for you to have a job than choose to be jobless and avoid responsibility. You know that eating healthy food is better for you than gas station snacks. Let’s not make everything super spiritual. Some choices are better than others. Don’t gamble with shady decisions, but don’t get hung up on things as though they will make or break you, either. God is bigger than that. The main point is to listen when He speaks, and if He’s silent, then feel free to choose and trust that He is with you.
And don’t forget–God made you, with all your desires and dreams, with all your quirks and questions. Let’s learn to write our stories with God. It’s no surprise to Him what you will choose. He made you to choose it.
Feature Image by Caleb Jones