One of the most frequent questions a Christian can ask themselves is: What is the will of God in this situation?
We have all been there many times. Over the years, I have read several books and talked with numerous mentors about finding the answer to this question in many particular situations. Whether you are thinking about going to a certain school, taking a job, dating/marrying someone, moving to a certain city, or whatever else, this topic is for you. As I write this, I will most likely write as if I am counseling someone who is choosing a certain job or school since that is what I find myself doing most in this area. Nevertheless, you can insert yourself and your situation into all of these. Without any more delay, these are some of the “rules” that I have accumulated and what I pass on to others.
Are you holding back anything from God?
This first searching question has more to do with our living in holiness towards God (1 Pet. 1:16). If we are habitually stiff-arming God from an area in our lives then we need to first repent before we can have a clearer answer to His will. Our sinful desires can certainly lead us astray. Just because that certain job looks attractive, the pay is great, and the city is trending doesn’t mean you should take that job. For all we know, it could just be another way to idolize our job performance rather than grow in godliness. This means that our first reflection should be to look at our lives. To be sure, we wake up every day in a Romans 7 struggle against sin. We will not be perfect until Glory but we can check our lives to see if we are habitually living a godless life in certain areas.
Do you have the opportunity?
Just because I have a passion for something and even some general skill in that same area doesn’t mean I have opportunity to do it (which is totally contrary to most of the worldly wisdom today). Part of God’s will is when He opens up and closes doors for us (Col. 4:3). If an opportunity is closed then we can be sure (and we must be patient!) that it’s not God’s will for us right now. We need to repent of the “giraffe syndrome” where we constantly are holding our heads high looking for greener grass. We certainly can pray for God to open up the opportunity if we do have the passion and the ability for such a opportunity but if the door is not open yet then we must remain patient. For all we know, maybe God is saving us from something in the future. “But”, you say, “what if there are multiple doors open?” Then by all means proceed to the next question!
Do you have the ability?
The next part is to test our gifts, skills, and abilities. God has gifted each of us in a particular way for a particular time among a particular people. We have all seen people who are striving to do something (more than merely having it as a hobby) and yet they don’t have the ability to get the job done day in and day out. You know what? This is fine! We don’t have to pridefully look around at others doubting us and then put our heads down to become a slave to such an opportunity and then when we have finally “made it” to turn back to all our doubters or “haters” and rub it in their face. Maybe in our pursuit of such an opportunity we have run over many people trying to do that. We need to notice how God has made us and what abilities we have. It’s no shame to lack a certain ability for an opportunity. When we realize that life is more than our school and job then we can be content (and more wise) wherever God has us and whatever abilities and inabilities we have. What if God wants you at a mid-level position at a mid-level company so that you can learn to depend more on Him, witness to those around you, and to keep you from idols? If I don’t have the ability to be the CEO of a company then I think it’s safe to say that pursuing that opportunity is not God’s will. Another aspect to see is that God gives us different abilities in different seasons of our lives. BUT just because God might be growing my desire and ability to cook doesn’t mean I’m called to be a chef. This all takes discernment and prayer.
Do you have the passion?
You might have the opportunity and the ability but maybe you dread the idea of going to do such a thing. If you are walking with God and daily repenting then God is shaping your desires more and more to His (Ps. 37:4). BUT we also need to tap the brakes on the modern idea that we need to always be pursuing our dreams and passions. Much modern thought is that we must absolutely love what we’re doing and if we’re not then we need to change things up. This actually mistakes “love” for “like”. Love sticks around even when you’re not as passionate but “like” always follows the emotions. Maybe this opportunity that you have is a good one that’s healthy for you and your family, gives you long-term sustainability, puts you in a good place to live where good solid churches are, and is probably a place where the Lord would use you…but, it’s not necessarily the top on your list. That’s fine! To be sure, I’m not saying go to the place that you dread the most. There are few moments in life where God treats us like Jonah and tells us to go to Nineveh for work or school. There are many times where a place or a circumstance has to “grow on us” before we are passionate about it. This is different for marriage. You better be passionate about that person. End of story. Passion can ebb and flow and passion is certainly NOT puppy love where you always have to be holding hands. But, if you’re not passionate about being with that person for life then you might want to take some time. Does this mean that when you married and lose passion for your spouse that you might be “called” to a divorce? Absolutely not! Once again, that is not true love but only a “like”. Love stays even when passion fades. Love is a commitment through thick and thin (even really thin!!!). But when it comes to a school, job, or move then make sure you have a healthy desire for it even though it might not be at the top of your list.
Are you making this decision in community?
This does not mean that you need to post a poll on Facebook or Instagram to ask the world their decision. What I mean is that big decisions like this takes more than just you. Are you married? Talk to your spouse. Are you living at home? Talk with your parents. Do you have mentors? Ask them what they think about it. We can often acquire “tunnel vision” when making such decisions when others close to us can help us see more clearly. Big decisions shouldn’t be made quickly, lightly, or alone. Have you asked your pastor? Have your asked your community group? Have you asked your friends and family? Do they think it’s wise? Do they think you could do well there? Are there any “red flags” that stand out to them? Listen to these various verses in Proverbs. “With those who take advice is wisdom” (13:10b). “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (15:22).
Where does church fit into your decision?
This is the most neglected of all of these. This question isn’t last because of priority but rather it is last because it ties a nice bow around the whole situation. If we ignore the most central aspect of our lives (worshiping God not merely in all of life but also in the local church) in our decisions then we are evaluating the situation foolishly. We must begin and end all our discerning of God’s will with God. If our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever and if God has called us to be apart of the local church (not just casually attend or just “date” the church) then we can be sure that this is a major factor to our decision. There have been several people who I have talked with who could’ve cared less about what churches or ministries were in the area. Their minds were on the flesh (Rom. 8:5-8). We need to do some research about what churches are in the area. Once again, we need to guard against the extreme that says that we must find the most relevant church that has a massive community with an incredible preacher and thriving ministries and unless there is that then I’m not going there. Maybe God wants you in a smaller, less relevant church where there is a faithful pastor who preaches the Word in season and out of season and, frankly, a church that needs you! Not just pastors are called to a local church. Another caveat is this: You might be forced to go somewhere where there isn’t a thriving church. This primarily refers to when you have the opportunity to wrestle with staying or leaving. But, let’s be sure that we’re not just saying we were “forced to” so that we can ignore the church question.