Originally published on Boundless on March 5, 2018.
Heading into college, I was terrified of choosing a major. I was scared to commit myself to one career. What if I didn’t choose the right one?
Three years later, I was terrified again — this time about marriage. What if my fiancé wasn’t really the right one?
Less than a year later, I was terrified once more — about a career choice. Should I plunge into full-time freelance writing or stick with a dependable job at a marketing company?
During these big life decisions, I wanted a concrete answer about what the right choice was. As someone who grew up in church, I regularly heard the phrase “God’s will for your life.” But it became one of those phrases you hear so often that you know how to use it, but you can’t really explain it. And I really, really needed a clear explanation.
How could I know what God’s will was?
I wrestled with this question repeatedly until I read an article that made a bold claim — that I didn’t need to do anything to uncover God’s will. I remember staring at the computer screen in disbelief. Nothing?
Curious, I began to investigate this idea further. What I found stunned me. As I studied Scripture and asked for God’s guidance in my decision-making, I realized that it wasn’t my responsibility to find God’s will (insert sigh of relief here). Rather, God would lovingly bring me to it.
Here’s what I learned:
1. His will can be found in your natural abilities.
The answers to some of life’s decisions are woven into your very DNA, and God is simply waiting for you to recognize them.
Rather than trying to find a verse that tells you which career path to pursue, find what you’re naturally skilled at. God has given everyone different strengths. As Mary Byers says in her book How to Say No … and Live to Tell About It, the “world needs for you to do what you love and what you’re good at because we’re not all gifted the same.”
The apostle Paul advocates this idea when he instructs church members to fulfill their unique role and use their unique spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12).
During college, I stopped stressing about picking the “right” college major and instead started focusing on my natural talent in writing. After switching my major to English language and literature, I found ways to experience the different job opportunities for that degree. I wrote for my university’s newspaper, took classes on teaching English as a second language, and had a part-time marketing internship.
As I began getting my feet wet in these career paths, I started discovering which I had a natural aptitude for and was truly interested in. Then a former roommate suddenly asked if she could mention my name for an open copywriting position at an ad agency. Everything about that job opening fell together so smoothly and quickly, I knew I couldn’t ignore it. It was as if God had opened a secret door underneath me that dropped me into the perfect job at the perfect time.
It was during that job that I recognized my love for writing ads, websites and magazine articles. Once I added together the facts that (1) I loved copywriting, (2) I was good at it, (3) God had dropped this opportunity straight into my lap and (4) He never gave me a reason to leave the marketing industry, I knew I had found my path.
When God is blessing your path and opening doors for you, it’s obvious. If He’s not giving you any reason to change course, don’t go hunting for one.
2. God gives you the opportunity to choose.
Who says God always limits us to one certain way? Not He. Rather than insisting on one “right” answer, God may allow you to choose from many equally good ones. And in His power, He solidifies and strengthens your decision once you make it (Proverbs 16:3).
For example, consider marriage. Maybe there’s not just “the one” right person for you. That would relieve some of the pressure of picking someone, wouldn’t it? Think of it this way — when a man’s wife dies, does he lose the one person in the world that was God’s will for him to marry and become destined to live alone? Most people would say no. Now if we believe there is more than one person each of us could be happily married to, why do we worry so much about finding “the one”?
Sometimes there is no magical right answer to the choice you’re making, and you get to just pick one. But no matter what decision you’re facing, you can always count on God to provide the wisdom you need when you ask for it.
We are not called to live life with fear of making a wrong choice. Instead, we are called to live life with bold power, Christlike love and a good dose of common sense (2 Timothy 1:7). Can you think of any biblical characters who were so nervous about choosing the wrong path that they didn’t choose one at all? Certainly not David, Esther or Paul. They all realized that fearfully refusing to make a choice was, in fact, a choice — a choice to selfishly stay in their own comfort zones.
Likewise, we can’t continually wait to make a choice, fearing that we’ll make the wrong one. Pray, asking for wisdom, and talk to wise people in your life, but then make a decision. God gives us the ability to choose, and He will guide our choices. Trust His heart and His promise to guide and protect you.
3. God will never make you guess.
I think most of us believe God has a plan for our lives. But don’t we also believe that it’s entirely up to us to find it? It’s as if we think that God is just watching us, anxiously hoping we figure life out. How arrogant of us!
Our God is not passive. And your life is not a guessing game. God will direct your path. You can be sure of this truth because of Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” You can acknowledge God in your decisions by asking for His wisdom and trying to honor Him in your choices. God keeps His word by providentially guiding your steps. If you acknowledge, He directs.
When my boyfriend Kaleb and I began talking seriously about marriage, I was suddenly hit by the magnitude of that decision. What if we chose wrong?
I was so worried by that one enormous decision. I made pro/con lists, as if I could choose my life partner based on which side of the list was longer. I thought and thought and thought. I prayed too, but I was still putting too much weight on myself. I was depending on my best guess for whether Kaleb was the one for me.
Then one day as I walked to my next class, I realized how ridiculous I was being. God had never let me down yet. When I had sought Him in my decisions, He always steered me away from the wrong path and blessed my walk down the right one.
At that point, after sincere praying and soul-searching, God had not given me any major red flags about Kaleb. Rather, I had seen more and more reasons why we were so good together, and I had fallen more and more in love with him. No one around me had noticed any red flags either. They all spoke highly of Kaleb and how he treated me. And I knew I wanted to do life with him. God hadn’t given me reasons not to marry Kaleb, and He had brought Kaleb into my life in such a way that I couldn’t ignore it. So I married Kaleb, and I’m so glad I did.
Making the right choice is not just up to you. God Almighty will be actively involved in your decision-making process. Let this precious, stress-relieving truth sink in — it’s not just up to you. Whether you see His direction or not, He is always holding your hand and watching your way (Isaiah 42:6).
In her book Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On, Stormie OMartian said it this way:
This is the miracle of His power. If the path you’ve been on is crooked, He will make it straight. If you are headed in the wrong direction, He will turn you around. If you have come to a standstill, He will get you moving. If you are going around in circles, He will correct your course and cause you to arrive at your destination.
To be clear, while I do believe that God is actively involved in our lives, I do not believe that God will force His way into our decisions and make us choose wisely. Having free will, we’re not operating as robots. We’re responsible for our decisions, and we will face the consequences — good or bad. But if we are sincerely trying to please the Lord with our actions, He will know and will providentially guide our steps when we need it. He did it for me when I was choosing my major and deciding who to marry. He will do it for you too.
But how can I be certain this is God’s will?
In all likelihood, your fear that you may miss God’s will is an indicator that you won’t. It’s when you lose your focus on pleasing God that you should be concerned.
And sometimes we can be in the very place God wants us to be, doing the very things He wants us to do, and yet still experience discomfort or suffering. Sometimes the right place doesn’t always feel like the most exciting or inspiring place. Sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same.
Second thoughts, bad days and a lack of excitement don’t signal that you made the wrong choice. Think of the disciples who were stuck on that ship in the middle of a fierce storm, with Jesus sound asleep in the stern (Mark 4:35-41). They thought they were about to die — talk about a bad day. But did that mean they were in the wrong place? Hardly. They had followed Jesus there — in what better place could they have been? And because they were in that place at that time, they witnessed a jaw-dropping miracle that showed them Jesus was more than just a man.
If you have followed the Proverbs 3:6 formula and God has led you to a place (or hasn’t kept you from going there), than there is a purpose for that place. There is a reason you are where you are, doing what you’re doing. There is meaning to your pain, to your hard days, and to this seemingly lackluster phase of life.
Remember the promise in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” You are never alone — not even during times of suffering. And, one day, you will see its purpose.
At the end of all my searching, I found that God’s will is not the rigid step-by-step plan I originally thought it was. I now believe the ultimate way to God’s will is to trust Him to bring you to it. Stay in His Word, seek trustworthy advice, and ask God for wisdom, having faith He will give it. Then make your choice, neither fearfully nor flippantly, but with confidence that God will either bless your choice or providentially correct it. Trust that He will honor the heart that pursues His.
God’s job is to watch over you and make your way clear; your job is to trust Him to do His.