Your Choice: Discerning God’s Will for Your Life
Life on the Fence
Paralyzed by indecisiveness. Unable to make a decision. Stuck living life on the edge of the fence. Is that you? Are you like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck, unsure of which choice to make? Should you get out of the way and possibly save your life? Or is this all part of God’s plan for you? What if “God’s will” for you is to get hit? Maybe you should sit down and pray to see if God sends you a sign. You still have time to choose after all.
To us, from an outsider’s perspective, the “right” thing to do seems obvious. Here’s what’s probably going on inside our heads:
“There’s no way we could be anything like that deer, struggling with such an easy decision. Clearly, the deer should just jump out of the way—no need to think twice. Who cares if that doe he likes thinks he’s unspiritual for not praying before deciding? Stop wasting time, brother deer! Get outta there!”
“What career path should I go down?”, “Is this the person I should date?”, “Which church should I go to or where should I serve?” All these questions represent the same dilemma: we’ve found ourselves on a forked road, leaving us with a choice to make. We have our options before us, and none of them are inherently sinful. Each route has its pros and cons, and here we are trying to pick the “best” one out of the lot. We even have the choice to not make a choice. We can wait, and who knows? Maybe that will help us choose. Given all the possibilities, the stress, and the need to consider the consequences of each decision (or lack of one), we often find ourselves praying the common prayer, “God, what is your will for me?”
So many of us have found ourselves in this same predicament, all wondering, “What’s the right choice?” or “What does God want me to do?” What’s hard to notice sometimes when we try to “discern God’s will for our life” is that instead of choosing the path of wisdom, we are actually over-spiritualizing our decisions. While hard to see in the moment, this phenomenon can easily be observed by how Christians commonly go hunting for answers through dreams, random verses, or peculiar coincidences. You’ve probably seen the familiar sight of a high-school student struggling to pick a program. What would you think if they got counsel and agreed that a choice was good, but still kept looking for a sign or feeling from God? Would it really be necessary to stress for months over a decision that could have taken weeks or less? In our agonizing struggles over decisions which aren’t inherently moral, we might be taking after our silly brother deer more often than we would like to admit.
The Real Danger
People have always wanted to know the future. The mystery of what lies ahead sparks a common desire within us. We just want to know. In the old days, a great temptation for people was to seek oracles or “prophets” so that they could divine the future and be told what they should do. For us, the temptation for divination might look a little different from wondering if it’s going to rain tomorrow or if a war is going to be won. Instead, we might want to know if we would make a good couple, or if this job is going to get me a comfortable life.
“Anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord.”
— Deuteronomy 18: 9–12
The dark side of wanting to know the future is that it could signify a heart that wants to be in control. We may want to know for ourselves because we don’t want to be left in the dark, not knowing how things will turn out. We may want dreams or words in the sky as a sign that things will go well for us so that we can have an easier time trusting that God truly has our best interests at heart. Sometimes, it’s not enough for the anxious and worrying soul to know that God has everything in control and is working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
Whether it’s a coin flip or a random number generator, our hearts can often stray into seeking security (however false) from things other than God. The danger you need to watch out for is a heart that finds no comfort in God’s providence, no trust in God’s goodness, and no assurance from God’s promises.
A good question to ask when you find yourself at the crossroads of discerning God’s will is this: “Why do I want God to tell me what I should do?” This is because oftentimes, instead of looking for a way to please God, what we’re really looking for is a remedy for our anxiety, worry, or lack of trust in Him. Look at the Pharisees. They saw signs, yet that only brought them back asking for more. They always wanted more proof, more reasons to believe and trust that Jesus was the Christ. None would be enough for them, not even the resurrection from the dead. On the outside, they were seemingly asking for more discernment, yet their inward hearts were full of unbelief.
“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
— Matthew 16:2–4
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
— Isaiah 29:13
Already Answered Prayers
Are you asking for divine guidance? You have it. Not in the form of a voice from the clouds, but one which you should be quite familiar with. Through the Bible, God communicates what He wants us to know and what He wants us to do. God’s given word is His way for us to discern His will, and it’s sufficient to prepare us for every choice that comes our way.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3:16
The Bible answers your prayers for guidance not with a case-by-case guide or a command to pray for specific direction, but with something far better. Imagine being in a world where you had to figure out God’s specific plan in each scenario so that you could follow it meticulously. What a headache! Thankfully, God’s word focuses its attention not on governing each of our individual decisions, but on shaping us to be wise so that we can tackle anything and everything.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. — Proverbs 9:10
I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.
— Psalm 119:99
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. — James 1:5
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. — Proverbs 11:14
Tune our Hearts
By making us wise through the fear of the LORD, the Bible shapes us in a way that enables us to make good choices. In this process, the Bible’s aim goes beyond just guiding our surface-level choices which are visible to the eye. Above mere actions, the words of God target something deeper within us, something far more essential than just getting the right thing done. The Bible shoots straight for the core of our beings, aiming to guide our very hearts and intentions. This is how God guides us into following His will: by setting our hearts right first.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” — Matthew 22:37
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” — Proverbs 4:23
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” — Matthew 12:33
A right heart is the real goal — that’s what really matters. What truly pleases God are the choices that naturally flow from a heart of genuine faith and love. That’s what God sees and cares about. God isn’t looking for people to spread out their fleece or cast dice every time a decision needs to be made. Instead, He wants a certain kind of people — a holy people who are like Him and share the heart and mind of Christ, who seek His glory in all they do. These people, who find their joy in God, are given new desires in their hearts which ultimately bring about the fruit of God honouring choices.
“The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” — 1 Samuel 16:7
“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.” — Proverbs 21:2
“Without faith it is impossible to please him” — Hebrews 11:6
“Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” — Leviticus 19:2
Beauty in Simplicity
If God cares more about the heart than our outward deeds, what does this mean for our decision-making? It’s simple. Get your heart right and just make a choice. Instead of praying for a sign or an answer on what choice to make, pray for wisdom and a God-centered heart as you proceed with making a decision. When you become the Christian who trusts in the Lord wholeheartedly and seeks Him first in all things, you’ll likely find that decision-making will come easily. In fact, you’ll find freedom and joy in knowing that you can please God and honor Him in so many different ways.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
— Colossians 3:2
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. — Proverbs 16:9
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. — Matthew 6:33
If the heart isn’t right, even the wisest decision will only amount to filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6), but if your heart is right, you have less than nothing to worry about. You don’t need to fear missing out on a program, job, or any other opportunity because God has those details in check. Go and choose with wisdom, being confident that God will go before you and work all things for good. All that should be left to you is the eager expectation that God can and will do more than you can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” — 1 Peter 5:7
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” — Matthew 6:25–27
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”
— Psalm 37: 23–24
Think back to your past. In hindsight, hasn’t God planned everything in your life meticulously and precisely to bring you to where you are now? Did you really need to be that anxious or worried when you were choosing your university program or first co-op? If God has taken care of you and has orchestrated everything perfectly for you up until now, why would you think that He wouldn’t do the same going forward? If you have any anxieties, worries, or uncertainties left, take them to the cross. If Jesus loves you enough to take on your sin, suffer God’s wrath for you, and adopt you into His family, then you can be sure that He’ll be with you on whichever path you take.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
— Isaiah 41:10
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him” — 1 Corinthians 2:9
“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” — Ephesians 1:4–5
In light of the hope and joy set before you, that one day you’ll be in the presence of God Himself for eternity, don’t your present struggles fade into the distance? How grievous is the loss of worldly comfort compared to the reward that God has prepared for His good and faithful? Doesn’t the weight of your current choices feel light in comparison to the weight of glory which lies ahead? With heaven in sight, go and put on those shoes of readiness (Ephesians 6:15) and set your course. Look to God and make your choice. As you do, you’ll get to see for yourself what God’s good will for you is.
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”
— Proverbs 16:9
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”— Romans 12:2