How Do I Know God's Will For My Life?
As a pastor, I get asked a lot of questions about God, and out of those the most frequent question I'm asked is simply this: "How do I know God's will?" or to put it another way, "How do I know what God's purpose is for my life?"
It's humbling to get asked these kinds of questions, to be honest. I often feel like I am the last person on earth to be entrusted with them, but I try to answer to the best of my ability.
The truth is, there's no logical, rational way to figure out God's purpose for us. The Apostle Paul described it as "looking through a distorted glass," which isn't very comforting when you're trying to figure out what to do next with your life, which road to take, or decision to make.
The best advice I have to give comes down to these five things that I typically consider when I am wrestling with a decision or trying to discern what God might be leading to me do: Prayer, Circumstances, Advice, Scripture, Experience
Prayer: There's no substitute for simply bringing your cares, concerns or petitions to God. Whether you spend time in silence, speaking out loud, journalling or whatever form you prefer, prayer helps keep you connected to God, and focused on what's important.
Circumstances: Sometimes our circumstances help us to see things differently. I've had more than a few occasions when the circumstances in my life changed so dramatically that I couldn't help but wonder if God was preparing me for something. We need to pay attention to our circumstances when we're trying to discern God's will.
Advice: I often share my struggles with trusted friends, or family members--people who I know will be honest with me. We need people in our lives who will give us the unvarnished truth about ourselves and who can speak truth into the discernment process as we seek God's purpose for our lives.
Scripture: As part of my daily devotions, I read the Bible every day. But when I am seeking discernment for God's will, I tend to dig more deeply, to return to the Scriptures with a more acutely tuned sense of "hearing," if you will. It's often through the Scriptures that I discover words, phrases, stories and promises that help lead me.
Experience: This is a much more challenging aspect of the discernment process because whenever I am relying on my experience (feeling, emotion, "my gut") it needs to be closely tied to all of the other aspects of the discernment process. If I use this in isolation of the other aspects, I would be in a lot of trouble, but without it I lose something in the process.
Like I said, I'm no expert on any of this, but I have found these steps to be helpful when I'm struggling to figure out what God's purposes are, and what God's will for my life might be.
May you wrestle faithfully with God on a daily basis, seeking his will, discerning his voice among all of the others trying to speak to you. May you find in prayer, scripture, wise counsel, circumstances and experience a way forward that will require faith, hope and trust in God.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.