Before you read the rest of this, let me just tell you a bit about myself. I am a final year student studying to be teacher. I have approximately 5 weeks left before I have finished uni for good (not that I am counting of course!) I currently do not have a job lined up or a house organised for next year. With the end of uni looking, things are getting pretty serious, particularly on the job front.
Unsurprisingly, I have recently been thinking a lot about what God’s will is for my life and how I can find guidance. Something to do with the fact that within the next couple of months, I need to have got myself a job, figured out where I am going to be living, and basically have figured out what I want to do with my life! Or at least that is how it feels at the moment. Like I need to sort out the rest of my life right now, because if I don’t, I’m not really sure I’ll ever get it sorted. There just seem to be a lot of major life decisions that need to be made at the moment, and I really want to know what God’s will is for me in all of this. Where does he want me to work? Where does he want me to live? Is teaching really what he wants me to be doing for the rest of my life? What should I do over the summer? As you can see, loads of huge decisions to be made!
The aim of this post, then, is to try and figure out how, as Christians, we should make these important decisions.
When I look at all of the things that I need to do, it can get quite overwhelming. There is just so much to sort out, but the truth is that I don’t need a comprehensive life plan figured out right now. I don’t actually need to know whether teaching is going to be a permanent thing for me or not. I don’t need to have my life all mapped out, and the chances are that, if I did, it would all get turned upside down anyway! God is the one who has a plan for my life. We are told in Proverbs to ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.’ (Proverbs 3 v 5-6) Basically it means that I don’t need to have it all figured out. My life is in God’s hands and he will guide me every step of the way. That is definitely an encouraging note to start on.
It is also a challenge for me, because I am a planner. If I have an exam coming up, you can guarantee that I will have a colour coded revision schedule. If I have a placement coming up, there will be a meal plan, time plan, any other kind of plan you can imagine. Basically, I like things to all be planned out. So I’m still learning to accept that life doesn’t work like that. Walking with God seems to be more about placing our trust in him each day and seeking his guidance. Trusting that whatever is going on around us, good or bad, is a part of God’s plan.
What I don’t think this all means, however, is that we should never make any plans, or never make any decisions! In Psalm 32 v 8 we read that God will ‘instruct you and teach you in the way you should go’ but I don’t think that means we never have to actually engage our mind and make decisions. One of the ways that God guides and teaches us is through his word, which means engaging with the Bible and trying to make sense of what it says to us. There are going to be times when we have to make decisions. So as much as I know that I don’t need to have it all figured out now, I shouldn’t just sit around waiting for a job to be handed to me on a plate! We do have a part to play.
What is God’s will for me?
So how do I, or any of us, work out what God’s will is for us? The more I read the Bible and see how God’s will was revealed in it, the more I wonder if we spend too much time trying to work this out. We imagine that there is only one specific path that we have to take. I’ve been tempted to think that there is only one right option, whether that is looking for a job, some sort of missionary opportunity or even a holiday! I admit that I’m pretty bad at making decisions anyway. I tend to feel the need to be absolutely certain about something before making a decision. When it comes to spiritual matters or bigger life issues, I worry that I might possibly ‘wreck’ God’s plans for my life. Even whilst writing this, I see how stupid it sounds! If we could ruin God’s plans by making the ‘wrong’ decision, then God wouldn’t be God. We need to be reminded that God will always work out his plans.
So maybe I should worry less about working out what the best decision would be and just get on and make a decision! Obviously we need to be careful but if we spend so much time worrying about what to do, we end up not doing anything. We are not on our own when trying to work these things out either. God has given us his word to guide us. Again, that doesn’t mean that if I open my Bible, I will find out exactly which school I should be working in and the address of my new flat!
The Bible gives us general principles to work with. In Micah 6 v 8, we read that ‘He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?’ 2 Corinthians 5 v 9 tells us that ‘we make it our aim, whether present or absent to be well pleasing to him.’ In Matthew 28 v 19 we are commanded to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.’ In those three verses, we get some idea of how we should live. Living for God and obeying him should be our priority in any decision making. So if any decision we make goes against God’s commandments, it is a wrong decision. If the decision seems to be in line with God’s will, as revealed in the Bible, then it can at least be considered a possible option. Then I think we are allowed to be practical. Take the example of looking for a job. Say I have three schools lined up that I am interested in. Teaching in any of these would not be going against the Bible, so I am OK there. Do I then wait for some divine revelation to make it clear which of the three is ‘right’? Not necessarily; God has given us the ability to think and to reason. So if I go into a school, like the ethos and feel supported there, then I can choose to apply there. Throughout the process there should be prayer that we would know which route is best for us, and God will guide us. Though sometimes it may seem to be an unconventional route.
I don’t think working out what God’s will should be some weird sort of mystical experience. We shouldn’t necessarily expect a flash of light, a vision or a spoken word but I do believe that sometimes we will be aware of God’s guiding- that might be something as simple as a sense of peace about a certain decision, or a constant nagging thought. I was definitely aware of God’s guidance during my Gap year. I knew that I wanted to spend some time serving the Lord in mission work of some sort before heading to university. An opportunity came up to go out to Peru. It wasn’t something I really felt I wanted to do at first, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. First one person would mention this team to Peru that they had heard about, then another! Once I had decided to go, I really did feel a sense of peace that this had been the right decision and it was truly a blessed time. Looking back, I don’t know why I took so long to figure this out!
So there we are; just a few rambling thoughts about guidance. It is never going to be an easy issue I don’t think, because God’s will isn’t always clear to us. But we have to act as best as we can in accordance with what God has chosen to reveal to us in his word, rather than getting bogged down trying to discover the full plan that God has not chosen to reveal to us.
“Show me your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; on you I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25 v 4-5)