I cannot count the times I have been told something along the lines of, “I just want to know God’s will for my life.” The sentiment is expressed in a variety of ways, and at times I have articulated that same desire.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
– Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV
I cannot imagine any sincere Christ-follower saying they do not want to know God’s will for their life. The most beautiful scenario is one in which my will is fully aligned with God’s will. But if we are honest, the more frequent reality is that we want God’s will to align with ours.
Prerequisite to knowing God’s will is my decision and willingness to follow that will, regardless of what it is, and before knowing it. Jesus said:
If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
– John 7:17, ESV
Be very clear on what Jesus is saying above. Obedience precedes knowing. While we want to say, “When I know, I will obey,” Jesus teaches us, “Decide to obey, and then you will know.” Even Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered.”1
A trustworthy measure of my willingness to obey what I don’t yet know is found in looking at whether I am already obedient to what I do know. When I am eagerly obedient, and my will is submissive to God’s will, I am among those who can ask of God in confidence.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
– 1 John 5:14-15 ESV
Sometimes we have no clear biblical mandate on a matter. This absence of explicit mandate does not negate the ability of the Christ-follower to know God’s direction.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
– 1 John 5:14-15, ESV
God will then answer in his time and his way. The answer may not come immediately. Jesus taught that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.”2 And I believe God’s answer is the best answer, because his very essence transcends my greatest fantasies.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
– Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV
And when we have sought God’s wisdom, and we have subjected our will to his will, we know that our life experiences will work together for our good, because we love God and are called according to his purpose.3
When we are fully surrendered to God, he will guide us through scripture, through life-circumstance, and through the inner-working of the Holy Spirit. All three of these must be in agreement. When that happens, we can walk confidently and victoriously through our day knowing that God will “direct our paths.”4
1. Hebrews 5:8-9
2. Luke 18:1
3. Romans 8:28
4. Proverbs 3:6