Much is said of the will of God–how one is to know it, how one is to discover it, and how one is to live in it. Yet despite how often it is spoken of and meditated upon, it is a doctrine that is mysterious to us, so much so that we tend to abandon the pursuit of the knowledge of it and opt rather to wait for some special form of revelation of it to fall upon us.
And while the will of God is indeed in some ways a mysterious thing to us, it is also a matter that is made very clear to us. Our confusion on it, therefore, likely has its root, not in God’s silence on the matter, but in our misunderstanding or refusal to see what has already been revealed. For while there are aspects of God’s will that are hidden from us (and may forever be hidden from us), there are others that are clearly shown to us, so much so that they may be called “blatant.”
Our chief issue, I believe, in the matter of “discerning God’s will” is not so much that we don’t know what has been revealed, but that we are far more desirous to know that which has not been revealed. We want to know things such as whether or not a job will pan out for us, who we will marry, when we will have children, how we will made to serve God, etc.–all of these being potentially good desires in themselves and worthy things to take before God in prayer.
Although such things hidden in the secret will of God may be good things to desire when they stand alone, I fear that many of us who seek after these hidden things do so to the exclusion of that which has been revealed. For God’s will has been revealed to us in his Word, and the apostle Paul makes mention of it in 1 Thessalonians 5:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (vv. 16-18).
Having this knowledge that this is the will of God (not exclusively, mind you), do we pursue the things that we do know with the passion and fervency with which we seek the things that we do not know? Or do we concern ourselves so much with the things that are beyond our control that we neglect rejoicing in God, praying so as to walk with him, and giving thanks to him for all he has done?
An interesting thought about the will of God that is revealed to us in the above passage is that it has the tendency to suppress our need and desire to know the hidden will of God. For if our hearts are transformed so that we rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, then naturally we will have hearts that rest solely in the goodness of God and that trust fully in him and not in ourselves.
For when we focus our hearts and attentions on those things that have not been revealed in the pursuit of “finding the will of God,” are we not oftentimes doing so in opposition to the will of God? When we are consumed with this task, do we not find ourselves doing it so that we might map out our own lives accordingly, either to exercise some control over our destinations or to wrest it from God, whom we do not fully trust?
For the will of God is this: that we should humble ourselves before him, seeing ourselves as poor and helpless, clinging to him every moment for his mercy and provision, and rejoicing in him and thanking him for all that he has done. For if this part of God’s will is fulfilled in our lives, making us, as it were, little children enveloped in the kindness and care of their loving Father, will we not tend rather to rest in his bosom rather than be carried away by anxiety and speculation?
This is not to say that we in Christ are wrong to cry out as the psalmist did, “How long, O Lord?” or to seek that which has not been shown to us, but we should take the time to consider whether or not we are pursuing the will of God that has been shown to us and to evaluate our own hearts so as to discern the motives behind our pursuit of the hidden. For if we do not seek to do the will of God that has been shown to us, what business have we seeking that which has not been shown?
Let us therefore be ever diligent to do the will of God that we know, and let us rest in God by faith for that which we do not.