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Put-off by God's Will

Church of the Resurrection Insights Blog

Amy Oden

I’m in a season now when I feel lost in a fog. One season of my life has ended with my husband’s death and a shift in my professional work. I want a clear path forward, preferably with a big neon sign from God telling me exactly what to do, where to live, how to shape my life. Yet over my lifetime it’s become more and more clear that’s not quite how God works.

To be honest, I’ve always been a bit put-off by talk about “God’s will.” It seems too often used by people in power to slap divine endorsement on whatever they want. But more than that, it seems to misrepresent who God is. It can convey the sense that God has some fixed script each of us are supposed to follow but God plays a game of “gotcha!” withholding it while we stumble in the dark trying to guess what it is and are punished for getting it wrong. Sounds like a cruel and manipulative god. As you can see, I’m put off.

This is where the Bible has really helped me, because the Bible does not reveal that kind of god or that notion of will. Instead, the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals “God’s will”–the Greek word thelema–as God’s dream, God’s desire for flourishing of all creation. Jesus calls it abundant life (John 10:10). Ah, now that resonates in my soul. This is the God who birthed the world through love.

For me, Scripture is a compass, not a map. It orients me to the cardinal directions by which I can find my way. It orients me toward abundant life. It is not a map that offers one-to-one correspondence of my life’s landscape. It doesn’t tell me: “take 20 steps, then turn right at the tree.” It does draw me toward God’s life-giving dream for my life and for the world.

As I’m learning to discern “God’s will” or “God’s deepest desire for me,” I’m learning to ask questions like: What will bring life? What is life-giving in this situation? How might God desire me/the world to flourish in this? What seems to help me fulfill my deepest desires, live out of my true self? What path helps me cultivate fruit of the Spirit such as kindness, patience, gentleness, love?

And there may be several faithful paths leading forward, not just one.

As I live more attuned to God’s own heart for the world, I’m not so worried about making the right decision to “be in God’s will.” Instead, I’m focusing my energies on learning to trust Jesus’ invitation: “I have come so that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Today, what steps offer you a life-giving path?


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