As a campus minister for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a common question I get asked by my students is: “How do I know what God’s will is for me?” This is a question that has eluded myself and many others who are young and figuring out what career path they should take, whom to date, and what toothpaste to buy. In a time in their lives (to which I’m only a year or so ahead) where they are faced with endless choices that all seem to have a lasting impact on their future, decisions seem daunting. No one wants to “mess up” their life, so it only makes sense that people want to find rest in their choices in God and his will. The problem comes when we don’t feel like God will show us his will, or we don’t know how to listen.
There are countless blog posts out there about finding God’s plan for you, so I decided to take a different route to get to this answer. I’ve found it helpful that sometimes in order to find the correct solution to a problem sometimes you have to find out what the answer is not. So if you are like my students and I and want to know what “God’s will” is, then here are things you should not do and not think.
- Think of God’s Will as a Target
God’s will is like walking a tightrope, standing on a razor blade, or aiming for a bullseye. God’s will is an exact path that you must take, and if you stray off the razor’s edge even a hair then you are in sin. Let these thoughts consume every decision that you make. Tell yourself that in every situation there is only one morally right thing to do, which is what God wants you to discover. While there are a multitude of jobs that you might apply to, unless you find the career God has appointed you to take then your life is outside God’s plan for you. Always be filled with anxiety about whether you made the right decision.
The opposite of this is thinking that God’s will is like a circle (as opposed to a line), but this is a bad metaphor. Thinking that God’s will is like a circle that has natural boundaries set by God’s revealed will in Scripture leads to too many possibilities of what he might be calling you to do. Rather, you should believe God clearly has a one right answer to any important life decision that you make. Avoid believing that God cares more about your intentions in making a decision than he does about the actual decision you make.
- Read Buzzfeed’s Relationship Advice
The internet is full of advice, you should listen if you want to avoid God’s will. There is a plethora of reputable sources this world has to offer: horoscopes, Cosmopolitan, and of course, Buzzfeed. How many times do you need to be told to “be who you want to be” before you listen? How many times must you be told that happiness lies inside of you before you find it? How often must you read that “love is love” before you believe that any love you have is what God ultimately wants you to enjoy?
When you need to find the answer to what you think God might be calling you to do, Google it. It is only in delving into the great cloud of witnesses of the internet that you can find trustworthy advice about whom to date. On the other hand, if you do go to Christian websites unquestionably take their advice as Gospel. If your favorite celebrity pastor said it, then believe that it must be from God without critical thought and reflection on Scripture. You could go to mentors, pastors, and family who truly care about you, but that involves being vulnerable. This leads to my next point.
- Don’t be Vulnerable
You can avoid God’s will for your life by yourself, there is no need to be open and honest with other people about your personal struggles with the questions of life, the universe, and everything. You should tackle the hard questions alone, isolated, with the door shut. Turning to a trusted friend, especially someone from your church or small group, will make this pursuit seem like others care. The worst part is, when you are vulnerable your problems become someone else’s problems. All you are doing when you ask for advice about where God might be calling you to live is burdening others. Tell yourself that God doesn’t want that. The pursuit of God’s will is an individual quest, not to be done in community.
- Let Your Emotions Decide
The way the majority of the world makes decisions is based on feelings: if it feels right then do it, if it feels wrong then don’t do it. Keep this mentality if you want to avoid finding God’s will. The most God honoring decisions you will make will be the ones that you make in an instant based off of your gut reaction of what will bring you pleasure/happiness. You should believe that God would never want you to choose something that will bring you pain and frustration, and that following God’s will always leads to this-world happiness (after all, isn’t that why Jesus went to the cross?).
- Refuse to Submit Yourself
Lastly, you shouldn’t pray to God to explicitly ask for his guidance. That is the most cliche thing you can do. Or if you do submit your plans to God, this should be the last step that you take. Only pray asking if God wants you to do this after signing on the dotted line, that way you will know for sure that is God’s will because it’s already set in stone. The best way to avoid God’s will is to to avoid God himself.
(Standard disclaimer: Don’t actually actively avoid seeking out God’s plan for you, that’s something that you should really do.)