A few months ago, a friend of mine (yes- this is for you, Dithers!) asked me to blog about how we can know the will of God. Until last week, I didn’t really want to write on that topic. Having recently come from a college atmosphere where intellectual curiosity is highly esteemed, I am very careful in declaring something as truth unless I’ve really become convinced.
Well, for years, I’ve been convinced of a truth about knowing God’s will, but I have been very hesitant to declare it for two reasons. First off, I was afraid that many people would react strongly to an assertion that we can know God’s will, simply because their own life experience has told them otherwise. And second, when I am honest with myself, I see that there are many instances in my own life when I thought I knew the will of God, and yet, what I knew in my spirit to be God’s will did not happen. How can I say it is possible to know God’s will if my own experience and that of so many others proves that His will, in many cases, has not been done?
This sounds so tricky, doesn’t it?
Ok. So, I’m going to just go for it and lay it out there.
God’s will is done in heaven. What is done in heaven is also God’s will for the earth. (This isn’t something I’m making up- remember Jesus’ prayer? “Your kingdom come- Your will be done- on earth as it is in heaven!” Matthew 6:9-13.)
In heaven, there is no sickness or death or poverty or fear or hatred or dishonesty or corruption or war or violence or abuse… fill in the blank. In heaven, God’s will is perfectly fulfilled. And Jesus taught us to ask for His will to be done here as it is in heaven… to invite the reality of heaven to become the lived reality of life on earth. If He taught us to pray that, then we know it is His will – and a definite possibility!
I am so saddened when people pray, “Lord, if it be your will, heal so-and-so of cancer,” or, “Father, if it be your will, provide for so-and-so in their time of need,” or any of those “if it be your will” prayers. Why? Because Jesus already told us how to know God’s will! And, praying in that fashion presupposes that our God might be a sadistic maniac who sends suffering, when my Bible tells me that He is the giver of good gifts (James 1:17).
(brief aside: yes, there are times when His will is unknown… but that is generally in questions of direction or guidance… and in those cases, we can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His will to us or to give us the wisdom we need… and He will! When we ask in faith, without doubt, He gives generously without finding fault!!! James 1:5. When we commit our ways to Him, He will direct our paths!!! Proverbs 3:5-6.)
Now, as for why His will isn’t always done… well, that indeed is a mystery. One thing I know is that God is good and God is love- both scriptural. Both absolute truth. So, His goodness and love are the bedrocks I cling to in this mystery.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that God does not control our lives. Is He all powerful? Yes. Is He in control? Not necessarily. Love gives freedom, and God has given freedom to His creation to walk with Him or to walk our own way. Our choice- not His. He will not force, manhandle, or control us. We can surrender ourselves to His best, or we can continue to walk our own path. Our path naturally leads to destruction- His path leads to life abundant and eternal!
So, somewhere in here, I’ve begged the question, “Why do people suffer who are walking with God?” (seriously, must my every conversation theological come back to theodicy?!) Such an important question- with no hard and fast answer. But, if we are walking with God in a world that is most often walking without Him, should it be a surprise if we – being in the same world, though not of it – are affected by the sin?
So, why doesn’t God intervene in every case of Christian suffering? Dude… I’ve run out of answers. All I know at this point is that although God is good, loving, and never wills our ill, He is also way beyond my ability to comprehend. We can’t box Him up or dissect Him. 🙂 Isaiah 40:9-31.
Please don’t take anything I’ve said as a personal affront. In no way did I mean to come across as cold or offensive. I am just writing out my understanding of God’s will and suffering from this stage in my journey. These are my honest, heart-felt ruminations. I imagine the true understanding of knowing and doing God’s will is like a beautifully shaped diamond with many intricate cuts, angles, and shimmering facets. If I understand anything, at best, I have discovered only a few facets.
I want the Kingdom of God to invade my world, so much so that I’m willing to live in ambiguity and rest in the mystery of not knowing. I’ll simply trust that He is good, welcome his will in heaven to be done on the earth, and keep seeking Him- even if I don’t always see the fruit that I anticipated. And, when I’m hurting and don’t understand, by His grace I’ll rest in the mystery of His love.