Seeing the best in life's challenges

God’s Will. Really???

A friend of mine posted Proverbs 3:6 and it got me thinking.   I can’t imagine anyone would not embrace this advice!

“Seek God’s will in all you do.”  For those of us who understand God to be the ultimate source of unconditional love, of course we want to align everything we do with divine will.  A loving God will always want what is for the greater good, and will “know” what is in the best interest of the divine plan.  If we seek (an active verb) divine will, we will be shown the path to take.

Sounds real simple, right??

Ah, but it’s not so simple, and that’s what I’m thinking about.

HOW do we seek to know divine will?  WHO determines God’s will for an individual person, and how does that person know?

At first glance, the answer to those questions might seem easy and obvious.  Of course, we are to “do the right thing” and follow the rules that everyone agrees on.  Except that not everyone agrees all the time about what is the “right” thing to do.

Let’s think about the situation of a “good girl” who suddenly finds herself pregnant and not married, even though she is engaged to a nice guy.  Sure, she says she saw an angel who told her she was going to give birth to a baby from God.  Yeah, right.  I bet she went around telling all her friends and family THAT story.  And those she did tell – how many of them quietly judged her and were disappointed with her?  Rolled their eyes and distanced themselves from her?  Even close friends who wanted to believe her, probably had a hard time with this one.  They probably thought she’d lost it.  Making up stories to justify her behavior.  Who was she kidding?

More likely, this girl probably kept this story mostly to herself.   Especially after finding out that some of those she thought were close friends who knew her well, either freaked out when she told them or rushed to tell her that this couldn’t be so.

Conveniently, she went to visit her cousin for three months.   At least her cousin believed her – after all, this cousin had her own crazy angel story to tell, and it was hard for others to deny the miracle that she was expecting, since she was so old and had had such issues with infertility.  Plus, since her husband had been unable to speak for the entire pregnancy, well, there was SOMETHING weird going on.  People probably didn’t know WHAT to think, but at least her cousin hadn’t done anything IMMORAL.

The girl, sooner or later, had to tell the nice guy she was engaged to about the pregnancy.  Fortunately, he had his own visit from an angel, or else he would have just dumped her quietly.  Being the gentleman that he was, at least he wanted to be kind and not add to her embarrassment.

Well most of us aren’t put in such an extreme situation as part of God’s plan.  So, most of us don’t need such dramatic visits from angels to reassure us that all is going according to divine will.

But we can learn from seeking the messages in the story.

  1. One of the most important events in the Bible (Jesus birth) that is celebrated around the world 2000 years later, was a result of a situation where two young people were in an embarrassing (perhaps devastating) situation, yet they chose to trust God despite the hardship and inevitable judgment of others.  Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this was easy.
  2. Worse yet, during the time they parented this child, he did things like get lost for three days, seemingly unconcerned about the terrible worry he had caused them.  Even the guilt treatment (“Son, why have you treated us like this?”) had no effect on this kid (“Why were you searching for me?”).  Do you think raising Jesus was “easy” for Mary and Joseph?  My opinion is, we are deluding ourselves if we think this.
  3. Then, the kid grows up, travels around stirring up the masses, bucks the status quo, speaks up against the powers that be, is labeled a criminal, and is horribly crucified for his “crimes.”  Do you think his parents’ hearts were broken at this point?  How many times do you think they asked themselves, “why couldn’t he have just …..?”
  4. Keep in mind, this kid’s parents could never have known in their lifetime that their child would even be remembered as anything more than a criminal.  Do you think Mary and Joseph could see the upside in the situation?  Was it all “worth it”?

So, this is how God’s plan works?   Apparently so.  What’s the underlying message here?

If you are really going to trust in God, you have to surrender your need to control.  You have to give up the fantasy that it’s always going to be easy.  You have to admit that you don’t understand the bigger picture.  You have to believe, despite all the seemingly impossible circumstances, that everything will work out in the end.

If God’s will is to be done, we have to give up ours.

So let’s get back to the question of how to seek God’s will.  Here’s what I would argue:  Everything that happens is God’s will.

This might sound strange, but how could it not be?  If you find yourself fighting what is, whose will is that?  Sounds like your will, not God’s.    I realize this can easily get into a circular argument, but it comes down to knowing what you can and can’t control.

You can’t control what happens outside of yourself.  You can only control your own reactions and actions.  Time spent worrying or deciding what others should or shouldn’t do is playing God.  Stop looking outside of yourself and instead look inside.  Encourage others to look inside and help them learn to discover God’s will for them.

I would argue that we can only know God’s will for our own life by looking inside.  We have been told that God is within us – we have been given the Holy Spirit as a counselor.  Are you in touch with the God within you?  How does one do that?  I would argue that prayer (as in quiet time with God where you open your heart and listen) and openness to all possibility is the key.

HOW do you pray?  Do you pray for specific things to have or specific outcomes to situations?  Or do you pray for God’s will to be revealed to you, and then listen?  What happens when you don’t get the specific thing you prayed for?  Do you think you didn’t pray hard enough?  Do you consider that maybe God’s will is in conflict with your will?  Whose will are we seeking here?

This is not easy or simple.  Even when we are clear inside what is God’s will for us, we are hesitant to share or act because we anticipate the reactions of others who will not see it like we do.  Especially when God doesn’t follow “the rules.”

What should we encourage in ourselves and others?  Thoughtful, prayerful, open-minded listening and pondering.  And when you see this kind of behavior in another?  Then encourage that person to trust and follow their inner guidance from God, no matter how crazy it sounds or “wrong” it seems to you.


The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino

The Greatest Miracle in the World, by Og Mandino, is a story of the friendship between the author and a wise old man.  It’s a rather short book, just over 100 pages.  My copy is yellowed, with red pen marks underlining the places that must have spoken to me 30 years ago.  I don’t remember how or why I got the book back then or exactly when I read it.  Reading it again today, I was amazed (ok, not really) at how consistent it is with where I am, still.

The wise man’s apartment contains stacks and stacks of books.  I love what he says about his collection:

“They are an accumulation from many years of pleasant hours in second-hand book stores.  Still they have a common theme which makes each volume very special.”


“Yes.  Each in its own way deals with and explains some aspect of the greatest miracle in the world and so I call them ‘hand of God’ books.”

“Hand of God?”

“It is difficult for me to put into words…yet I am positive that certain pieces of music, certain works of art, and certain books and plays were created, not by the composer, artist, author, or playwright but by God, and those whom we have acknowledged as the creators of these works were only the instruments employed by God to communicate with us…”

“You mean you believe that God still communicates with us as He did during the days of the ancient Jewish prophets?”

“I am positive.  For thousands of years this world witnessed a countless parade of prophets pronouncing and explaining the will of God:  Elijah, Amos, Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Samuel, and all the other marvelous messengers until Jesus and Paul.  And then…no more?  I cannot believe that.  No matter how many of His prophets were ridiculed, chastised, tortured, and even murdered, I cannot conceive that God finally gave up on us and turned His back on our needs, causing some of us to finally assume that He must be dead since we hadn’t heard from Him in so long a time.  Instead, I truly believe that He has sent, to every generation, special people, talented people, brilliant people…all bearing the same message in one form or another…that every human is capable of performing the greatest miracle in the world.  And, it is man’s most grievous fault that he has not comprehended the message, blinded as he is by the trivia of each succeeding civilization.”

This is a book well worth reading.  At the end, the wise old man shares with the author the wisdom that he has gleaned from all of his reading of these great works, in the succinct form of Four Laws of Happiness and Success.

They are simple, and worth finding.