I’m working on the sermon for this Sunday, and I think it’s moving toward reminding us of the importance of being aligned with the will of God. Well, that begs the questions, “How do we do that? How do we align ourselves with God’s will? How do we even know what God’s will is, and whether we are aligned with it?”
Honestly, I don’t always know. I cannot even estimate how many times I have wished that God would reprise some of God’s former methods of communication - a burning bush, a drop-in visit from an angel, a talking donkey - something that would leave me with no questions about what God wants me to do. I assume, of course, that God would protect me from the heart attack that might otherwise be triggered by such a shocking event. So the outcome I envision is that I would have a crystal clear understanding of God’s will for my life and be empowered to confidently get on with it with all doubts, questions, and my fears of error, failure and success permanently banished from my life.
That hasn’t happened, so I continue to struggle - even agonize, sometimes - in my efforts to discern and do God’s will. I can only share my experience; with complete awareness that it may not be the same as another person’s equally valid experience.
I am learning to trust that, for as long as it is my heart’s sincere desire to live in and to do God’s will, God is directing my path. I am learning to accept that God’s direction of my path is often not explicit or obvious - until it is. Sometimes I am completely unaware that certain events or “random” thoughts that come to me “out of nowhere” are, in fact, like dots which, when connected, will yield a sense of inner certainty about what God is doing - and what I am to do - regarding a given situation.
I finally realized that the “crystal clear understanding” that I sought was, in fact, more like a crystal ball. I wanted to know the future. I wanted God to draw me a map from wherever I was to wherever God wanted me to be. Well, actually, I don’t read maps well at all; so I guess I wanted something more like a step-by-step explanation of what I was to do, as well as when, where, and how.
I have learned that, in my walk with God, most often I am given only one step at a time. And I have to take that step - if at all - as a leap of faith. If I have fervently prayed about a situation, or for guidance, and if I end up being persistently drawn to a certain next step, it has been my experience that when I take that step, one of two things will happen: 1) That step will position me to see or receive or discern some opportunity or blessing or revelation that was not present (or apparent) before; or 2) That step will teach me something I didn’t know before and send me flying in the opposite direction. Either way, one step always leads to another and another and eventually the hand of God becomes “visible” in it all. I could not look ahead and see what God was doing, but I can look back and clearly see what God has done. And I know, then, that I am aligned with God’s will. At least for that particular portion of my journey, I know that I am exactly where God wants me to be, doing exactly what God wants me to do.
Several repetitions of that kind of experience have strengthened the faith that it requires to take those first steps that God leads me to take, and every subsequent step, without advance knowledge of where the steps will ultimately lead. I confess that I still have times when I would love a quick peek at future outcomes. But walking by faith, not by sight, is getting easier than it used to be.
So maybe we simply won’t always know what God’s will is - until we do. But that doesn’t mean God’s will won’t be done. I think that praying fervently and faithfully for God’s will to be done, in all aspects of our lives, is one way of acknowledging God in all of our ways (Proverbs 3:6); and then we can trust that God will direct our paths. And at some point along the way, we will know that God has done just that.