Last week we examined Myth #2: that a life of comfort and ease will somehow magically occur once we’ve “figured out our calling.” Tied very closely to this is our broken and reductionistic understanding of “God’s will.”
Myth #3: God’s will for me is a job, or house, or city, or spouse, or ____________ (you fill in the blank).
Wise Pittsburgh elder and mentor Bruce Bickel has taught us that our work is not to try and figure out God’s “secret” will. Rather, we are to be obedient to God’s revealed will. And there are some specific places we can look to understand what that “revealed” will looks like.
(Hint: it’s not a job or a house.)
Truth #3: There are actually very few places in Scripture that talk about God’s will, and yet in my work every day, I encounter people seeking God’s will in their search for any or all of the things mentioned above, and more.
One place in the writings of the apostle Paul I find most helpful in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. In Chapter 4, he says: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified, or be holy, be set apart.” He then goes on to describe what that means. In Chapter 5, he goes on to say, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
These are radically different criteria to discern God’s will; it is not to try to “figure it out” in every decision.
My own experience of this has been a long journey towards obedience, examining my own choices and decisions as I seek to live more fully into my calling.
This has caused me to make some very different choices over many years. I have chosen to do hard things because I know that this is required for my own sanctification. I must choose joy and gratitude many days, even when I am discouraged and struggling. I must immerse myself in prayer.
Nowhere have I learned more about prayer and the coherent life than from Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a Carmelite lay brother who lived over 325 years ago. In his remarkable book, The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence guides us well on these spiritual maxims:
Holy: “In cleansing us from all our impurities, God desires to humble us and often allows us to go through a number of trials or difficulties to that end.”
Joyful: “Whatever we do…we should stop for a few minutes – as often as possible – to praise God from the depths of our hearts. To enjoy him there in secret.”
Prayerful: “To be constantly aware of God’s presence, it is necessary to form the habit of continually talking to him throughout each day. We must try to converse with him in little ways while we do our work: not in memorized prayer, not trying to recite previously formed thoughts.”
Grateful: “Brother Lawrence said he was always guided by love….He was content doing the smallest of chore if he could do it purely for the Love of God. This is the heart of gratitude.”
God’s will for us is never a “checklist item,” but a way of revealing himself to us in how we respond faithfully and obediently to the smallest of tasks.
So, ask yourself as you make choices: Can I be holy, can I be joyful, prayerful and grateful? This is the will of God; Paul could not be clearer. And as we follow Paul’s exhortation, stewarding all that God has provided faithfully and obediently, whether there is joy or suffering, he is revealing himself to us. Our calling is uncovered over time.
Next time we will examine a fourth myth: that our worth is determined by our performance and the opinion of others.