Knowing God's Will
By Lynda Hunter Bjorklund
“God spoke to me…” “I felt God direct me…” “God impressed something on my heart…”
When I was editor of Focus on the Family’s Single-Parent Family magazine, I often published articles from writers who used words like these when referring to God’s instructions to them. One day I received a stinging letter from a reader who wrote, “What? Do you all have a 1-800 number to hear directly from God? If you do, please pass it on so I can hear from God too.”
Most of us have felt similar frustrations about not knowing God’s will regarding decisions we face or crises we encounter. We may have felt envious of those who always appear to know what God wants them to do. And maybe we’ve felt disappointed after we’ve asked God’s guidance in a specific area and then not felt that we received it: “Where should I work?” “Whom should I marry?” “When should I make the move?”
One of the great benefits of really knowing God is getting to know His mind, too. That means understanding what His will is regarding issues we face, and it is a blessing God offers to those who really know Him. Consider these promises from Scripture:
- “I will instruct you and teach in the way you should go; I will guide you with My loving eye” (Ps. 32:8).
- “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it’” (Is. 30:21).
- “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go” (Is. 48:17).
Once when I was holding tenaciously to verses like these and seeking God’s will for some important decisions, a wise man I know told me, “When you’re seeking God’s will, it’s honestly easier to find it than not. God wants us to know His will more than we want to know it.”
In the years since, I’ve found those words to be true. Our job in finding God’s will is to seek; His part is to provide the direction.
God Speaks through Circumstances
I’ve learned to notice the circumstances of God’s leading since I was a young woman. One time I especially remember was the summer of 1973. I had two quarters of school to go before finishing my bachelor’s degree, and I was out of money. Spring student teaching had meant an end to the three jobs I’d carried to put myself through school. Now my choices were two: work through the summer, save my money, and graduate the following spring, or go to summer school, graduate in December, and then get a full-time teaching job.
I prayed about the decision along with my parents. When I didn’t get any clear direction from God, my sister and I drove to a neighboring town and applied at a factory that was paying a good salary for summer secretarial work.
A week passed, then two weeks, and we heard nothing from the factory. The first day of summer classes came and went. Crying I called my mother: “I’m not going to find work or get to take summer classes. What am I going to do?” I had barely hung up the phone and wiped my eyes when the phone rang. It was Connie. The factory had called to offer the job—not to me but to her! They had decided they’d hire someone who could come back trained the following summer too.
Just as I was at the peak of my pity party, the phone rang a second time. It was the dean of the school of education at the university, for whom I had done some earlier research.
“I have some more research I would like for you to do for me this summer and fall if you’re available, and my wife sent me these to give to you.”
I opened the envelope and found certificates good for free classes at the university. I counted them—just enough to cover every class I needed in order to graduate in December.
God Speaks through the Holy Spirit
Jesus told His disciples that He would leave us the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us (Jn. 14:16-17). So it is for believers today. The Holy Spirit still guides and directs us, but it is important that we know how He works:
God speaks from inside us. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:21). Since He lives inside us, He also speaks from inside us. This means we don’t have to hear an audible voice to receive guidance. But when He speaks, our spirits will hear if we stay in tune with Him and learn to recognize His leading.
God’s peace always accompanies His guidance. We can distinguish the voice of God from counterfeits by the peace we feel and the confirmation we get. When I feel that God is telling me something, but I’m not sure about it, my mom tells me to put it “on the shelf” for a while. I’ve often asked God to confirm His will to me in one or two other ways. “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness” (Jas. 3:17). Peace is a reliable test of divine guidance.
God’s guidance often comes unexpectedly. One Friday morning I stood in my kitchen fixing my lunch. I was teaching junior high English at the time while carrying fourteen graduate course hours, coaching girls’ track, and studying for my exams. I prayed, “God, I can’t teach in the condition I’m in. Please give me your peace.” As I stood there, it was as though a sheet descended over me, and all the stress I had felt before was gone. I more than made it through the next few days. I passed my exams with peace in my heart. That event of answered prayer was so real that in the years to come, I would ask God to do it again. But it has never happened in the same way. God often meets us unexpectedly to get His point across.
God Speaks through His Word
God’s Word is the final judge in all guidance. God never, ever tells His people something that runs contrary to His Word. Whatever method you use in seeking God’s will, begin and end by looking to His Word for instruction. God wants us to know His will more than we want to know it. We can find that will with confidence, or we can find it with fear. The choice is ours.
God’s Word is the foundation of all guidance. Here are some of the assurances we have from Scripture regarding knowing God’s will:
Rest in God, Don’t be fearful.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10).
Wait on God. Don’t be in a hurry.
I once heard a sermon about a man who needed to buy a second car for his teenage children to drive. He felt God telling him to wait, but pressure from his family kept him looking. He went to a used car lot, drove what he felt he could afford, and was walking around taking one last look while the salesman drew up the paperwork, when God spoke to him: Do you want this, or do you want my best?
The man didn’t buy the car that day, and later someone gave him the keys to an automobile that was way above his price range. Why? Because he chose not to be in a hurry while he waited for God’s direction.
Seek God’s guidance. Don’t jump ahead.
God’s leading means that we follow His lead. When we jump ahead by failing to wait on His direction or go-ahead, we cease following His lead.
Going ahead with your will means going ahead of God’s leading. It will never, ever be the best thing to do, so while you seek His guidance, be careful to wait on Him.
Trust God. Don’t doubt His faithfulness.
During my younger days in the Lord, He made His will more obvious because I needed that kind of reinforcement to keep me going. Maturity in the Lord means that we shouldn’t need constant affirmation from Him. We should keep trusting and cease doubting because we have experienced His faithfulness in the past.
Confirm, Confirm, Confirm
God guides us in all three ways: through circumstances, through the Holy Spirit, and through His Word, but our greatest assurance comes when we can triangulate the same answer from all three sources. If you are seeking God’s will for a decision you are facing and the Holy Spirit seems to be speaking to your heart, be sure to confirm what you are sensing by looking at the circumstances and at God’s Word as the ultimate source. All three aspects must function in harmony to assure true guidance. Only then should you move forward in a particular direction.
Missionary and writer Amy Carmichael wrote, “Holy Spirit, think through me till Your ideas are my ideas.” That should be our prayer as we seek God’s will. Let it be our prayer that God will think through us until His ideas are ours!