why i'm giving up on God's will

Thursday, August 15, 2013

photo by my talented friend Jesse
I hate building with Legos.  I am truly terrible at it.  One time - and only once, though Legos are a fixture in my daily life - I agreed to help one of my sons with a project.  It took me two full hours to tease out and put together twenty three pieces.  Two hours, and the base of the torso of a Transformer was all I had to show for my work.  It was excruciating.

Kind of like searching for God's will.

When I was younger, the questions around "What does God want me to do?" haunted me.  It felt elusive and crucial at the same time.  Being confident of what God wanted was like trying to nail fog to a wall, and yet, if I missed it, I was destined to fail.  Where does God want me to work?  Who are my roommates supposed to be?  What should I do with my summer?  Not to mention, who does God want me to marry?  Where should we live once we get married?  When should we have kids, and how many should we have?  In what neighborhood does He want me to live?  What house does God want me to buy?  Where should my kids go to school?  What is God's will?????

It was maddening.

I no longer believe in teasing out God's specific will for daily life (which is separate from God's universal will for His children, a topic for another time) for two reasons.  First, under that approach, the underlying assumption is that our lives are being built.  We are like Lego machines, and certain people, places, jobs, schools, etc., are necessary to put together a predetermined outcome.   We assume specific components belong in just the right place, and if we pick the wrong piece, the structure cannot be completed.  If I make a choice outside of God's will, my life will never be what it was supposed to be.

But our lives are not machines.

Your life is not being built.  It is being created.  Creating is vastly different from building - it is organic, textured, three dimensional.  It involves light and mood and a little magic no one can quite articulate.  I am an organic being, creating life, including my own, alongside my Creator.  Our lives are not sitting in a box, counted and measured and waiting to be assembled.  It is more like fashioning a work of art art than building with Legos.   God does not need specific pieces to achieve the best possible outcome; instead, He uses the elements of life itself to shape my heart to reflect His image. When I am open to God's presence in my life, He will create something rich and meaningful out of it.  Period.  Our lives are much more three dimensional and complex than any preplanned structure.  

Lego Bricks by bdesham
Lego Bricks, a photo by bdesham on Flickr.
Second, when I was constantly looking for God's specific will in my daily life, I suspect what I really wanted was the easiest, most pain-free option possible.  I was really asking, "God, what choice will help me avoid pain?  What will cause me the least discomfort?"  The problem, of course, is that in time we all face pain.  Nothing can be easy forever.  When we look at our lives that way, eventually we will be disappointed and doubt God.  If something is hard, did I make the wrong choice?  Did God lead me into a painful situation?  Would God ever send me into suffering?

That question is above my pay grade.

What I do know is this: God is.  He is in Denver and the Deep South.  He is in a meeting with a single young professional and the kitchen of a stay at home mom.  He is in big families and small families.  No matter what neighborhood I choose, God will be there.  Regardless of what method of education I pick for my kids, God will show up in it.  God's rich goodness can be found any time we are open to it.  

God is, but we are not.  Just because God's presence exists everywhere does not mean I can receive it no matter the circumstance.  We all have specific dispositions, tendencies, talents, and fears that shape us, and we are wise to learn to trust ourselves.  God can use any situation; at the same time, the only decisions I have regretted occurred in moments I ignored my intuition.  Often the answer we are really seeking is, "Where can I thrive?  What circumstances will draw out the best in me and my family?"  That is a valid question, and certainly one worth offering in prayer.  For so long I thought a decision was only valid if God Told Me To.  Now I believe it is just as important to discern what best fits my family's specific needs and dynamics.  I don't need to stamp a decision with "God's Will" for it to be valid and good.  It's taken me a long time to accept this truth.  

I am terrible with Legos, but I am comfortable with that.  I'm also comfortable letting go of the questions around God's will.  I don't need specific details to fall in perfect order to be close to God.  I only need to be open to receiving God's presence wherever I go.


  1. Amen. I've been struggling with that for a long time and it just leaves me frustrated. I need to trust that He built me in a way that I can choose His will, even when I don't know what it is.

  2. Hi Stephanie, I'm new to your blog but have found it very interesting and insightful so far. I think you and I would have so much in common if we could sit down and chat over a cup of coffee or tea! This post reminded me of something I read by a man named john barnet. He said he once asked the abbot of a monastery whether he should become a monk or get married. The abbot said ,"God doesn't care. He only cares that you seek first His kingdom." Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. Hi there! I just found your blog through the MOPS blog and I love it. But I have to say I somewhat disagree with the perspective of this post, though the whole "discerning God's will" thing is something I've also heartily struggled with and find frustrating. We also recently moved to Colorado - though totally not a cool area - from the midwest, and it troubled me that I never thought I felt that "stamp of approval" before we moved, yet I've felt it since. But anyway, is it possible that both are true - we are creating alongside God yet there is also a fatedness in certain circumstances? Perhaps it's just the romantic in me that insists on using the term "soulmate" for my husband and bristles at the suggestion i've heard from some pastors that there is no such thing. Yet the idea that you can make some kind of irrevocable mistake that doesn't "fit" with God's plan is totally graceless. And there's still something that just seems off to me about people praying for something like a good parking space - maybe a longer stroll could do you good! Sometimes I try to hard to figure out theological issues and it tangles up my mind to the point I just have to trust. And maybe that's where God wants me. Anyway, thanks for your blog!



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