Christina had just finished her undergraduate program with a degree in elementary education. She was praying for direction from God for her career. Two offers came in from Christian schools that were several hundred miles apart. The decision-making process turned out to be tougher than Christina anticipated. Either position appeared to represent a good opportunity. Christina reasoned, “They can’t both be a call from God. I have this nagging fear that whichever school I choose I may be getting out of His will.”
Adolescents face plenty of significant decisions: Where should I go to college? What major should I choose? Where will I work? Whom should I marry? What does God want me to do with my life? More than a few Christians have worried that a wrong turn might set their life on a less-than-ideal trajectory. Is there one right choice? Can God reset the dominoes that we knock over by mistake? We’ve all second-guessed ourselves and asked such questions in moments of indecision.
Scripture has a lot to say about God’s plans. For individuals. For nations. For history. It’s in our best interest to seek after His will, but what does that mean, and how can adolescents make pivotal choices with confidence?
In His Heart a Man Plans His Course . . .
Parents and leaders of youth need to remind teens that finding God’s will isn’t a guarantee of monetary success or prosperity. Nor does it mean that life will be blissfully trouble-free. It has been said that Christianity is not the subtraction of all problems but the addition of God’s presence in every problem.
Also, God’s will doesn’t come to us like a downloadable PDF of meticulously drawn plans. Many mature Christians counsel against the assumption that God has one single, fixed, cut-and-dried set of blueprints for each believer’s life. Within God’s boundaries for moral living and basic Christian growth, a believer may sincerely make a variety of choices and remain in “God’s will.”
Indeed, arriving at God’s will isn’t like cracking a secret code or needing a precise combination of ingredients for a recipe. It is a relationship based on abiding in Christ in every circumstance. Teens may care most about some goal or “end result,” but God desires that they walk with Him daily through the process.
. . . But the Lord Determines His Steps
God’s will for people in general is that they be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). He patiently beckons to people because He’s not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). Of course, some things willed by God are specific to Christians, such as reading and following Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13), prayer (Luke 18:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-2), corporate worship (Hebrews 10:25) and evangelism (Acts 1:8). Christians are to maintain an attitude of thankfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and are to faithfully handle their lives before God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The clearest biblical injunction about God’s will for believers is that they live morally (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 4:2). What is God’s will? That I live a Christ-honoring life based on biblical truth. But within those guidelines, Christians have liberty (John 8:36; 1 Corinthians 10:23).
Regarding Christina and her teaching-job choice, God could effectively work in her life, whether she were to choose the one in Memphis or the one in Richmond. No Christian need be paralyzed by fear of making a wrong move that irrevocably sets him or her on a devastating course. The believer in Christ truly is free. This isn’t to say we can rely solely on guesses or gut feelings. God directs us through His Word, prayer, promptings of the Holy Spirit, circumstances and other people—believers and non-believers alike. Other influential variables include our personal desires and talents and common sense.
Over time, a Christian can cultivate the ability to make angst-free decisions. We may sometimes be keenly aware of what God wants us to do. Other times, God may stretch us as we progress purely on faith. God’s will is often discovered gradually and seen most clearly in retrospect. For sure, His Word promises to direct the paths of faithful disciples (Proverbs 3:5-6) and give believers abundant life (John 10:10). But believers should be confident because, even greater than knowing God’s will, they have the privilege of knowing God.