Doing God’s Will

Jesus said, “The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me…”. – John 4:34

I recently met a young man who had been taught that God had a very specific plan for his life, and if he didn’t discern that plan and walk it like a tightrope he would be outside the will of God, in danger of hell. His anxiety was palpable. “I’ve tried listening for God’s voice, but I’m just not hearing anything. I’m afraid to do anything. I feel paralyzed.” I felt both a deep sense of compassion for this young man, and anger toward whoever painted such an ugly, fearful picture of God’s will for him.

So, what is God’s will? Perhaps God does have a very specific plan for some people. We certainly see that in Scripture. But the idea that we must struggle and strain to discern that will strikes me as odd. If God has the capacity to speak clearly through a burning bush (Exodus 3) or a donkey (Numbers 22) why would God make it difficult for us to discern his will?

In the most general sense, God’s will for all of us is that we would love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40). Walk that wide pathway and you’ll never stray far from the heart of God’s will. Walk it intentionally and passionately and you’ll discover how soul-filling that way of life can be.

But I also want to suggest that there is a more specific way to understand God’s will for each of us. When you and I identify our unique gifts and passions and use them to bless others…that’s God’s will for us too. And wow, there’s nothing better. That’s when our soul sings for joy!

One of my favorite theologians, Frederick Buechner put it this way, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” How good of God to create us with unique passions, things that bring us deep gladness and bless others. Unhealthy spirituality often calls those places dangerous and even sinful, because it feels too good, too joyful. But healthy spirituality embraces the true gladness of our hearts and follows that gladness like a sign to our calling.

So, let me ask you a few questions:

  • What do you love to do? What are you passionate about?
  • What are you really good at, either because you have natural ability or because you’ve worked hard to develop a skill?
  • What are the needs of the world around you?

Find the intersection of those three things and you might just discover God’s will for. It’ll be a place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger. And it’ll feed your soul too.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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