Yes, I suppose it does sound like I’m making my theological judgment based on personal taste.
I said that thinking God has a specific plan for each step of your life makes faith feel like a tightrope walk. I admit, it is my own metaphor, rather than something from Scripture.
I do think it would be an unpleasant way to live.
Underneath it all, our understanding of guidance and God’s character go together.
There is more that one way to connect the dots, but it seems like a lot of people think about it like this:
1. God really does have a very specific plan for each and every step of your life—and mine, and everybody else’s.
2. God holds you accountable for following this plan. Take the right path and you are obedient. Take the wrong path, you are disobedient.
If #1 is true then it certainly feels like #2 must be true as well. That’s the tightrope.
For the sake of argument let’s assume 1 and 2 really are true.
The question is what #3 should be.
It is either
3A. God has set it up so that it is hard to find out what each step should be.
3B. It is actually easy to find out exactly what God wants you to do each day.
I’d say a whole lot of Christians find that “3A” is true. We listen for guidance, but we don’t know for sure. We pray over a decision and hear no word from on high.
If God has a plan and holds us accountable, but keeps the plan secret it makes God look kind of mean.
The problem is, Scripture says consistently that God is loving, and wise, and good.
But if we say we can easily find each step of God’s plan, is it actually true?
I’d say a whole lot of Christians hold this set of views. It is as easy as perking up your ears to hear God whispering instructions.
God surely can whisper his will to us that way. I’m sure that sometimes he does.
It does look easy for some people. They just listen.
Sometimes, though, to make listening easier the rest of us resort to tricks.
- We open the Bible at random hoping for a message.
- We try to get God to tip his hand: “If you let X happen I’ll know you want me to do Y.”
- We spiritualize whatever happens, saying God opened or closed a door.
Often enough, when we listen for direct guidance, we do hear a voice. The problem is that sometimes the voice is not really God.
The whisper we hear just might be our own feelings.
- My fears can imitate the voice of God.
- So can my hopes and my desires.
It can bolster my confidence to call a decision “The Will of God” but it might not be true.
I don’t want to confuse my will for the voice of God.
Martin Luther said the phrase “Thy will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer really meant
O Father, do not let me get to the point where my will is done. Break my will; resist it. No matter what happens let my life be governed not by my will, but by yours.
The human ability for self-deception is nearly limitless. I think you’ll be on much firmer ground learning God’s will where God has always sought to teach it to you: in a prayerful reading of the Bible.
It is a little bit indirect, and it takes more time and effort, but like when Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock (Exodus 33:21-23), afterward you’ll know God has been there.
I really will get back to other helpful ways to find clarity about God’s call in your life soon!
Need a way to rekindle your connection to God through Scripture? Let me send you a free copy of my book Love Your Bible: Finding Your Way to the Presence of God with a 12th Century Monk. Just click the button and tell me where to send it.
 Martin Luther, “An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer for Simple Laymen,” Luther’s Works 42: 44-48.