Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4, NASB)
But for all who did receive and trust in Him, He gave them the right to be reborn as children of God; He bestowed this birthright not by human power or initiative but by God’s will. (John 1:12, 13, The Voice)
Perhaps the most asked question by Christians, at least in the West, is, “What is God’s will for my life?” I know I asked it a lot when I was in college, referring to what vocation the Lord would have me pursue. I’ve heard others apply it to whom they should date or marry, where they should live, what kind of car to buy, or whether to supersize their lunch order. Finding the will of God seems to be very important to many—or could it be that we find it very important to have God put his stamp of approval on what we want to do?
So much of the time I find myself torn when I sense a desire in my heart. If it is something that seems enjoyable, I figure it must not be God’s will for me, but just my own fleshly desire. If, however, it is something that I would normally avoid, I think that God must be leading me to do it. It’s the old “I’m afraid to submit to the will of God because he might call me to go to Africa” syndrome.
While on a weekend retreat to the Abbey of Gethsemani several years ago, Father Damion, the guestmaster, gave a talk on the will of God. He said that most people who say they are seeking God’s will actually want to know what God will approve of so they can go and do it in their own strength. We don’t want to give over control of our lives to God. We want a checklist of things to follow so we can maintain the illusion of control, but also seem to be trying to please God.
“God is working in us all the time,” said Fr. Damion, “but we prefer the darkness of our own wills and efforts.”
After his talk I waited to talk with Fr. Damion alone. I asked him, “Why is it that when I desire something I often think, ‘Oh, this can’t be from God. He would not want me to desire something like this.’?” Fr. Damion answered, “Because the enemy wants us to live where he lives—in despair.”
Then he said something that both puzzled and shocked me. “YOU,” he said, “are the will of God.”
Let us go back to our Gospel reading this morning. We are made children of God, not by the work of man, but by the will of God. It is God’s will that you and I are his children. Not that we do this or that, or that we accomplish certain things, or live certain places. He wants us as his children. Oh, certainly there are many examples in Scripture and in church history of God leading men and women to do specific tasks or live in specific places. But I think those are exceptions rather than the rule. For the most part, God wants us to just live according to our hearts. As we delight ourselves in him, the psalmist says, he will put his desires in our hearts. And we can trust him to give us desires that will please him.
You will quote to me Jeremiah,
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
I will quote to you Ezekiel,
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
And St. Paul,
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
This new life is the will of God. It doesn’t come by my efforts, any more than a baby puts forth its own effort to be conceived and born. And what has God created me for? Listen to the words of our Lord.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
God’s will for us is for us to live, and to live a full life. This full life is not found in what we possess, but in what possesses us. Constantly looking in the mirror to see if we are “in the will of God” displays a lack of trust in God and a misdirected focus on ourselves. Wondering if the desires we have are really from God only leads to paralysis. God wants us to live, not constantly examine ourselves.
In C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, King Caspian has died and is now in Aslan’s country. Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb, two children from our world, are preparing to return to England. King Caspian says to Aslan,
“Sir, I’ve always wanted to have just one glimpse into their world. Is that wrong?”
“You cannot want wrong things any more, now that you have died, my son,” said Aslan.
For those who have died and Jesus now lives in them, you cannot want wrong things. No matter how wild or strange your desires may be, if you are delighting in the Lord, you can trust those desires are his will. YOU are the will of God. It was his will that you would become his son or daughter. It was his will to give you a new heart and a new spirit. It is his will that you live in peace and joy, no matter your circumstances. Should you stray and sin, it is his will to forgive you again and again.
The good news is we do not have to seek God’s will. He lives in us, and he will fulfill his will by directing us with desires in our new hearts and new spirits. So relax. Enjoy. Live.
Let us pray.