The #1 song on billboards right now is “God’s Plan” by Drake; however, the idea of God’s plan for our lives is often misrepresented in contemporary culture, and this should cause us as Christians to speak up about it. A favorite book of mine, “Hearing God,” by Dallas Willard, is of the thought-provoking, conversation-inducing, life-changing type. I share about it often, and today I will share some other thoughts from my reading: partly to pass on these valuable insights, and hopefully to combat inaccurate understandings of the topic.
The takeaways are that perhaps (i) God doesn’t have one pre-determined plan for your life, (ii) understanding God’s will is about understanding his principles for decision-making, (iii) and understanding his principles necessitates a discipled relationship with Christ.
For those of you who have pets, you will be able to relate; others can just imagine along. I have a puppy named Chewbacca. He has been with my family for about four years, and by now, he is at the point, where he knows my voice.
Every couple of days, I will take him to the doggie park, where I’ll let him run around for about an hour or so. When it is time to leave, I simply need to call his name, and wherever he is, he will hear me and come to me. He recognizes my voice. It hasn’t always been this way—he did not simply know my voice when he first came to live with us. He developed the ability to recognize my voice amidst all the other voices, barking, and noises. Before he developed this ability, I could’ve looked at him and called him and said anything to him, but he would not respond. Such is the case with hearing God. We cannot simply expect that when God is speaking to us, we will know he is talking! We are not just able to discern his voice above all the other voices. We need to develop the ability to recognize his voice.
We are not just able to discern his voice above all the other voices. We need to develop the ability to recognize his voice.
How do we do this? (a) We must seek his voice and commit to trying to recognize it; (b) at first, we need the help of others who are experienced in recognizing God’s voice; (c) we must understand that we are fallible. Similarly to how one could recognize a human’s voice by certain characteristics, we can recognize God’s voice because there is a specific quality, spirit, and content associated with his voice. When we are able to recognize these, we will be able to know when God is speaking to us, whether through the media around us, conversations, or even our own thoughts. There is so much more on this topic—please let me know if you want to know more (especially on what the quality, spirit, and content of God’s voice is like).
The moments when God is silent reveal to us the state of our spiritual life.
What happens, though, when after all this humble submission to learning how to recognize God’s voice, we seek him out, and we find silence? Let me try to argue that God’s silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you are steeped in sin and rebellion, and you need to fix that, but often times we are not. Say that we have been diligent in our commitment to our covenant with the Lord, and we even feel like we are incredibly spiritually healthy, but we arrive at a place where we reach out for God’s guidance with a big decision, and it seems like he withholds himself. What then? Pay attention: “What we want, what we think, what we decide to do when the word of God does not come or when we have so immersed ourselves in him that his voice within us is not held in distinction from our own thoughts and perceptions—these show who we are: either we are God’s mature children, friends, and co-workers, or we are something less.” The moments when God is silent reveal to us the state of our spiritual life.
Perhaps when a big decision comes around, there is no one single choice that is better than any other.
Additionally, when big decisions come around (i.e. schools, spouses, careers, children, etc.), we tend to assume that there is one single best plan that God has for us, and we try so earnestly to seek his guidance. For a moment, entertain a different way of thinking. Perhaps when a big decision comes around, there is no one single choice that is better than any other. Have you ever been really hungry, and your parents ask you what you want, and you really don’t care as long as its edible? Consider what Willard writes: “It is unlike God to mumble or tease and trick us regarding matter he wants done, but where he has no specific instruction to give, we may be sure that is because it is best that he does not.” Reread that. “Then, whatever lies within his moral will and whatever is undertaken in faith is his perfect will. It is no less perfect because it was not specifically dictated by him. Indeed, it is perhaps more perfect precisely because he saw no need for precise dictation. He expects and trusts us to choose, and he goes with us in our choice.”
Within this understanding, God does not have an ideal, detailed life-plan uniquely designed for each believer that must be discovered in order to make correct decisions. That God operates this way is a concept that cannot be established by reason, experience, biblical example, or biblical teaching.
What do you find insightful, and what might you disagree with?