By Vivian Bricker, Crosswalk.com
Discerning God’s will from your own will can be challenging at times; however, it is possible to discern your wants from God’s plan. The graduate degree I completed for theology required us to write a paper on discerning God’s will in our daily lives. Through this class and my personal reflection upon God’s Word, I was able to better know how to discern my desires from God’s map for my life. In this article, I will share my research and wisdom on how to determine your will from God’s:
Talking with God in Prayer
The best way to discern your will from God’s will is to talk with God in prayer. If we do not talk with God in prayer, we will not be able to discern His will from ours. If you are wondering whether or not something is in the will of God, talk with Him.
Maybe you are making some major decisions in your life and need some help on what to do. Some significant decisions could be the decision of going to college, the decision of your career, or the decision of moving out. Each of these decisions is weighty and needs God’s guidance.
In addition to making big decisions such as college, career changes, and moving out, Christians must discern God’s will from their own in friendships and relationships. Who we choose as our friends and who we choose to have a serious relationship with needs always to be decided through the will of God rather than our will. If we act on our own understanding of our own wants and desires, we could merely act on what we want rather than waiting on God and understanding His perfect will.
Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” We must follow Proverbs 3:5-6 to understand God’s Will and discern it from our ways. If we talk with Him in prayer, He will reveal His will to us.
Reading and Meditating on the Bible
Discerning God’s will from our own cannot be done apart from reading and meditating on the Bible. God does not speak to us today through prophets or storm clouds. Instead, the Lord speaks to us through His Word. We can discern God’s will from our own by reading the Bible and meditating on its truth.
When we weigh our will against the Bible, we sometimes discover that our ideas do not align with God's calling. Our will needs to align with God’s. Yes, it can be difficult when God closes the door on a college application, a job interview, or a relationship, but God’s will not only knows your current heartache or circumstances but also sees the path to your healing and bright future. Reading the Bible can help us learn more about how God operates as we see heroes of the faith navigate similar questions to ours, and their discoveries of God's good purpose will point us on how to best follow Him.
Meditating on the Bible is different from meditation as practiced in Hinduism or Buddhism. When a Christian meditates on the Bible, it allows you to think and ponder on what you have read out of the Bible. In other words, you let it soak in and change your soul.
The Bible is not merely to be read and forgotten. We are to read the Bible, meditate on it, and do what it says. James 1:22-25 tells us plainly, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
Lean on the Holy Spirit
In addition to talking with God in prayer and reading the Bible, as well as meditating on the Bible, leaning on the Holy Spirit is vitally important to discern God’s will from our own. There are two powers at work in our souls—our sinful nature and the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). Since this is true, we cannot “follow our heart” because our hearts are deceitful. Instead, we need to follow the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit will guide us if we allow Him. If we constantly ignore the Holy Spirit, it will become extremely hard for us to discern God’s will from our own. The Holy Spirit desires for us to listen to Him and follow Him. When you feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, allow the conviction to cause you to make positive changes in your daily life.
Jesus told His disciples during His earthly ministry that He would send the Holy Spirit once He returned to heaven, and the Holy Spirit would guide them. John 14:26 says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit is constantly instructing us and urging us to do the right thing. The sinful flesh is trying to pull us in the other direction of trusting in our own will, but we must follow the will of God—not our own.
When God Closes a Door
As I previously mentioned, it can be difficult when God closes a door on one of our desires or dreams. In our heads, our wills might sound perfect to us, or seem like everything we could ever want, but in these times, we must remember that just because we want something doesn’t mean we need it. God knows what we want and He knows our hearts' desires, but He is going to give us what we need, the deep-rooted gifts that provide ultimate satisfaction to our souls.
There will be hard times in our lives, but through each high and low, God desires to shape us in conformity to His Son. If you have recently had God close a door, don’t feel discouraged. Instead, use it as an opportunity to redirect your focus and pray to God for His guidance. I can promise you that God never withholds good gifts from His children (Matthew 7:11).
If God has closed a door, it is not within His will for your life. Whether that was a closed door on a college application, a job change, or the ending of a relationship, it did not happen for a hurtful reason. If the door was closed, you can be assured that God did not have that specific plan for your life. God is a God of fresh starts, and He will provide new doors that align with His fulfilling, perfect will for your life.
Pray to God, read the Word, meditate on the Word, and lean on the Holy Spirit. If you do these things, you can rest in the peace of discerning God’s will from your own. As appealing as your own will may be, you need to constantly seek out God’s will and follow the Lord's roadmap for your life. Turning away from God will only lead you down a dark path. Discerning God’s will and walking in it will bring you the most joyful life in the Lord.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Olivier Le Moal
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.