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How Can I Know God’s Will For Me?

By: Guest Blogger

Which college should I attend?

Who should be my best friend?

When is it ok to date?

If you are like me, you have wrestled with questions like these.  As we navigate through the path of young womanhood, how do we determine God’s will for the various questions that life presents?  

God has given us His word so that we can understand His will for our lives.

 Using scripture, let’s first debunk some biblical misinterpretations about different methods that are sometimes used by sincere Christians to determine God’s will.  Then we’ll look at scriptural truth that we can know about God’s will.

Three Misinterpretations About God’s Will:

1. The Still, Small Voice Method

“When I took that campus tour, I heard a still, small voice saying that this is where God wants me to go to college.”

A common method is claiming to hear God speak.  This phrase “still, small voice” is taken from the story of Elijah.  

1 Kings 19:11-13 talks about Elijah hearing a still, small voice.  The problem with using this method is that the voice was not Elijah’s own thoughts.  The voice was not a feeling or an inclination. God spoke audibly to his prophet for a purpose.  

Where has God revealed Himself to us today?  

In His word. Are we supposed to be receiving extra revelation in our heads, dreams, or feelings?  Rev 22:18-19 says that there are severe consequences when we add to God’s word.

The point of this passage is to demonstrate God’s presence and power to Elijah–not to show us how to determine God’s will.

2. The Inner Peace Method

“I may not agree with a lot of her choices, but I feel at peace about being her best friend.”

Sometimes we’re tempted to rely on a feeling of peace to determine God’s will.  Philippians 4:6-7 says not to be anxious but to share our desires with God.

If we do that, God says that His peace will guard our hearts and mind in a way that is beyond comprehension.

Paul, the author of Colossians, is talking about how we interact with God.  Let’s be careful, however, not to misinterpret this passage. Feelings are tricky and unreliable. Scripture says that the heart is prone to deceive us and is hard to understand (Jeremiah 17:9). After all, it is possible to have peace about doing the wrong thing and to be in turmoil about doing what is right (Romans 7).

The emphasis in Philippians 4:6-7 is that God’s gift of peace is the direct result of casting our anxieties and requests upon Him. It does not state that feeling peace itself is necessarily a green light guarantee for decision-making.  

3. The Open Door Method

“It’s God’s will for us to date because He opened the door for us to meet at the conference.”

It’s common for Christians to determine God’s will by watching for open doors.  In the following verses, Paul talks about God “opening doors” for ministry purposes.

1 Corinthians 16:8-9

2 Corinthians 2:12-13

Colossians 4:3-4

In their context, these verses are not about being in or out of the will of God.

 In contrast, they are all about being free to make choices! For example, in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13, Paul says that even though God gave him an “open door” to minister at Troas, he made the decision instead to travel on to Macedonia.  

In all of these passages, Paul views the open doors as opportunities to take or not take.  Scripture is clear that an opportunity does not necessarily equal the will of God (Esther 4:13-14).

Now that we’ve uncovered some myths, what CAN we know about God’s will?  

Three Truths About God’s Will:

1. First, know that God has a sovereign will.  

Nothing we do can thwart God’s will to fulfill the prophecies that He’s written in His word.

Daniel 4:35

2. God also has a moral will.  

These are direct commands: do not steal, do not lie, do not pursue sexual intimacy outside of marriage, etc.  God’s moral will is for our ultimate joy and His glory. When we disobey these precepts, we position ourselves outside of the circumference of His will for our lives.

Exodus 20:3-17

3. God’s will is for us to be wise (Proverbs 3).  

Other than God’s sovereign and moral will, scripture doesn’t lay out a lot of restrictions on our freedom to make decisions. We are instructed, however, to make wise decisions.  Wisdom includes things like learning from personal experience, seeking godly mentors, and using our God-given ability to think responsibly. God also says that being immersed in His word makes us wise.

Romans 12:1-2

So the next time we are uncertain about a decision, let’s ask these questions:

-Is this purposeful in light of God’s sovereign will?

-Is this within God’s moral will?

-Is this wise?

My prayer is that you navigate boldly for God, not with a spirit of fear but with the spirit of “power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • What is a significant decision that you’re facing right now?
  • Have one of the three questionable methods ever led you in a negative direction?
  • Do these three truths about God’s will leave you with a clearer, more hopeful understanding of how to make important decisions?

Get to know the author, Liz Wickham: I am a young wife living in San Diego, CA with my vivacious, hard-working husband Richard. I am delighted to join the Girl Defined writing team! I love mentoring young women, spurring them on to love and good works for the sake of Christ. God’s gift of music is a never-ending source of joy that I delight to explore. Between choir, piano teaching, and singing…there is always a song for every occasion. My other hobbies include oil painting, decorating, home-making, swing-dancing, cooking, and walking around new places with my husband. Jesus Christ is my Savior, the Anchor of my soul. It is my goal to redeem the time spent in this life by allowing God to bless others through me.

PHOTO CREDIT

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  • Gabriela

    I needed this SO much! Thanks for this message, may God continue to inspire you to teach His word in such an impacting way

    • Liz Wickham

      Praise God! Thank you for reading Gabriela. 🙂

  • Clara

    Thanks so much, Liz! This makes a fuzzy area very clear!

    • Liz Wickham

      Yay! Thank you. So glad, Clara! 🙂

  • Angel Caroline Montagnon

    I am deciding on where to go to school, I was happy to see that, that was the first question on your blog! I think God wants me to take that leap of faith after reading this. I am between schools and I have prayed about them both, they are both great Christian schools! One is close to where I live and one is way farther, I have been constantly praying on where the Lord wants me to go but I really have no clue, but I definitely going to go more in depth into this blog and see what God is trying to reveal to me.

    • Liz H

      That’s so awesome Angel! I’m so glad that you’ve been encouraged in your decision-making process! Blessings on your first year in college!

    • Know that, Angel, whichever decision you make, God will work it together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. Sometimes, there is no one right decision, but many. You are not called to go looking for God’s hidden will for your life, but to act in wisdom. He promises He will use it.

  • Shanae B

    This reminds me word for word of a book called ‘Just do Something’ by Kevin DeYoung!

    • Liz Wickham

      I’ve heard great things about that book! So glad you were blessed by this post.

    • That is a fantastic book on the topic!! I love it, too.

  • Brynna Rice

    Yes! Oftentimes I feel like decisions (and life) can be guided by feeling rather than doing. I have been learning recently though, that real wisdom for life is not just good feelings to be stored up in my heart and mind. True and God-given wisdom is what can be followed every day by being a doer of the Word. Life is so much more practical than I ever thought it could be – but never simple! This week I said ‘no’ to a certain job opportunity. Like this blog post said about “Open Doors”, such opportunities are not revelations of God’s will; rather, they give us freedom to make wise choices. When we pray for wisdom, God always hears us; and that wisdom is meant to be used.

  • Sometimes I find the “closing door” method works – when God redirects my mistakes!

    • YES! God does use this method frequently. I think what she is trying to say is don’t sit around doing nothing waiting for an open or closed door, but act in wisdom.

  • Rachel

    So for the still small voice method, how do we know when it is God speaking? I believe He speaks to us not only in his Word. Haha I feel like I do the myths and the truths for discerning his will.

    • If what you are “hearing” (for lack of a better term) is in line with Scripture, both in your judgment and in your conversation with like-minded believers, it is indeed a good and right thing to do.

  • Malgorzata Kleczkowska

    I must confess I don’t quite agree:) If we approach everything like this, we will never allow God to call us to anything that doesn’t look “rational” or “sensible” to our own very limited understanding. There are times when he says to do something, go somewhere, and we ignore it because it doesn’t look like the best way to us. Where does faith and trusting fully come in?
    If I am open to God, and I truly want to what HE wants me to, yes, usually I make decisions that look wise, because I believe God has given me the Holy Spirit and wisdom, like it says in James, that if we ask, he will give it. But sometimes, God imprints something strongly on my mind (“I know that looks good to you, but I don’t want you there” or other ways) and I have no choice but to obey.
    Thoughts???

    • Jessenia

      I would agree with what you said Malgorzata Kleckowska. As I was reading this I thought about not only what my parents have taught me about God speaking to us through His Word, and His still small voice. I also believe He sometimes speaks to us through another person and then His Holy Spirit works in our hearts. I do believe that God still speaks to us personally and sometimes audibly. We just need to be still and quiet in our hearts before Him in order to hear Him. If we have too many distractions or too much “noise” in our souls, we can’t hear His voice properly.
      My mom heard God speak to her audibly when she was younger. She was facing a difficult decision and then one day as she was mowing the grass God spoke to her out loud. She thought her brother was pranking her but couldn’t find him. She later realized that it must have been God because if it was just another person, she wouldn’t have heard it so clear over the mower. God still speaks to us!

      • Abigail White

        I have also heard amazing stories that one of my missionary friends have told, about how God or his angels spoke to her. I do believe God can speak to us today. It’s not going to be that way for everyone perhaps, but from some amazing stories I’ve heard, I believe that God can still speak to us today.

    • Sometimes, the Holy Spirit does impress things upon our hearts that seem totally irrational to us. Liz isn’t denying that. She’s saying that we can’t just assume the little voice in our hearts is God, because it often isn’t and that leads us into trouble. Rather, we should take those inclinations to the Word and test the Spirit, as God promised the Holy Spirit will never say something contrary to His Word. If it is in line with Scripture, and in discussing it with others, they also agree so, please act on it. That is God. It is, indeed, the definition of Godly wisdom to rely upon the Spirit rather than on the knowledge of men (which includes ourselves).

  • Mari

    I applied to a company I’ve always wanted to join. Their exams are usually tedious and difficult. But when I got to it, I easily passed and got accepted. I believed that God was with me at that time because I passed and got the job post. I resigned from my company and got ready to take the next job opportunity. Somewhere along the way, there was a problem with my background check. It happened on the second to the last day of my stay in my previous company as I had already tendered my resignation. I got confused because I was thinking did I read my circumstances wrongly? Did I make a wrong decision? Did I not pray enough? I did not retract my resignation because I believed that things will go well. But I cannot start in my supposedly new company because of the same problem. I lost hope and was even more confused. I kept praying but I still don’t have the answer. Now I’m jobless and hopeless… I’m lost and I don’t know what God’s will is for me…. I’m a breadwinner but without a job how will I sustain my family???…. I read this article hoping to be guided… But there’s just no answer… My circumstance is not about moral will because there’s no moral issue involved… I think… I can’t also answer the question if my decision to continue the resignation was wise or not…..

    • Corrah Matthews

      Mari,
      I think, one of the first things to remember, is that regardless of whether you believe your decision was wise or not, it cannot be changed now. Secondly, and this may sound unsympathetic and incredibly untactful, but perhaps, right now, even for such a small moment, you are where God wants you to be… I do not know what your whole story is, but perhaps there is something you can take out of the situation? Perhaps the situation could pose an opportunity to look at things from a different angle, or go in a different direction?
      I also do know, however, that something that is a misfortune for you, is not always about you, if that makes sense… For example, a year or two ago, I was away for a week, seeing family on the other end of the country. My week was up, and two days later, there was something I needed to be back for. Just as we were about to board the plane to go home, what was basically the ignition of the plane blew. I was stuck in that airport for about 4 hours. I had been set on multiple connecting flights, but by the time I would reach my first stop off, I would have missed the only flight to my home-town for the day. My options included staying with a cousin, or being put up by the airplane company. I ended up choosing to stay with my cousin, simply because I would be more comfortable…
      And I spent the next little while trying to figure out what God was trying to get me to learn – what was I supposed to take out of this? It wasn’t until afterwards, that I realised, that I don’t believe it was for me at all. Rather, it was for my cousin. Going through a somewhat messy marriage breakup, I think she (and her young children) needed support and another person on her quite small list of people who understood the idea of ‘not-agreeing-with-divorce-doesn’t-mean-not-supporting-her-when-she-is-a-mess; I-need-love-not-judgement’…
      The best I can say, is don’t lose hope. Keep praying. Look to God, and those around you for support. Whether or not it was wise to continue your resignation I cannot tell you – all I can say, is that I truly believe God will guide you to where he wants you. It may not be in the snap-of-your fingers way we all wish for. But our God is a sovereign God. And you will find your way.
      I’ll be praying for you,
      Corrah

    • Oh Mari, I’m so sorry that you are going through this right now. Know that being anxious over past decisions made is not what God has for you. That doesn’t mean you’re sinful in struggling with that, just that that decision has been made and is covered by grace. You don’t need to fret about it. And also know God didn’t willingly conceal something from you for some lack on your part. That’s not how God works. He richly lavishes us with love for His name’s sake and our actions cannot and do not change that in the slightest.

      Times like these are tough, but God does have a plan for you in this. Trust Him to lead you to a new place. Know He is caring for you and your family even as we speak. Lean on Him and His promises, and He will make your path straight. One day at a time. One step at a time. This is why Christ taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread”. It is a prayer asking for just what we need to get through today, knowing He will take care of tomorrow.

      I will be praying for you, Sweet Girl.

  • Chelsea Ejimakor

    Thanks a lot for this message. This is one of the messages we women and girls all need even to have the message as a reminder.

  • Jaedyn

    Thank you!! About a year ago, I had been receiving the feeling that I should give the books Harry Potter up because I was spending too much time dwelling on them and they were becoming an idol in my life. I found some verses in my Bible, like Matthew 6:19-21 (do not lay up for yourselves treasures on this earth), and I did some praying, and I came to the decision that night that I was going to take out Harry Potter completely indefinitely. I sold my books and movies (a complete set for both) and got rid of my posters and clippings all over my walls, along with deleting all the screenshots of Harry Potter quiz results and pictures from my devices. At the time, I was not sure when I would allow myself to read the books again (with care not to obsess over them), but one of the Youth Group events this year was titled “Bringing Potter Back.” I did some thinking and evaluating of myself and determined that I would wait to read Harry Potter until that date, April 30. I know myself and God much better now, and I can monitor myself much better now. I won’t binge read the books or spend hours online looking up stuff about them. I do believe that God was speaking to me through His Word, and while I was praying, I paused to try and hear Him speak to me, and I believe He did in some form. I do know that in my time taking a break from Harry Potter, I have spent a lot more time growing closer to God and reading my Bible more, and I do know that it was ultimately healthy for my relationship with Him. I think sometimes the small, still voice is a true thing, as long as you take care to meditate on the decision and weigh it against God’s Words. Obviously Harry Potter meant a lot to me, and it was a really hard decision for me. I believed, and still believe, that God was telling me to take it out of my life, at least for the time being… I’m not sure if God speaks directly to people, like actually spoken word, in this day and age, but I do think He gives signs. And I know for sure, and agree, about the things not going how you thought they would go 🙂

    • Cecilia

      I don’t think it’s God’s will for any Christian to read Harry Potter since those books are full of witchcraft and that is something God forbids!!

      • Jaedyn

        While that is true, I still read them and I assure you I am a Christian. They are very very good books besides the witchcraft and I believe that as long as I don’t practice witchcraft I am fine to enjoy reading the books.

      • That is your take on God’s principles, Cecilia. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint on them. We all have to study and come to understand them for ourselves, and also understand that each person comes to different conclusions. If Jaedyn was committing witchcraft herself, that would be an obvious condemnation. But reading a fictional account of something only slightly resembling real witchcraft (barely resembling it at all… it’s honestly almost humorous how unlike the real thing it is) cannot be straightforwardly condemned via Scripture. Obviously, she is struggling with this and working to come to a Godly viewpoint of it, just as it appears you have done. We all need to be able to give each other grace.

  • Tamara

    My interpretation is that as long as I do not deceive people, do not gossip or engage in unnecessary conflicts, do not take what is not mine (money, other women’s boyfriends/men) and as long as I treat people with respect and dignity (but of course confronting them, if needed, in an honourable way)… I am doing things God’s way.

    He gave us free will to choose our profession, university, hobbies how ever our heart desires. Some doors close (circumstances, lack of talent etc.), that is true, but others open. We should focus on what really matters (treating people, animals, environment in the best way we can), and be creative with the rest of our life.

  • Erika

    So true and so important! So many people nowadays are deceived by the first three methods and in many christian circles it’s common to actually listen for God’s will expecting Him to answer immediately either through a small voice or a feeling of peace. It’s hard to see anything wrong with that at first, but actually that method is kind of absurd, because in that way really trivial matters (like what color of socks to wear that day) are left up to God with the expectation that He would answer immediately. What actually happens is those people give up all responsibility for their actions, because basically in their opinion they are “only doing God’s will” – even if it opposes scripture. God gave us the ability to think and make decisions for a reason – so we can actively decide to follow Him! That is His will for our lives.

    • Amen! I see so many people use these methods as an excuse to sanctimoniously sit on their spiritual rear ends rather than doing something. And others use it as an out from learning to be wise. Wisdom is so underrated in today’s Christian circles, and many are abandoning it entirely for the false “religion vs. relationship” dichotomy.

  • YES! YES! YES! I just took a class on this here at the Association Free Lutheran Bible School on “Discovering God’s Will” that you basically just wrote the cliff notes version of. I am SO sharing this!

  • GracieVv

    I just recently applied for college at Pensacola Christian College. I have been praying about this decision for a very long time. Praying that God would give me peace about it and just help me through the process. I just visited the college this past week and it is amazing how God has tremendously helped and guided me through this. Lord-willing I will be heading to Florida in the fall as a freshman in nursing and I am beyond excited! The Lord is so good!

  • Alexis

    I just recently had a friend express that he is interested in pursuing a dating relationship with me. He is a strong Christian but has kind of a socially awkward way about him. I’m wrestling figuring out my feelings and if this is God’s will. The more time I spend with this guy the more I start to like him:) but one big problem, we live in Arizona and i just graduated college and I’m moving home to Indiana in May. Totally unsure of what decision to make! Any thoughts ladies? Please and thank you!


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