Have you ever had a situation (or seen one) where you have a choice or scenario in front of you, everything feels right, you determine that it must be God's will, and then it doesn't turn out at all like you expected? So then what?
Well then one of three things are true:
1. God isn't really who He says He is
2. Sin or humanness entered the situation
3. We got it wrong and it really wasn't God's will
So let me tackle these in order. I think #1 is where most of us go immediately. We question who God is. Is He really involved in our lives? Does He really care what happens to us? If we are Christians, this can be a time of searching and better defining our faith and we can actually walk out of this situation stronger than we were to begin with. If we aren't believers or don't have a good understanding of God's truth to go back to, this can end poorly. Hear me on something else related to this: if we as believers boast in our perception of God's will for our circumstances and then they don't turn out, this gives the watching world something to deny our faith with. Take Mr. Harold Camping, the guy who has predicted, unpredicted, and repredicted the end of the world multiple times and been wrong each time. What does that look like to a watching world? We can actually hinder someone else's understanding of the existence of God by our mis-assignment of His will. Does that make sense?
I believe #2 - that sin entered the situation - is more common than we realize. I think we are scared to admit this possibility for two reasons. It suggests that we may be at fault and we don't like to admit our mistakes AND it suggests somehow that our choices can thwart God's will and we aren't comfortable with that. Let's remember though that one of the first stories in the Bible demonstrates this. It was God's will for man to live in the garden forever but Adam and Eve sinned and we are no longer in the garden. This is where one of my favorite verses comes in. Rom 8:28: And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes. God is not going to magically set things back to the way He initially willed them to be but He is going to redeem it for his purposes. That is a the core of who He is. He is a redemptive God.
Another example was when Moses was leading the Jews into the promised land. He desired for Moses to lead them all the way, but the Jews rebelled against God, refusing to enter into what God has promised. God still led the people of Israel into the promised land but not for 40 more years and not through Moses.
I think we also have to be careful to assigning God's will when a desired end comes out of our sin. Friends God does not need us to sin in order to accomplish His purposes and just because it is the desire of our heart does not mean that it is His will.
*For all who are worried that I think God's not in ultimate control, don't worry. I know God's ultimate purposes cannot be thwarted. But I'm talking about the part of God's will that we can understand and relate to.
Okay so now onto #3. There are lots of books on the topic of discovering God's will and they have some great recommendations like know His word, pray, and seek wise counsel. But let's face it sometimes we can do all of those things and still get it wrong. One reason I think we get it wrong is because we have become to casual with the use of the phrase "God's will". It feels to me like we use this label like a stamp of approval that we give to our own situation in the name of God. I had a friend once who had it in her mind that she was going to have 3 children of the same gender and then went on to give the credit to God for that vision. Well she had 2 kids of the same gender but # 3 was not. Is God still who He says He is? Yes. Did sin change the gender of her 3rd child? No. Did she have a desire that she wrongly applied the stamp of God's will too? Yep. Every seemingly good and comfortable idea is not necessarily God's will.
So as I wrap this thought up I can give you a recent example of how I walked this out in my life. There is a house in my neighborhood that I have been watching for 4 years. I love this house. I love the yard, the layout, the front elevation, and the location. I love this house. It came on the market 2 weeks ago. After standing in the backyard twice in the same day, I figured out that with the added money I am making through photography that I could make the difference in this house payment. So then it must be God's will right? That house feels right. I technically have the money to pay for it. It makes me happy, the timing is great, blah blah blah! I could whip out my God's will stamp in a heartbeat and justify myself right into a great new house. But let's get back to reality and ask an easier question to sort out. IS IT GOD'S BEST? Well if I used my photography money for the house then I wouldn't be giving it to all the mission opportunities that I love supporting. If we moved we would be leaving the community that God has given us where we live now. Oh and if I used that extra money to make the house payment I also would never have the option to step away to spend more time with my primary calling of my family. So is it God's best? Nope not at all.
So I think I am going to give God His will back and let Him place his stamp on the big things and I am going to start asking the daily and less theological question of, "What is God's best?"