“The will of God.
We talk about it in church and our Christian circles enough. We hear repeatedly that the Lord has a plan for us and that it is good. We are instructed to seek it, embrace it, and live it. We are even told that it is the key to our future. But what is it? Even though God’s will sounds like something we would like—and even need—to know, the whole idea of it often stirs up more questions than answers.
After all, it is the will—the volition that drives the workings of the universe, the paths of empires, and the lives of all peoples—of God, of the all-knowing, all-powerful, unseen, indescribable Creator of all things. Who wouldn’t want to be more aware of such lofty information?”
—Charles F. Stanley, The Will of God: Understanding and Pursuing His Ultimate Plan for Your Life
When I was a child, I wondered daily, Am I inside God’s will? My internal monologue went something like this: Did He agree with what I chose to wear to school today? Did He want me to eat breakfast at home or in the cafeteria? Maybe the way I wear my hair or the outfits I choose could start a conversation that would give me the opportunity to lead someone to accept Jesus.
I was a mess. Paralyzed. And every time something bad happened, I was sure it was because I was outside God’s will, exposed to evil because of some misstep.
I realize now I equated God’s will with safety. If life was going along well enough, I was accomplishing His will. If not, I was outside of it. I was giving myself much more credit—and pressure—than was warranted.
I’ve always been drawn to the Old Testament, and Joseph’s story was one I held close. But looking at it now, I can see I missed a main point in the story. While Joseph was going through serious trials, the Bible repeatedly says “the Lord was with Joseph.” First, his brothers sold him into servitude, but “the Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man” (Gen. 39:2). Then he was falsely accused and imprisoned, “But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the warden of the prison” (Gen. 39:21).
God was with him throughout everything, and Joseph still went through hardships. I’m not talking about him having a bad day––Joseph was sold. He was falsely imprisoned. Yet he was still fulfilling God’s will.
As I became older, I grew more and more tired. Every decision seemed to be a matter of life and death. It was an unsustainable way to live. Ironically, it was only when my fatigue led me to decide I’d no longer worry about God’s will that it became clearer to me: His will was much bigger than what I wore, where I ate lunch, or any of the countless other factors that concerned me on a given day. Reflecting on Joseph’s story now, I can see going through trials doesn’t mean I am outside of God’s will, but rather that He is with me, guiding me through them. And that has given me peace and rest.