BCC Introduction: In this blog and our next one, Pat Quinn explores the challenging question that youth inevitably face: How can I know God’s will for my future? Monumental decisions face youth as they transition from living under their parents’ roof to living under their own roof. How can they be sure they are going down the path God wants them to? In this post Pat presents the necessary biblical “background” to answer this question; in the next blog, he presents a way of thinking through the types of decisions for which the Bible does not give specific information.
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I had the joy of teaching high school Bible at a Christian school for 30 years. By the time students became upper-classmen, they became acutely aware of important decisions to make regarding their future and anxiously concerned about making the right ones. Their concerns basically boiled down to one all-important question, “How do I know what God’s will is for my life?” The particulars included decisions about college and academic major, future vocation, marriage and family, and where they should live. One student recently expressed it this way: “I think I want to be a doctor. But what if I make the wrong decision and waste several years and lots of money?” While this is a truly agonizing question for many young people, it betrays a common but misleading understanding of God’s will. In his book Just Do Something (an excellent book I consulted for this blog), Kevin DeYoung quotes Gerald Sittser on this misunderstanding:
Conventional understanding of God’s will defines it as a specific pathway we should follow into the future….Our responsibility is to discover this pathway….If we choose rightly, we experience his blessing and achieve success and happiness. If we choose wrongly, we may lose our way, miss God’s will for our lives, and remain lost forever in an incomprehensible maze. So…God has a will for my life. It’s up to me to find it. If I don’t, my life will be unsatisfying and second-rate—at best.
It’s no wonder many young adults live in constant low-grade anxiety! How should we understand God’s will in our lives? And how can we counsel young adults seeking God’s will in a truly helpful way?
First Things First
Here are three biblical-orientation truths to share with those seeking God’s will.
1. Help them see that God really does have “a wonderful plan for their lives.” While God doesn’t promise the American dream or a pain-free life, he does say that the plans he has for his children are “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give [them] a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29: 11). And Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 that “…we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” These truths are meant to defuse the anxious “bulls-eye” approach to seeking God’s will. God has a good plan and specific good works prepared for his children in the future, and he is able to bring them about. So they can relax just a little!
2. Along with this, show them that God promises to equip them to do the good works he has planned for them. The author of Hebrews prays that God would “…equip you with everything good that you may do his will….” (Hebrews 13: 21). God’s hope-filled plan, personal workmanship, guaranteed good works, and powerful equipping give young adults the freedom to consider their future without the pressure to figure it all out and get everything just right.
3. Remind them that 90% of God’s will for their lives is right there in the Bible. Much anxiety is caused by obsessing over the 10% not revealed in Scripture. Help them major in the majors, not the minors. Consider what God says about his will in these verses:
- “For this is the will of God: your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
- “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
- “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15).
Pursuing holiness, rejoicing in the Lord, praying continually, and doing good have two great benefits. First, pursuing the 90% conforms God’s children more and more into the image of Christ, which is the only path to true satisfaction. Second, it is actually the surest way to move toward the unknown 10%–such as decisions about college, vocation, marriage, etc.
Note: On Friday, Pat’s blog will address the “other 10%.”