God’s will is not hidden from us.
And God’s will is hidden from us.
At one point, I struggled greatly with these two realities. I should not have been surprised at my struggle because in general, I do thrive inside of clarity. I don’t do well with ambiguity. My personality is such that I want a definite action plan to follow. To know what’s next. To have a steady pathway to follow. And you certainly have all those things and more when it comes to God’s will.
It’s very ironic when you consider just how much of life we actually already know the will of God concerning. The Bible is full of direct statements of God’s will. We know it’s God’s will that we abstain from sexual immorality; we know it’s God’s will that we give ourselves wholly to the ministry of the church; we know it’s God’s will that none perish but all come to repentance and therefore we know it’s God’s will for us to share the gospel in all our spheres of influence.
We don’t have to ask questions about things like this; we know what God’s will is. When you stack up the specific situations of life in which we might not exactly what God’s will is, they are paltry in comparison to those we do. Or to put it another way – we know more than enough of God’s will to always be walking in it. There is indeed an action plan, and it’s one that is clear and direct enough to follow on a day to day basis.
But there is also a tension. While we might know the will of God in this kind of general sense, we are not certain of God’s will in some of the specific decisions to be made.
Let’s say, for example, that you are coming to a crossroads in your career. There is a choice to be made, and neither choice is inherently more righteous or more sinful than the other. In other words, either choice gives you no less an ability to live inside the revealed will of God for your life. That’s where the ambiguity comes in. I have a friend who describes situations like these in terms of “right and left” decisions as opposed to “right and wrong” decisions. You can go right or you can go left; neither one is particularly more right than the other, or at least neither choice appears to be so.
That’s when you feel the tension, for God’s will is not hidden from you. And yet God’s will is hidden from you.
And I’d like to propose that this is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing.
I’m reminded, in writing about this tension, of these words from the prophet Isaiah:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
so my word that comes from my mouth
will not return to me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do” (Is. 55:8-11).
There is an essential humility that comes in walking with the Lord. It’s the humility born of knowing that we can know the Lord, and yet not know the Lord. And that a claim to fully know and understand the will and ways of God is the height of hubris and presumption. Perhaps the tension of knowing, and yet not knowing, is one of the ways we can guard against this kind of dangerous presumptuousness.
How, then, does one humbly live and walk with God? Gratefully, and mercifully, this same passage tells us:
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call to him while he is near.
Let the wicked one abandon his way
and the sinful one his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord,
so he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will freely forgive (Is. 55:6-7).
We live in the will of God, and in so doing, seek the Lord Himself. We don’t just seek the answers to our questions, but rather seek the Lord who already knows them. We abandon our pride and our desperate need for information and instead choose to live and make decisions inside of what we know to be true. We live in the balance of knowing God, and yet not knowing all the particulars of His will, and in that balance we find the essence of true faith.