The Thoughts and Adventures of Sarah Harris

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Finding God’s Will

A very real concern among young Christians is this desperate attempt to find God’s will for their lives. Questions are asked again and again such as:

  • Where should I go to college?
  • What career should I pursue?
  • Who should I date or marry?

ImageYet for some reason God almost always seems far off and unconcerned. We might pray daily and beg God for an answer but to no avail. And at some point, we make a decision on a feeling in our hearts which we often mistakenly label as God’s will.  Why would God make it so difficult to know His will if He is supposed to be the Shepherd who desires to guide His sheep? I would propose that it’s not God who is the problem here, rather, the problem might be us. This concern with God’s will for our future may arise from a lack of knowledge of our own identity as Christians. If we know who we are and who we were created to be, then God’s will becomes much simpler.

In order to understand mankind’s identity and more specifically, the identity of a Christian – one must understand who God created us to be.

Saint Basil of Caesarea, in his discourse on Genesis 1 and 2, touches on this very issue. The defining verse of Christian identity is in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.’” What does it mean to be made in the image and likeness of the Trinitarian God? St. Basil shows us what this means by focusing the difference between those two words: image and likeness.

According to Basil, to be made in God’s image is that man has been given “superiority of reason.”[1] The thing that makes man different from the animals is reason. When God created His world, we see the phrase “Let there be” over and over again. But when God made man, he reasoned about it. “Let us make” implies that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together thought about who they were creating, and they created humans particularly different from all else. Humankind can reason, just as the Trinitarian God reasons.

Likeness, according to Basil, is that which we must work to obtain – “by our free choice we build the second.”[2] Basil urges us to “Become perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”[3] “If you become a hater of evil, free of rancor, not remembering yesterday’s enmity; if you become brother-loving and compassionate, you are like God.”[4] This is what it means to be human: to become like God.

To follow God’s will, is to strive to become like God – to put on Christ. The specifics of how this should be accomplished, are not often given to us.

In his fiction book: Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis proposes something similar. In this retelling of a medieval myth, the character, Orual is frustrated with the god’s because they do not guide clearly. She states concerning the gods: “If they had an honest intention to guide us, why is their guidance not plain? Psyche could speak plain when she was three; do you tell me the gods have not yet come so far?”[5]

Orual eventually realizes that the problem is not the gods, but her own position that causes this confusion: “I saw well why the gods do not speak openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”[6]

Unless we become like God, we cannot make sense of Him.  And interestingly, our ability to become like God was given to us through the Incarnation – God becoming man. I propose then, that God’s will for your life is to become like He who is the exact representation of the Father – that is, Jesus Christ. How is this done? By following His example in the Gospels and being held accountable to the Church. Major life decisions (dating, career, marriage, kids, and the like) will be far less confusing if we simply follow His example.

Or at least that is the way I see it – your thoughts?

[1] St. Basil the Great, On the Human Condition, trans. Nonna Verna Harrison, ed. John Behr, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2005), 36

[2] Ibid.,43

[3] Mt 5:48

[4] Basil, Human, 44

[5] Lewis, C.S., Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold (San Deigo: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1984), 134.

[6] Ibid., 294


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4 thoughts on “Finding God’s Will

  1. Holmes Bryan on said:

    Well said, Sarah. I like what Basil said and I like how you linked it to “Till We Have Faces.” You’re finding this out in life long before I did. I think all young people struggle with this. When we get older, we either give up on finding God’s will for specific things, or we finally realize what you already have.

    I came to the conclusion a couple of decades ago that if we “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added to us.” I believe “these things” includes not only food, shelter and clothing, but everything else outside his revealed will in scripture. I’m still working on following that verse.

    But about 15 years ago, I realized that God wants us to use our minds (reason) to make major decisions (marriage, career, pizza toppings, etc.) and I’m not so sure he has a perfect will for us in these things. I agree with you that following Christ’s example and accountability to the Church makes all decisions easier. But there are still many equally right roads you can take in life. There may be several “right” people to marry if they are Christian and spiritually mature. God’s revealed will is that we not be unequally yoked. I don’t think it goes any further than that. You may not agree.

    Nevertheless, I’ve never doubted that I married the “right” woman. I’m more in love with your mother now than I was when we married 35 years ago. (But I’m not as sure she married the right man.)

    Campus Crusade taught that you could know God’s specific will for everything. It might actually be possible, but I wasn’t always submitted to God’s will in those days. I’m stubborn. It took me about 15 years (early 40’s) to begin to think differently, both to subject myself fully to God’s will and to stop agonizing over major decisions. Glad you are realizing these things now.

    • I was actually thinking of you when I wrote this post – I’m sure you were influential in my thought process on this. St. Basil is just affirmation really.

      I would agree that there may be equally right roads to take. I could have very well married someone else and that might have been the “right” choice as well.

      I like how the theologian Stanley Hauerwas puts it: “You always marry the wrong person” and the reverse is also true: “You also always marry the right person” (The Hauerwas Reader, 524). In other words, you don’t know who you are marrying when you make a covenant to be faithful. Thus, we often don’t even know what choice we are making when we make decisions.

      But the fact of the matter is that once we have made the choice, then that person is the “right” person due to the covenant you’ve made. In a way, that applies to all good choices we make.

      I have really been pondering the “seek first his kingdom” passage lately. It’s interesting because the church in the western society has belittled the gospel to “my personal salvation” and this “prayer I made as a kid to be saved.” But in reality, we are part of a bigger picture than that. Christ came to restore this world and establish His reign and God is bringing up a family of believers to inhabit that Kingdom. Our goal then (as the body of Christ), is to seek first His kingdom – to exemplify Him (helping the poor, refugees, windows, sick etc.), to follow Christ as reigning king, to bring more people into his family etc. (or at least that’s how I’ve come to understand it thus far).

      N.T. Wright has really influenced me in that regard – I posted about his book awhile back. Another big influence has been my pastor here in Canada – I just posted some of his sermon’s on the Lord’s prayer where he talks about “Thy Kingdom come.”

      Being in this academic setting has been refreshing. Sometimes I wish you all could be here – I think you would really enjoy it here.

  2. I’m with you on this one, especially since you quoted Till We Have Faces.

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