God’s will and little decisions

As regular readers know, a big topic of interest for me is how to do God’s will at every moment, every day. I spent a long time just trying to figure out how to discern what is and is not God’s will (some posts on that here, here and here), and I think I finally have some clarity on that.

But a related issue — and one that really demonstrates how overly literal and hard-headed I am — is the question of doing God’s will on a minute-by-minute basis. I mean, at what level of granularity am I supposed to seek God’s will? Of course I seek his will for big decisions like adding a child to the family, what route my husband should go with his career, or how to educate my children. And I can even see prayerfully seeking God’s will in terms of how to handle smaller daily matters like toddler temper tantrums, what music I choose to play this afternoon, or how to handle the Jehovah’s Witnesses who show up when I’m in the middle of getting lunch ready.

But what about the really small stuff? Most of the decisions people make in a given day are minuscule things like whether to change lanes in traffic, which dish to put into the dishwasher first, or which foot to put in front of the other when you walk. In order to simply function there’s no way I could pause to pray and turn to God before doing any of those types of tasks…so does that mean that I’m just on my own, that very small decisions are entirely up to me, outside the realm of things about which you can seek God’s will? If so, where do you draw the line? (And…can you believe how neurotic and overly-analytical I am? Yes, I seriously get hung up on stuff like God’s will for how to move my feet when I walk. Welcome to my world.)

I had all these questions rolling around in my head when I saw Aimee Milburn’s wonderful, must-read post on the topic, and it was like an answered prayer. She addressed this very issue and, as usual, had some excellent insights on the subject. She writes:

We tend to think of God’s will as always being specific actions, things He wants us to do, and so we need to discern them, what He would have us do. And there is truth to that. But we also have a lot of freedoms. God does not dictate every moment.

Exactly. So what are we neurotics supposed to do when we’re stuck on whether or not God has a will for which fork we grab from the silverware drawer?

God is love. Therefore His will is love. So maybe “doing God’s will” means in the first place not doing, but being: being like God, loving how God loves, and the things God loves. […]

The key to Christian life is not so much doing a bunch of things…but being transformed into the likeness of God – which in turn informs what we do, and how we do it.

This makes so much sense. The more you purify yourself and become like God, the more all of your actions — the big ones as well as the little ones — will naturally fall in line with his will. As Aimee notes:

To be like God, and to love as God loves, requires great purification of our wills, because we love the wrong things. Sin itself is a type of love, an attachment to things other than God or the ways of God which we must be purified of. It takes effort — but in time our effort is taken over by God, and our purification accomplished by God, as He draws us into closer union with Him.

The name of the game isn’t obsessing about this or that individual decision, but rather keeping focused on the big picture, the entire aim of Christian life: to die to self and turn your whole life over to God. To eradicate selfishness desires and sinfulness and allow only pure, agape love to fill your heart. And once you do that, even what foot you put in front of the other will be the work of God.

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Comments

  1. Kate says

    On that thought, here’s a quote for you:

    “Once and for all, a short rule is laid down for you: Love, and do what you will. If you keep silence, do it out of love. If you cry out, do it out of love. If you refrain from punishing, do it out of love.

    Let the root of love be within. From such a root nothing but good can come.

    –St. Augustine, Sermon on 1 John 7, 8″

    Love, and do what you will. It doesn’t mean that good intentions will excuse any action: it means that as we learn to love more perfectly, our actions will follow into perfection.

    What a great meditation. Thanks for sharing, Aimee and Jen!

  2. Christina Martin says

    Thank you so much for this post. I really, really needed it today. God bless you.

  3. Colleen says

    You really have a way of putting into words things that I have been struggling with in my head for a long time. Thank you for this thoughtful post!

    Actually, I just recently found your blog and I look forward to reading every post you write. They are so intelligent (and funny!)

  4. Tracy says

    thanks for sharing your a-ha with us. It is also nice to know I am not the only one who can get spiritually paralized with minutia.

  5. Anna says

    It is also nice to know I am not the only one who can get spiritually paralized with minutia.

    I was thinking the same thing! 🙂