So you went against God’s will. Now what?

October 15, 2009 | 65 comments

A while back I was listening to a Catholic radio advice show when a distraught woman called in with an agonizing situation: She and her husband had recently adopted a child with special needs (some of them serious medical issues), and she was terrified that they’d made the wrong decision. The paperwork was all finalized and they were flying out to pick up their new son the next day, but she was overwhelmed with fear and worry of how they could possibly handle it all, especially since they already had their hands full with three biological children.

What seemed to be causing her the most stress was the worry that she had gone against God’s will. She’d thought that this is what God wanted for them when they first made the decision, but now she was second-guessing it all, wondering if perhaps her own intense emotions had clouded her discernment process.

Looking back, she recalled that her husband had initially had a really bad feeling about it and she’d strong-armed him into it, blowing off his words of caution and aggressively pushing him to change his mind. In her 20/20 hindsight she could also see a lot of pride at work, now recognizing her desire to make certain family members think she was a “supermom” by adopting a special needs child in addition to raising her biological kids. She also suspected that her deep-seated desires to heal her own troubled childhood clouded her judgment and made her view the situation through rose-colored glasses, ignoring the very serious issues that would come with this move. As she looked at her mental, physical and financial resources and the huge responsibilities that were about to enter her life, she was terrified that she’d bitten off way more than she could chew — and was going to negatively impact not just her own life but her family’s lives with her mistake.

As I listened to her go into more detail about her story and her discernment process, it sounded like she may very well have let pride and misguided desires for happy endings lead her to get in over her head. This actually might not have been God’s will for her and her family.

But what, I wondered, should she do now?

Unfortunately I lost signal on the radio station and didn’t hear the host’s answer, but I’ve thought a lot about that lady and her dilemma ever since then. Though usually on a smaller scale, I used to spend a fair amount of time in my post-conversion life worrying about that very thing: What if this difficult situation I’m in is because I just screwed up? If God was telling me to do one thing and I ignored him and did another…what now?

Early on in my conversion I would occasionally feel really stressed about these types of situations, especially when I did something sinful that was clearly not what I was supposed to have done. Because I thought of God’s will like a static, paper roadmap, I had this bad tendency to think of myself as being “off the map, ” in some kind of “out of God’s will” no-service area akin to being out of range on your cell phone. “No point in praying, ” my subconscious mind would mutter, “God can’t help you now — he’s back in the land of his will that you left when you made that stupid decision!” Though I could have told you on an intellectual level that that line of thinking was as erroneous as it was ridiculous, fear and stress made it surprisingly easy to slide into those kinds of irrational, defeatist thought patterns.

What I eventually learned that has brought me immeasurable peace on this subject is that it’s more important to ponder how God can bring good out of any situation — even bad, sinful situations that are the result of fallible humans’ mistakes — than it is to ponder what the details of his will are for any specific scenario. I’ve stopped spending so much time asking “Was this God’s will?” and am trying to spend more time asking, “How can I serve God in love at this moment, right now?” Maybe the situation I’m in is the result of a bad move, but as long as I keep turning to God there will be an opportunity to bring love out of it.

So what would I say to the lady who called into the radio show? After assuring her of my prayers, I think my answer would be that she shouldn’t spend any more time rehashing the past, but rather focus her energy on getting as close to God as possible from here on out. Rest in the knowledge that he can bring good out of any situation, especially those that present us with opportunities to love our fellow human beings. And the truth is that we rarely know exactly what God’s will is in every situation anyway — we probably veer off his path of perfect love way more often than we realize. What matters most is not complete knowledge of the mind of God (which is impossible anyway), but a disposition of love and trust.

Those are my thoughts, but needless to say I’m no expert on this subject. I’m sure I have plenty more to understand about all this myself. So I’d like to ask you guys: What would your advice be to the lady who called into the radio show? Of course we can’t know for sure, but let’s say hypothetically that this situation wasn’t God’s will? What now?



  1. Holly Rutchik

    In our short marriage, my husband and I have really struggled with sort of thinking often. We have changed jobs, moved and had more medical problems more times than most our young age. We feel like we are always in panic mode and asking God – this or that, either or, option A or B.
    Just recently, we came to something in prayer. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe it doesn't matter if we take this job or not, live in this city or that. Maybe not every single life choice is choosing to go with God or not and the puzzle is to figure it out. We have decided to always pray on our options, but to also remember that God is with us in ALL out choices. We can be good, faithful parents, who are good Catholics in both options—sometimes:)

  2. Anonymous

    I'm not sure exactly what advice I'd give the mom (given how little I know).

    However the blog title reminded me of a letter from my father about how I was "a very special gift to a pair of wayward young people" which woke him "up from a situation that had a lot of potential for pain and heartbreak".

    To those who are willing to open their eyes and change, God's wake-up calls can become special gifts, gifts "not planned for but much better than anything we could have planned".

  3. Melanie B

    I think you're right on. God's will for us is that we are with Him in the now, not fretting about the future or fuming about the past. Christ came to redeem time, to redeem history. His death was both the greatest mistake ever made in the history of humanity and the greatest most perfect gift God could ever bestow. So too all our mistakes can be redeemed if we only turn them over to God. He will carry us if we ask him to. And even if we have piled up for ourselves more burdens than we can carry, he won't hold it against us. No, he will gladly shoulder these too. If we find ourselves laboring under too great a weight he will always, always, always be there for us no matter how we got ourselves into that situation.

    • BoKnows

      Thanks for that

  4. Kristen Laurence

    I've always believed that in larger decisions such as this woman's, so long as we desire and pray for God's will, He will not allow us to make a mistake. This woman doesn't seem like the kind of lady who would completely block Him out so she could fulfill her pride and vanity. I'd bet she was praying all the while, and she is already doing the will of God. If I'm wrong however and she completely ignored Him, so long as she is praying now, whatever happens is still His will and He will give her the grace she needs.

    I've thought about this relationship of God's will and adoption a lot. He didn't give me a baby biologically. For years even though we spread the word to family and friends of our desire to adopt a baby He did not give us one. Finally when with an agency we were chosen by a birthmom. For four months we prepared our hearts for this baby, and the day he was born his birthmother decided to keep him. I prayed for God's will. I wondered whether He never really wanted us to have a child at all, whether we'd been going against His will. But something in our hearts told us to get back on the waiting list. I prayed that if it wasn't His will for us to have a child, to allow the next adoption to fail as well. I didn't want to go against His holy will. He knew that all along. And you know the rest of the story… 🙂

    Today we are on a waiting list with an agency for a third child. Do I know absolutely that my Father wants this for us? No. But I figure, we're doing our part – showing Him we are open to another life, and I know if He wills another baby for us, it will happen. He'll do the rest. If not, He will let us know one way or another.

  5. Elizabeth Mahlou

    I don't think God does "gotcha"s — you did not do as I wanted so know you're in trouble! I think, as you said, Jen, that God just patiently helping us out of the dilemmas we put ourselves in. As for the situation the woman is now in, my advice is to stop thinking about herself and think about that handicapped child. She has taken on quite a challenge. I know. I raised two handicapped birth children and a third that I took in. Now, my son, victim of the family gene pool, is raising two children born with challenges, one moderate and already mostly in the past and one severe that will never be in the past. As a healthy child of handicapped siblings, he was about as prepared as anyone can be. Still, it's a lot of work — even with my husband and me around to help when needed.

    My personal experience has been that God takes care of those handicapped kids of His, one way or another. More miracles than I can remember or count — or at least than most people will believe. So, the remainder of my advice to the lady would be to do her best to take care of that child and watch what God does to help and support. She's in for a wonderful experience if she stops worrying and takes life as it come. She has divine help regardless of whether she followed divine planning.

  6. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jennifer, wow. Here's a confession. As a mother of five children, I have had many naysayers express their opinions about large families and how we shouldn't have one — including some family members and hints from friends. Most of the time I can move past all that, knowing our family is exactly the size God wants it to be, but in rare moments and in times of high stress, I have wondered, what if they were all right? What if this was not God's will, as I had thought? It is really a sickening feeling to "go there," and really not at all productive, like you have said. Thank God I have been given the grace to pull myself out of those moments just as quickly as I have found myself in them. I would not have done anything differently, if given another chance, but in our humanity we are allowed those momentary doubts. Your thoughts of what you would say to this woman are very sound, and would likely bring comfort to her and help her move forward with offering love to this child, and never looking back for more than a human moment. What are we to be to one another, after all, but beacons of hope, beckoning each other toward Christ? The cross is never easy, but it's the only way to go.

  7. Susan Thompson

    I don't know what I'd tell the lady on the radio. Maybe to share her doubts with her husband and ask his advice.

    In my own life I have often struggled with the feeling that I might be missing God's will, but in recent years I have come to the conclusion that the best plan is to say a prayer placing myself in His loving hands, stay close to Him in the sacraments, resolve to avoid any sin or near occasion of sin, and then to do whatever seems reasonable.

    Six years ago, with the knowledge that my husband had a degenerative neurological disorder, I made a decision to change careers,to become a medical transcriptionist so I could work out of my home and take care of him. Who knows if it was "God's perfect will?" But God blessed my plan and it worked out. If I had followed some other plan to earn a living and care for him, I believe God would have blessed that, too. His ways are mysterious. Last winter, my husband passed away, and it seemed reasonable to go back to my old job and earn a little more money, so that's what I did, and I feel God's blessing on that. But if I had taken another direction, I think God would have blessed that, too.

  8. Anonymous

    I don't know what answer to give her, but I certainly understand how she got in that situation.

    I my life, I struggle with feeling that my husband and I should have more children, because good Catholic families have lots of children. Or that maybe we should pursue adoption or foster care, because so many of those great online Catholic moms do so. Are we passing up on another awesome way to spread God's love there? Are we abandoning souls in some way?

    But when we honestly try to discern, and really struggle with each opportunity and issue, we keep coming back to what we are able to handle as our family and, in humility, accept that perhaps we aren't called to be an obviously super-Catholic family.

    So what if people are wondering why we have "only" ___ number of children. We have what God led us to have, and that is all that is important.

  9. agapeflower117

    This is absolutely amazing. I don't have anything to contribute, but this entire post was such an answer to a prayer, was addressing the EXACT same thing I've been struggling with for the past two days. It's uncanny, but it's wonderful. Thank you so much for this post. 🙂

  10. Nicole

    I remember a religious brother (who was my spiritual director) relating a story about the "title question" of this post. He knew a man who had been discerning his vocation, got married, then felt that he had made a mistake and God had been calling him to the religious life. He tried to live a life as similar to a religious brother as he could, including lengthy solitary periods of prayer. Sounds holy, right? But he was neglecting his marriage, and my brother-friend had to counsel him that he had made his choice and his commitment already, and that God will bless him in his fidelity where he is *now.*

    So I'd say you're spot on.

  11. Courageous Grace

    You do realize that it's not fair to post such an intriguing story about that mother and not be able to tell us the advice actually given to her by the radio host, right?

    In all seriousness, I also have felt the similar feeling of going against His will and wondering. Mine happens to be with attending college, changing my major, and racking up huge student loan debt. I think it's turning out all right, though. I met my husband in college (the day I was baptized), although I ended up with a BFA (a useless degree, I was originally in for a BME), I am currently getting my teaching certification, and things are settling down.

    Maybe God didn't mean for me to go to college, but I'm working with what He has given me now and trying to follow His will.

    Good post, Jen!

  12. Flexo

    Didn't hear the program, but if I may be allowed to speculate, it sounds as if she were seeking an imprimatur to abort the adoption.

    But the answer to what she should do is very simple. And it is easy for me to say that it is simple, even though not being in her position, but merely sitting here in the comfort of my pajamas.

    The answer is simple because it is the same answer given by Jesus to every interpersonal "problem."

    What should she do now? What is God's will?


    Not abandon him, not return him to sender, love him. Get over your own petty problems, quit worrying about your motivations. You are way past that now. Whatever you did wrong or did right in the past is over. Whatever was God's will before is past. All that there is now is the present and the future. So, from now on, love him. Give of yourself; stop the inward focus, and love him as Jesus loves you.

    The answer is simple. Easy to say, even if not easy to do. But then, love in general is not an easy thing to do.

  13. Becca

    If she's already in the situation, the best option she has now is to pray for guidance and strength to get through it. God can help her make this a great situation if she steps back and starts listening to Him.

  14. Jane D.

    I can hear my husbands answer to this question before I can even begin to hear my own – 'so you think you are bigger and greater to handle this situation than God then, huh????'

    I totally agree with you and many of the other comments posted, only God can see the big picture and as long as we are committed to continually handing over our life to God, what we may deem to be mistakes and all, He is the Great and Mighty one who can move mountains not me.

  15. steadymom

    We know that caring for orphans IS part of God's will – that is spelled out emphatically in the Bible.

    Few of us can be 100% sure that our motivations in any situation are completely pure and Christ-like – but even when our mixed motives lead us to an action that so reflects the heart of God, I think we can confidently say that He will be there with us and potentially even grow the right motives within us.

    I have one biological child and two internationally adopted children, one with special needs. It IS God's will for us, it IS hard, and He IS here.

    That's all I need to know.

    Thanks for your moving words,


  16. Moira Elizabeth

    I would like to suggest that the woman ask her husband (and trust his leadership) with what they should do. In another blog post Jen, I remember you wrote about the blessings God can bestow on us when we 'let go, and let God' – in particular, when we do this through trusting our husbands. I think if the woman decides to think "well, I've come this far, I'll just go the rest of the way with it", she is missing out on the opportunity to do this. God can make His perfect Will very present to us in the form of our husband's judgement.

  17. Wayne

    But I figure, we're doing our part – showing Him we are open to another life, and I know if He wills another baby for us, it will happen. He'll do the rest. If not, He will let us know one way or another.

    This, I think is some of the best advice that I find reassuring as well, and I share it with my wife all the time. As long as we do our part and pray and do the work that we can do, the rest IS up to God and we then have to put our trust in Him that he knows and will provide what is best for us.

  18. Anonymous

    As Catholics, it is probably an error to think we are running our life based on special, personal revelations from God. We are provided *abundant* instructions from the bible and from the church on how to conduct our lives, and I think it's very clear that taking on more responsibilities than you can handle, and thereby neglecting some of them, is a bad decisions. It is also clear that bulldozing over your husband's objections in order to make a major life decision for your family is a mistake.

    That said, she's past the point of no return now. Adoptions can be disrupted, but I think it's only fair to give it the best effort possible. Many people receive special needs children into their families through natural birth, and are no more prepared. The important thing is to make amends with the husband and to heal whatever damage has been done to that relationship going forward.

  19. Christian Soldier

    Don't forget…God is in control!!

    So you tuned out from God, and insisted on doing it your way for your reasons? Don't worry. God knew you would. Jesus defeated death on the cross to carry the weight of your inequities. (1 Peter. 2:24) Every morning you can give it to him and start anew. To presume that your will overpowered the divine plan of God, is perhaps a bit, well…presumptuous.

    Even before the Cross, God was in control.

    Consider Joseph in the Old Testament. (Sold into slavery by his brothers.) Joseph's brothers meant it for evil, and had their own selfish motives in mind, but God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20). God is so great that nothing happens without His permission, and in that permission His ultimate plan unfolds. In His plan He is able to use for good what we may have intended for our own selfish reasons.

    God is in control.

    Lets look again at the Cross! It was by evil means that men lied and crucified Jesus. Yet God in His infinite wisdom used this evil for good. It was on the Cross that Jesus bore our sins in His body and it is because of the Cross that we have forgiveness of sins.

    God is in control, he will provide, and use your situation for blessings. Look, you've already gained insight into yourself, your motivations…and your actions will bless the life of a needy child in the process!

    Score another one for God!

  20. Smoochagator

    THIS POST ROCKS MY SOCKS OFF. Because I've been there – we all have. For years I avoided the church because I had left my first husband and was "living in sin" with another man, and I felt like I was wearing a gigantic red letter "A" on my bosom. Because I'd turned my back on my husband, and broken the vows I took before God, I didn't think I deserved to ever be happy again – to ever remarry, to ever own another home, to ever have children, to ever be financially free, to ever – well, ANYTHING.

    What we often forget is that our God's mercy and grace is unfathomable deep and generous. Even our deepest, darkest secrets and biggest, ugliest sins aren't to deep, dark, big or ugly for God.

    What I would say to the woman on the radio show is, "Honey, you may have made a bad choice, but that's okay, because it gives God a chance to be glorified EVEN MORE." I'd also remind her of Romans 8:28 – "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." That doesn't say that everything that happens is good, or is God's will, or that God causes all things. But in every situation, there is a chance for him to be glorified.

    And for the record, I'm remarried and my husband and I just bought a home together. I'm not a mommy to human babies yet, but I have a half dozen "furbabies." I'm back in church and growing in relationship with God. My life is full of joy and I am constantly amazed at how God has redeemed me and the mistakes I made. He is so good.

  21. Dani

    I'm with Flexo along his/her line of argument.

    That said, how can we presume that just because you are in an uncomfortable situation of your own making that it was not in and of itself God's will.

    I don't fully understand why we think bad situations entered badly are against God's will. Maybe God's will was that you would learn something along the way.

    Maybe God's will can't be measured in the moment but only with time passes.

    If there is one thing I have learned on my own journey is that God has you exactly where you need to be at all times.

  22. Susan L

    I think your answer was excellent and well thought out. I'm curious though. What Catholic show were you listening to? A lot of them are on podcast now. I bet you could look it up and actually hear the response on your computer.

    I'm really really curious. Was it The Doctor Is In? Who was it?

  23. mrsdarwin

    Sounds like you've got one of them "Gilligan's Island" radioes, always cutting out at the interesting parts.

    C.S. Lewis said, in one of his Space Trilogy books, that God can always bring good out of evil, although it will not be the good that he originally intended. Good can and probably will come out of the lady's adoption situation — IF she doesn't get so hung up on "I did the wrong thing!" that she refuses to accept the grace God will give her to live out her CURRENT situation. God's grace is limited to some mystical right path. It finds us where we are. Remember his name: I AM.

  24. Christina

    I've often "gone against God's will," from degrees to moves, to everyday actions and inaction. I think to live is to go against God's will.

    However, when I think of each case, the turning point wasn't when I was able to go back and fix it, but when I gave it back to God and allowed him to bring good out of it.

    Remember, nothing is every completely outside of God's Will, He has at least permitted you to go outside His active will, and He only permits if He can bring about greater glory in the end. Some of the most amazing miracles in my life have come after I "messed everything up" only to find that God is more powerful than any mistake I could ever make.

  25. Flexo

    steadymom Jamie makes a good point.

    If one ever does a good thing for less-than-good motives (e.g. selfish pride) or under a wrongful presumption (e.g. that love, charity, works of mercy, are a zero-sum proposition), the problem is not doing the good thing, but having the bad motive/presumption. And the answer is not to stop doing the good thing, but to change the thinking.

    If I give ten dollars to that homeless guy because I want to pat myself on the back at how good and charitable I am (and buy my way into heaven), the wrong is not in helping the homeless guy, but in having wrongful intentions and ideas.

    If the ten dollars that I give would have gone to support my family, and they starve as a result, the problem is not in acting charitably toward the homeless guy, but in acting as if there is only so much to go around, such that I need to take from one in order to give to the other. The answer is to not treat charity (love) as a zero-sum, limited commodity, but to create more charity/love!

    There are only so many pieces of the pie? Well, bake another pie! Don't take food out of your family's mouth to feed the homeless guy, but go work more and make an extra ten dollars to give to him.

  26. Jordan Henderson

    When you think about it, all of the world is fallen due to someone not doing God's will. We're all off the map that God would have us living in, but he provided a path back.

    But, it's not just the sin of Adam that has put us off track, our own failures and distractions are constantly getting us off track, but again, there's a way back.

    When we feel we're furthest off track is exactly the times when we feel we need to depend on God more. That's not a coincidence.

  27. Josie

    I struggled a few years back with the fear thinking I could/must always somehow discern God's perfect will in each situation. I was lamenting over not knowing "how" to find it once, and a dear dear friend said something to me that I have never forgotten. She said, "God always, ALWAYS, has a back up plan."

  28. 'Becca

    I think your advice is correct. There are situations in which a person who's made a mistake can decide to "un-make" it, but when you're at the point of picking up your adopted child the next day, that's not a feasible decision. So she has to take up that cross and pray for guidance on the path ahead.

    Have you ever seen the card game Chrononauts? It includes a timeline in which some events are Linchpins that can be flipped to an alternate event, and that causes some events in the future to flip over to Paradoxes. For some reason this really clicked with me as a way of understanding history. On 9-11-2001, I found myself staring at the crumbling towers thinking, "No! No! This is the red side of the card! Now our whole future is paradoxed into swirls of emptiness!" But just after Communion the next Sunday, I remembered that the Chrononauts deck also contains Patch cards, events that can be played to heal a Paradox. And that's really how it works: Even if the wrong thing happened, God can patch it up, and what happens then may be quite wonderful.

  29. anthony j

    My wife and I have been married 53 years and have 5 grown sons. Each time a son was born someone would say to me, how will you feed, clothe, educate these kids. Come on, God does things His way. All you have to do is have faith. We got through this with much love and FUN. What a great family we have. Now we have 12 grandchildren and the living is easy. God bless that woman with her second thoughts. Remember, Satan is the one who causes doubt. Faith leads us on the right path, ALWAYS.

  30. cathy

    I've been reading about St. Ignatius of Loyola's Rules for the discernment (from Fr. Tim Gallagher's book "Discernmenet of Spirits), and his "Rule # 5" says as a guideline that when one is in spiritual desolation (feels far away from God and discouraged–even if the truth remains that God is still present), he should all the more make it a point to remain in fidelity with (spiritual) decisions he had made during a time of spiritual consolation (when he felt more assured of God's presence will).

    I think at this point the woman is only hours away from receiving her fourth child, and though thoughts of it are overwhelming, until the reality happens she would not truly know how must strength she has in coping with the new responsibilities she had previously chosen to take when she was still in consolation. I think it would be best to stick to the decision she had made then – after all, even if it might seem imprudent in hindsight, in truth at the time she was not imprudent at all: she was able to discuss it with her husband at length, weigh its pros and cons, consider her reasons for doing so, etc. More strength and grace to encourage her to continue on this path is needed, and discouragement (before reality even strikes!) can only come from a negative source…which may overpower the encouragement that had previously come from a positive one. Should this truly be the wrong decision for her, it will reveal itself in due time, in proper means, but until now, it is not reality yet and it's best to be faithful and trust God's hand is in this (which it really is regardless of how it feels)…

    I guess it's easier to "talk" about it than to be in this situation, however, so definitely persistence in praying with faith at this point is really needed…

  31. Kaylan

    At first when I started reading your article, I thought…wow, that mom really needs to un-do her mistake if she cannot handle a special needs child. But after reading your thoughts upon the subject, I thought your answer was very good. She should pray about it, offer it all up to God and accept the special needs child. Something in her feels the ability to take care of this child and her own biological children, even if pride was pushing her into it. Also, like you said, God can only bless such a situation given that she would be giving a child love. If she were to stop the adoption, I can imagine the damage to the child. The child, if old enough, may wonder, why did they dump me last minute? Or perhaps someone may never adopt him and he'll be stuck in state/gov care.

    I tend to think God works with our faults, such as those who are overachievers…to reach out to others and help. I think it is more sad for those who isolate themselves and don't seem to find any charity at all in their life to partake in. It is all around us, all over the world. There is so much need that those who just have "nothing better to do that weekend" really don't have their eyes open.

    Also, upon reading this, I must admit I have felt the same way in the past regarding my current situation. I fell into mortal sins several times before I married and then suffered tremendous pain and loss in several pregnancies. The medical problems I've had, I have wondered if they are punishments because I veered off the path of God's will. To this day I feel my suffering has come because I did not follow God's will. Not so much as punishment but rather penance. Penance here on earth, rather than after I die. I don't know but I have to remind myself often to "offer it up". If you don't offer it up, it's useless, right?!

  32. Melora

    I want to comment on anon post: God's wake-up calls can become special gifts, gifts "not planned for but much better than anything we could have planned".

    Wow, that was well said! I truly believe this. Three of my children (we have five) were unexpected pregnancies but each one has contributed in such a positive way to the family. Such beautiful gifts!

    To look at their faces and see them smile …. God is truly there!

  33. Amber

    My advice would be what the priest at the Mass I attend says frequently – "God can turn *anything* into a good for our salvation. It might not be a worldly good, it might not be easy, but if we turn it over to him, he can turn anything into a good for our salvation."

    Pretty much what you said, isn't it! But so incredibly vital.

  34. Anonymous

    Haha! You nailed it with your comment about focusing on how best to serve God right here right now — so very Cizekian of you 😀

    And it can never NOT be God's will to do good for a person, so to answer your question … I would have advised her exactly what you said — go through with the commitments she already made and seek to listen better to God from here on out.

  35. Katie

    Because I thought of God's will like a static, paper roadmap, I had this bad tendency to think of myself as being "off the map," in some kind of "out of God's will" no-service area akin to being out of range on your cell phone. "No point in praying," my subconscious mind would mutter, "God can't help you now — he's back in the land of his will that you left when you made that stupid decision!" Though I could have told you on an intellectual level that that line of thinking was as erroneous as it was ridiculous, fear and stress made it surprisingly easy to slide into those kinds of irrational, defeatist thought patterns.

    Boy, does THAT hit home!

  36. Nzie (theRosyGardener)

    This is definitely a topic of interest to me. One thing I'd say, fresh off the "God, lead me to my destiny," prayer in the last chapter of Ten Prayers, is that I think it's easy to be too linear and detail-oriented in this.

    The fact is, just because you've done something and gotten good results and positive spiritual impact doesn't mean that that's what God actually would have had you do if it were his choice. Basically, we can't know that past actions were his will. We can more easily know what wasn't his will (inherently bad things, etc.)– but good "things," even lots of children, may not have been the "roadmap" God had in mind.

    And that leads me to my second point: this whole "roadmap" idea is really inadequate (and I'm totally lifting this from Ten Prayers, which really gave me some good perspective on it). Why? Well, every one of us has a unique path, but God's trying to get all of us to the same place (namely, Heaven). And he can simulanteously offer us many choices, and know which we'll take, and work it into his plan, regardless of whether what we did was the "right thing."

    Of course we should seek his will– but we also need to realise his will can and does take into account our failings, mistakes, and deviations from his plan. He sees us as Notre Dame cathedrals- we might have some problems with the walls, but he can always provide flying buttresses to keep us upward– and that means our mistakes are still there but they don't hinder the plan.

    That doesn't mean we shouldn't try, but I think it's helpful when we think we've failed. God is the master at turning a mistake into just the right detail to do what is necessary.

    I have no idea if I'm explaining this concept well at all, but hopefully so (and without coming off like I know it all– which is far from true, especially when it comes to knowing God's will). The best I can do is refer my fellow readers to that book, because it is well worth it, truly.

  37. Marian

    My head hurts even attempting to fathom God's thoughts over ONE person's life path. There's not just ideal Plan A and Plan B, there are infinite ways that our plans can work together for good, all interwoven with the plans of other people… Oh, my! (Right or wrong, sometimes I kind of envision God having infinite next step plans for us, and He moves fluidly down the list with mercy and grace. Human analogies just fail, don't they?)
    It's just mind-boggling, and He does it all with redemptive purpose! Wow. He's God, and He is able to take even what is intended for evil and use it for good in the lives of those who love Him. Sometimes good, hard lessons are involved in the good in our lives, of course… and I think that's what makes it hard in this situation. If God's good for this woman involves hardship ni this adoption, yet she's thinking this way, she's not likely to get the good out of it.

    As far as advice, that would be a tough one. Here's something I often tell people about adoption: You will likely have moments of questioning, and they can really mess with you ("in God's will" or "out"). Unlike a pregnancy, in which (assuming abortion is not an option for you)once you get that pink line, your decision making about whether or not to expand your family is out of your hands, an adoption involves choosing again and again to say "yes" and move ahead with each and every step. You could abort the process at any point. That's a lot of scrutiny on the decision. In that regard, it's a little like moving between engagement and the wedding ceremony. But unlike a wedding, as natural and right and good as adoption is in one sense– it's God's design for US!– it is also very unnatural. If an adoption is even occurring, it is because something has gone awry from the natural order. It can bring up even more doubt or strange feeling, and Satan loves to grab it to mess up the beautiful plan unfolding. Gotta move on in faith.

    All of that said, "last minute jitters" and honest thoughts like she had are always to be taken seriously. You look at them, pray, and, if you choose to go ahead, you have to put them AWAY and move on in faith that God will be at work where you are, even when the path is rough. As tough as marriage might be, parenting a special needs adopted child is likely to be far tougher, and going into it allowing that kind of doubt and punitive theological thinking will not allow you to cling to God on His path for you, whether it's Plan A or Plan B or Plan ZZZ999!

  38. Flexo

    Of course, it should not go without saying (if it hasn't been said before), that the Father is all too eager to adopt each and everyone of us, even though we are all the most dysfunctional and troublesome special needs children one could ever imagine.

  39. Anonymous

    Hi Jen, welcome back-we missed you. I struggle with dicerning God's will all the time. Often I wonder if I'm using God's will as sort of a coin toss, like," you decide God!" One day while struggling with a huge on going problem(or cross I should say) this thought came to me-I only need to get through today. I maybe can never know God's will in the macro sense but I most always know it in the micro sense. In the immediate. This helped my tired brain and heart a lot.

  40. Jen Rouse

    "Decision Making and the Will of God" by Garry Friesen is a really good book that helped change my thinking in regard to God's will. I don't believe there is one certain, particular, narrow pinpoint that equals God's will for our lives–but rather a wide range of possibilities, of different options, that could in different situations be ways for us to serve God and love others.

  41. Anne Marie

    As an adoptive mom, having had adoptions fall apart, having had an adoption come together with grace and ease, currently in discernment with regards to adding a particular child to the family, I would say God will bless and pour out all the graces necessary for any adoption he allows particularly for a family that seeks his will no matter how imperfectly.

    I’ve not really read much about adopter’s remorse, but it’s an experience I’ve had and I suspect it’s only natural to have concerns about adding a total stranger to the family. It really is a big deal for strangers to come together as a family, it can be scary.

  42. Lana

    Kaylan: no, no! God does not "punish" like that. Mercy really, really triumphs over judgment (see Epistle of James). And penance is not something negative, but rather a turning toward God so that we can embrace Truth. As painful as these events or moments that we call "penance" are, they are invitations to commune with Jesus who suffered for us. So they are invitations of LOVE. That is why we "offer it up," so that we can be welcomed into the Trinitarian Life of Love of Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

    You said: "If you don't offer it up, it's useless, right?!" Absolutely not! All is grace and everything is a gift, it's just whether we recognize it or not. But even if we don't recognize it, or give over our will, it still doesn't change the fact that it is gift, and grace.

  43. Lana

    I kind of cringe at linear descriptions of "God's will." Maybe God sees it that way, but we sure don't. I think of the will of God as being like his breath in our lives; something that surrounds and sustains us. We can't help but be in it, even though we don't understand it. It has everything to do with Love and so only sin can disturb it. This poor woman is so afraid of her little sins of pride and so afraid of her ego that she forgets that her inspiration was one of generosity. Anyone who has children and still wants some must be motivated by love, because the will to be a supermom will only sustain you for about 5 seconds, if you ask me!

    If it really was "too late," no doubt she will find the answer to her anxiety through the love she receives from this child, as if from God himself.

    God always loves recklessly and invites us to join Him.

  44. confused homemaker

    Can't change the past but you can connect with God in the here & now & let HIM use this situation to HIS Glory. Really we all have been in this situation (even if not with a child at stake), have we followed God's will? In the end, it's realizing that even if we didn't we give it up to HIM where we are NOW.

  45. Anonymous

    Hi, I really enjoyed reading this post. I am currently working on a magazine. I was wondering if you would consider submitting it as an article. If so, or you would like to just find out more, then you can contact me on

  46. Melissa D

    I think there's a difference, though, between God's perfect will for us, and our taking a detour from point A to point B and seeking God along that path. Yes, we can find God in every valley, but that doesn't mean that each valley (or even mountain top) is God's perfect will for us.

    I'm thinking of my own past here, where I made some bad decisions that hurt me terribly (premarital sex, marrying someone who turned out to be very abusive) and put me on a long detour to a healthy life. In my case, it took a few bad years of marriage and several years recuperating from his abuse and infidelity until I found and married my 2nd (wonderful) husband and was recovered to the church and to a healthy emotional life and marriage. I sought God while on that detour, but I can say heartily that taking that path was 99% not His perfect will for me — even though there is some redeeming value on the other side, since I can speak out about abuse and learned a lot about myself while going through it, and maybe that can help other women who are or have been abused.

    Perhaps it's different if you're talking about care of a child as opposed to something that hurts mostly just yourself?

    At any rate, the point in the woman's story that stuck out to me was her bulldozing her husband into the situation, and it seems like some repentance and rebuilding of trust in that relationship would go a long way toward true discernment of where God is in her dilemma, and how best to seek Him as a couple.

  47. Robyn Broyles

    What a strange thing, to overanalyze God's will so greatly. The bottom line is this: Is it sinful for her to adopt this child? If not, then it is God's will. This is the definition of sin: an act against God's will.

    I think her question relates more to God's plan. Yet God gives us free will too, and respects it, and works his plan around it. As his servants, we should of course always strive to discern what he wants us to do, but ultimately, as long as we do not choose to act contrary to him, we are doing his will.

    From the story you related, perhaps there was some sin in the decision, pride and a desire for control rather than a surrendering to God. Yet it does not appear that it was at its heart "a sin." It appears that it is a thing that is good, which (because human decisions are involved) was colored by some attendant sins. Venial sins, I might add. Clearly she is repenting of them, and the whole matter would be cleared up by a quick trip to the confessional.

    One of the miracles of our faith is that we need not worry about the past once we have visited the confessional. God does not hold grudges; he abolishes our sin, erases it as if it never existed, almost rewrites history, or more accurately, removes it. This is what "absolution" means. We always deal with the now and the future, once we have been absolved. So you think you went against God's will? You confessed it? Then don't worry; God does not care anymore and neither should you. Look ahead at how you can serve him, and forget about how you may have failed to do so in the past.

  48. CardDolphin

    The first thought that came to mind is "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) coupled with "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9). As long as the woman has acknowledged what she's done before God, she can take comfort in the fact that God will work everything out for her good and the good of the child as well as her family.

  49. Lenetta @ Nettacow

    Excellent food for thought, especially considering that I seem to screw up on a frequent basis. :>) I linked to this on my weekly roundup here, and also the obey your husband post. It really moved me, and I don't know why I didn't link it at the time. Thanks!!


    Smoochagator was right on when she said: ”you may have made a bad choice, but that's okay, because it gives God a chance to be glorified even more.” And it really dosen’t matter if the choise is bad, takeing responsability for your actions, doing the right thing for that child, that’s love in God’s eyes, and that’s enough.

    Liturgy of the Hours

  51. Mary

    Ever had the chance to use an automated GPS system in your car? If you miss the right turn, the system recalculates your route and gives you another chance to get there. Sometimes it involves a U-Turn, but more often the system will ask you to take an alternate route.

    In cases where I worry that I've misheard what I'm supposed to be doing (or worse, know I'm not being obedient), I find it helpful to remember that God's a little bit like that GPS system, without the technical imperfections. No matter what I or anyone else does, he can use my actions to work towards the fulfillment of his perfect plan. He will always provide us with a way to turn back to him.

  52. Anonymous

    I made the biggest financial mistake of my life in 2004. I got tired of dealing with some very irritating neighbors so I put my house up for sale. I prayed and prayed for guidance on what to do. I didn't get any idea of what God's Will for me was. I sunk every dime from the sale of the house into another… I've lost $250,000 and may very well lose the house I'm in. Now I pray for the ability to let it go… and I still do not get any relief. I've prayed for God to touch me in the slightest way… give me just a little sense of peace. I have none.

  53. Roz

    I can't add anything to the excellent discussion already, except to offer a couple of quick-take nuggets that I offer to people in this struggle (and frequently use myself):

    1. God pulls us out of every hole, even the ones we've dug for ourselves.

    2. Our sin surprises only us. God already has it factored into his spreadsheet.

    It may be an incredible blessing that (1) this person is about to embark on a wonderful work of mercy for one of His beloved helpless ones, and (2) she has come to such an awareness of her sinfulness that she won't be depending on her own strength to do it, but will instead depend on God.

    When I left home for college, I deliberately chose a dorm with a reputation for being "wild" because I was tired of being the responsible oldest child. It turned to be a hotbed of fervent Christians who evangelized the heck out of me and changed my life. You never know.

  54. Missy

    There are so many comments already but felt I needed to share my thoughts. First of all, thanks for asking us to share – I think people deal with this more often than we realize.

    My advice to the woman would be to first ask God to make it clear to her. And then like someone else said, consult her husband. I don't agree with some of the comments that "doing good is always God's will". Yes it's true we are to do good but sometimes God's will is no.

    I have a similar adoption story – it's really too long to leave here but in the middle of the adoption God said to wait. I was heartbroken but my husband was at peace about it. Well if we hadn't had waited, hadn't had listened to God's voice (if I hadn't been willing to submit to my husband's thoughts) we probably wouldn't have our 2 babies today.

    Again…story too long – but there was also a time in my left when I left the church, rejected Christ, left my first husband, returned our newly adopted daughter back to her birth mom and ended up living with a guy (who is now my husband). Talk about going against God's will!! But praise God, He is always faithful to redeem and forgive and heal. There are still scars and always will be but He is the soothing balm that eases the pain.

    Like you said the past is the past but let's remember to focus on God's will today!

  55. Kathleen

    I would like to add, as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, that there is always going to be that moment when reality hits home, and you think, "There is *no* *way* I can handle this!" But we, at a societal level, have a big hangup about disabilities, and we forget that on the other side of the panic moment, you discover that a child is first a child. The rest of it reveals itself in time.
    The reality check is valid, but it's only one moment. My daughter's love lasts a lifetime.

  56. cathy

    I just read my post again, and I realize that I might have been referring to nonspiritual as opposed to spiritual consolation or desolation, which is what Fr. Gallagher stressed people to distinguish between when following St. I's rules. So maybe some of my inferences from Rule # 5 are misguided (and I apologize to those who follow St. I's stuff!), but there may still be some helpful themes somewhere in my post, hopefully…

  57. G

    "No point in praying," my subconscious mind would mutter, "God can't help you now — he's back in the land of his will that you left when you made that stupid decision!"

    Jen, I had to LOL when I read that line because the devil beat me up with it for years till I finally figured out who was behind it! After 60 yrs, I can look back & see that EVERY circumstance in our seemingly circular lives glorifies God if we just let it. That's all. "Abandonment to Divine Providence" by de Caussade is the classic on this & it continues to nourish me. Wonderful post. Thank you!

  58. anthony j

    How do you know you went against God's will? You and all of us are in a plan God has for our salvation. You did just what He wants of you. Constantly praise Him and see what is ahead for you. He will not let you down. Pray the ROSARY>

  59. ED

    Yes, I know I'm late to the conversation 🙂

    But my thoughts on this kind of thing have lately been that God, being infinite, does not have one single plan for us that we can deviate from with our free will. Rather, I believe He has infinite plans for us, one for each of the infinite directions our lives could go depending on how we and those around us exercise our free will. We can NEVER go beyond God's plans for us. He has already planned for anything that could possibly happen in our lives. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, He already knows what His Will for us is for every possible path our lives can take.

    Mostly, I've been thinking about this in response to people asking, "How did you know whom God had planned for you to marry? What happens if you marry the wrong person?"

  60. patricia

    Wow, what a story and with so many spiritual variables. One thing I’ve noticed is almost entirely absent here is the most important truth about knowing God’s will. It is revealed in His WORD, the bible. His primary will is that we be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus. The bible also makes clear that carrying for orphans and visiting widows in their distress is a huge part of any claim to faith in Christ that is real and rooted in Him. We don’t find God’s will by our feelings. I think this is part of the lady’s problem on the radio program. Both her desire to adopt, and her subsequent misgivings and fears were anchored in her; her feelings, her needs, her drives. She was feeling oriented and impulse driven instead of commandment driven.

    I say this with understanding and mercy, not with sanctimonious judgement. I’ve been in this cauldron of second guessing many times. this can even sometimes be an indication of spiritual warfare where the enemy of God’s people seeks to derail us into self centered introspection and fear. None of us on this side of heaven will ever have a perfect motive for any holy thing we do. That’s no excuse not to do it. Initially wanting to do something for base motives doesn’t excuse us from repenting and choosing to do it from a desire to do the will of God and honor Him. Our flesh constantly pulls at us. I am learning to recognize its’ piteous whine and seemingly innocent arguments. As a christian formerly of the charismatic stripe, I recall the whole concern about being in the will of God was a big deal in the circles I travelled, and often the subject of great agonziing and concern. It sounded very holy. But what was often, not always, but often behind it? If I am in the will of God, then my life will work out and I will have peace and joy and I’ll be blessed and not in great difficulty and it will go well with me. We thought that being in the will of God meant being protected from difficulty and being “blessed” all the time. Our concept of being blessed meant being happy, at peace and prosperous and enjoying trouble free lives. Often many of us were worried about being in the will of God out of fear of upsetting our own apple carts and not because we were so concerned about pleasing him. Peter was in the will of God when he was crucified upside down. Paul was in the will of God when shipwrecked and bitten by a snake. Jesus was in the will of God when crucified for the sins of the world. We need to be aware of how often sin, selfishness and self will masquerade in the most righteous sounding robes. I do not suggest that we should not seek wise counsel from persons who have walked with God and are deeply into His word and His ways before undertaking such a huge commitment as this lady was about to do. Just that we should be aware of the darkeness in our hearts and how it distorts reality.

    So what might I sasy to her? First I’d want to pray alot for God’s Spirit to be directed not only my words but the attitudes of my heart so that my counsel did not harm. There is a difference between hurt and harm. It might hurt for me to sensitively point out selfishness dressed in robes of righteousness but not harm. That could ultimately be for her good if done in love. If I were to say ” Oh, just go ahead and do it” without truly considering her fears and concerns and answering them from God’s word, I would be doing her harm. Her good feelings and idealistic impulses would sustain her for only so long and then her lack of root in God and His word and her lack of knowledge of His power would cause her to crash and burn, putting her and this vulnerable child as well as the rest of her family, at risk. But in the end, I would urge her to make first certain of her relationship to Christ. I would then meet with her a number of times to help her be established in what God’s will is as revealed in His word and help her build her faith in the knowledge that He is able and the battle belongs to the Lord. She needs to do this in faith and in HIs strength, not her own. If its all about her and what she can do, she will get painted into a corner and fall. If its all about Him and what He can do, she will be blessed and see Him work miracles and give Him the glory. The overriding message she needs to hear is ” HE IS ABLE TO DO ABUNDANTLY MORE THAN WE ASK OR THINK”.

    Thank you for this excellent post. I was most blessed and helped by your words and testimony.

  61. Vitoria

    I like the screen shot while they are wonrikg you only having to pay while they are logged into the system. Would be nice it it was a streaming video so you could see in real time, but maybe that is overkill.Thanks for the idea of having trial competitions and constantly building this administrative position.Seems like you are building solid operation over in that farm of yours Cow.Any chance I could get a peek at that list of what you think could be done in 8 hours? And what is a range of prices one could expect?Good stuff, Cow!Freddies last blog post..

  62. jay

    I am out of God’s will due to sin, and not listening. Would you please pray for me,(Jay) that He will restore me to His mercy and forgiveness. I cannot do anything without Him or His Spirit….This has been going on for 2 years, and I am sick from it. Please help by praying today. Of course I have sinned but God has never been far from me in the past. I know that I insulted His grace, but am begging His forgiveness and mercy….Thank you

      • Heken

        I have completely gone against gods will too and am suffering so much it is almost unbearable. I have every agony and it is all my fault. And gods love and help was immense- I just had to do my part, and I didn’t. Please pray for me too x


  1. How I was reminded that focusing on Christ keeps you sane : Conversion Diary - [...] blessed my initial efforts at the Rosary. As Elizabeth Mahlou pointed out in her great comment to this post,…
  2. 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 55) | Conversion Diary - […] you didn’t get a chance to read the comments to my post about what to do when you screwed…

Connect With Me On Social Media or Explore My Site



The "THIS IS JEN" podcast is on Facebook & all podcast apps


- Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play (audio)

- Get weekly bonus episodes on Patreon

- Sign up for my email list to be the first
to know about new tour dates