What is God’ will? What does it mean to seek to do his will in various aspects of life?
After cursing the fig tree in Matthew 21, Jesus tells his disciples: “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” (Mt. 21:22) In John 14, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” (Jn. 14:13-14)
For many people, prayer is making requests and waiting for a response. I’m not judgin’ it; I do it, too, sometimes. Granted, I’m not asking for a Maserati or to win the lottery, but I am asking for things I genuinely want. “God please help me with the friendship.” “God please help get a good grade on this exam.” “God please send someone to ask me have Chili’s with them.” “Jesus, you know that I love you; now please make this or that or the other thing go away/get better/happen/not happen/etc.”
But after all, Jesus said that whatever we ask the Father in his name will be given to us. So where’s my Chili’s? God’s up there like:
We always hear the classic adage: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” There’s a lot of truth there, of course. The committed disciple is the one who has come to know Christ, to trust Jesus, to depend on him for everything. I know that he really does have a plan for my life and that this plan will not lead me astray or to an unfulfilling life; the Lord promised as much to Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have in mind for you…plans for welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” (Jer. 29:11) There’s just one problem with all of this….why does it often seem so dang hard to figure out, to discern, what exactly these plans are?
“God, what do you want for my life?” “God what should I do in this situation?”
Usually: silence. Awkward silence. Uncomfortable silence.
What does he want for me? God, what is your will?
Ultimately, he wants us to trust. Remember, we are human beings, not human doings, so any concrete fruit playing out in our lives must spring up from the very depths of who we are. Who cares about all the good you do if you don’t know and love Jesus Christ? The truth of Christianity rests fundamentally in the fact that Jesus is a savior, who has come to seek and save and heal and transform, and I do mean transform, the entire world. He has conquered death and forgiven sin and reconciled us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit so that we would live in an intimate and unceasing unity with him, beginning even here and now. “Eternity is now. Eternity is you, Lord,” writes Cardinal Robert Sarah in his book, God or Nothing.
Let me try putting it this way. Christians, especially Christians involved in evangelization (see, it’s funny cuz that’s technically all of us; cf. Mt 28), must stop operating out of an up-down, vertical worldview; “earth is here, hell is down there, heaven is up there.” Take up, instead, what can be called a horizontal worldview, an eschatological worldview. Salvation history is going somewhere, it is heading somewhere, toward someone, and by virtue of the death and resurrection of Christ, as well as our baptism and redemption in Christ, we can participate in this mystery even now. Heaven, therefore, isn’t some faraway place that maybe I’ll see after my 10,000,000 years in purgatory are up, but is instead full, perfect, abiding communion with God the Holy Trinity; the foundations for this union are laid, so to speak, beginning now. But it’s a choice; God doesn’t force us to do anything. God is love and true love is never forced. It requires an act of the will from both parties.
Alright. I told you that to tell you this: following “God’s will” is not just our completing a set of actions that we believe he wants us to do. More than anything, it is a surrender in faith and the keeping in mind of what Paul tells the Romans: “We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him.” (Rom. 8:28)
So the prayer goes from, “God, what do you want? Tell me!” to “God, I want to want what you want, when you want it. I want to live and move in the world according to your will.” In this way, praying to know and do God’s will becomes an act of trust: “Father, I trust that what happens, how things play out, is according to your will because I trust you, and I love you.” And he works for the good of those who love him!
I’m firmly convinced that things will go a lot smoother (indeed, things for me have gone a lot smoother), when the syntax of the prayer changes. We must go from “tell me what you want me to do” and eventually arrive at “help me to be who you’ve made me to be; help me to trust you, and to follow your lead.”
The last point is the hardest: whose definition of ‘good’ are we going to use? When I went to Wichita for a mission trip this summer, I put the whole trip in God’s hands, and put the ball in his court; “God, I trust that whatever happens is your will and I’m just finna roll with it.” So if God is working for the good of me, the one who loves him…why were there so many hardships? Why was the travel so difficult? Why did I get in an argument with one of my best friends over something dumb? Those things aren’t good.
Well, in the sense that by “good” I mean “desirable” or “fun” or “to my advantage,” then, yeah, I’d say those things were not good. But if by good I mean, “for my benefit” or “helpful in the long run” or “what God has in mind for this particular moment” then maybe the hardships and things we have to put up with are not so bad after all.
Surrender to the will of God really means surrendering to and trusting in the goodness of God and in the particularity of his knowledge and care in the realness, everydayness of Ryan Adorjan’s life. Not every moment with God is a time of gigantic revelation or earth-shattering development; these moments, while exquisite, are painfully rare.
Doing the will of God means being okay with going with the flow, being okay with not trying manipulate or manufacture everyday events and encounters, and being okay with living in the quiet, abiding presence of Almighty God.
He is the man with the plan; the time has come to mean that when we say it, and to really trust that in his goodness and in his time, all will be revealed.
Eternity is now, God is really here. Emmanuel, remember? Die now, be hidden in him, and become who you are.