When faced with indecision, have you ever found yourself wishing that God's will for our lives came in fortune cookies that fell from the sky?
Say yes. Turn it down. Find a new job. Marry him. Handy, clear little directions so we don't have to think so much, don't have to grow spiritually, don't have to get distracted from the great engrossment of living our lives.
Well, God's will assuredly doesn't come packaged in fun-size servings for your convenience, at least, it very seldom does; hopefully it shouldn't be so hard to understand why.
Fortune cookies being out of the question, most Christians can probably give a good description of how to actually 'seek God's will.'
Pray earnestly and persistently about it...seek the advice of others...examine what principles should be guiding us by reading and thinking over the revealed will of God, as it's called, in the Bible.
These things take time, and effort, and often don't reward us with an instant answer of trumpet-call clarity. True, all those books and movies utilizing variations of the Grail/quest motif should have taught us, by now, that seeking anything important or meaningful is a complicated process; sometimes painful, sometimes long, but always an effort, a labour.
But what do we do when we've prayed--we've thought over--we've asked--prayed and prayed again, without sensing any answer, and finally in frustration demanded of God, What on earth do I do?
What I would like to do is not to reaffirm the usefulness and importance of these means, or how to go about them more effectively; others who are wiser and more experienced than me have probably done plenty of writing and thinking on these specifics already.
What I would like to suggest, instead, is to look at them with a different perspective.
When we see them as the accepted formula to get the guidance we need, perhaps we're being just a little short-sighted. Perhaps we're only seeing the crossroad immediately before us. And that's why, when they don't seem to 'work', we get frustrated and impatient, because we see all our efforts as the coin we've stuck into the drink machine. We need our can drink, it's owing to us, in fact. Come on. Hurry up, come out. I've given my coin, I'd better get something back for it.
Seeking God's will is actually a long-term thing which shrunk to a short-term thing in our minds because we don't seek it all the time. We've reduced it without thinking to a compartmentalized one-off answer--do I take this job? do I date this person? do I try again? do I go, or stay?--
--when really, God's will should be a concern in our lives not only when we're standing at a crossroads and have to make a decision. It should be our concern even when we're absolutely sure of what we need to, should do; absolutely sure of what we must not, cannot do.
It is a way of life, and not merely a yes-no to whatever decision that is uppermost in our life right now.
If we know Him, understanding His will comes naturally; just as we don't need to do much secret research on a birthday present if it's for someone we love dearly and know inside-out. As such, it's a relationship. We need to seek a living, personal relationship with God, based on a good conscience and a true understanding of His person. Grace as our basis for even starting this journey. The goodness of God as the starting knowledge we build on.
Instead of 'seeking God's will' we should be seeking Him.
There can be no loss in knowing Someone so good, better.
Sometimes, growing up seems like a massive game of Stress Management where you move on regardless of whether you've passed the last level.
Stress management, by the way, is a delicate euphemism for balancing between the panic-attack and heck-care ends of the spectrum. We've all been there; actually, if we're being honest, we're all there (present tense.)
If we define stress as our emotional response when we can't control our lives--either because things happen, or because of our limitations--we should realize that stress actually doesn't directly equate to things beyond our control/limitations.
Rather, it's our emotional response to these things.
And so instead of thinking that the answer lies in trying to be better prepared, improving ourselves, pushing our limits, working harder--perhaps we ought to take a look at our emotions.
Why should our inability to control our lives make us so messed up inside, in the first place? Sometimes it's good to take a step back from things we take for granted, to take an E.T perspective towards our human pysche.
If you think about it--that is, to me the explanation seems quite obvious--the magnitude of our response (= our stress) is at least somewhat influenced by our very human pride and desire to have our lives as pleasant as possible, and in our definition of pleasant, at that (regardless that that definition can change any time from twenty years later to tomorrow.)
Which, from a Christian perspective, is reassuring, because we know those two motivations are not infallible truths, and we don't have to be enslaved to them as such. Trust in a God greater than our limitations, wiser than our minds can comprehend, more loving than we deserve--trust that as His children, a 'happy ending' is still possible, always possible, for us, regardless of how tragic or hopeless things may seem now.
As result, times of stress for me have been times when I--without having much of a choice about it--was pushed to redefine what trust means. What humility means. What peace means. To accept and admit that I can't always do what I want, everything I want, as well as I want to, and that's okay--my worth and my life's purpose aren't affected, even if it may not work out just as I would have wanted it to. This is amazingly liberating--but it is also really, really hard. For someone who likes to think she's efficient and productive and a perfectionist, (you may roll your eyes)--it's like rewriting DNA.
But then, isn't it? The emergence of the new man?
This is something that is not much use as a tip that you throw at people, the way you can throw smart study tips. (actually, even study tips require you to be personally convinced and dedicated, to be really effective. In that case replace study tips with pre-exam rituals--brainwashing mantras the night before or a lucky eraser or the most fortuitous method to pick MCQ answers.)
It's something that is only someone else's rambling until it becomes a personal conviction you directly relate to. Trust is such a vague concept. So is peace. And even, in many small ways, humility. I could never understand why the Psalmist longed so fervently for God to give him peace, until I realized how much I lacked it myself in times of stress or uncertainty.
I am thankful for every little bit I've learnt, so far; more able, now, to keep everything together, so to speak--to be hopeful and work hard without flying to pieces in a flurry of wild depression or panic; to see a bigger picture and value the process rather than just the result.
I want, though, to be more cheerful. I want trust to empower me externally as well as internally. Not just calm the stormy morass of emotions, though they're still quite a handful; but enable me to be more cheerful and patient in my behaviour to others.
When I first read Martin Chuzzlewit I remember being much stricken with the character of Mark Tapley and his inexhaustible good cheer. 'Jolly, sir!' was his signature remark and life motto; the more depressing, the more hopeless the situation, he would be more cheerful and hopeful to the people around him who needed it. I remember realizing I wasn't much of a Mark Tapley.
So often when we're struggling to cope with stress, we put ourselves by default on centimeter-long fuses, live in perpetual bubbles of highly-flammable self-pity that we expect other people to make way for wherever we go. We don't have a right to make other people stressed because we are, and even if we did, it's not going to lessen any of ours. And our trust is not very strong if we're still acting like we're martyrs in a zombie apocalypse every time we get stressed.
These last few weeks before my first year finals, I hope I'll have the strength to live this out. As much as I'm convinced this is something worth striving for, I know it's not going to be the most enthusiastic or successful experience.
Pray for me.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are