Question: (From a Christian girl in High School) How do I know if God wants for me what I want for myself? I love God and want to obey every and anything he wants for my life, but how do I balance my wants with God's plan for my life?
Answer: Wow! What an amazing question! I do not know many people under 18 that are interested in “balance” — let alone any who are seeking to align their lives precisely with God’s will. That is a wonderful “problem” to have… and may God bless you as you engage in his work.
Your question also tells me that you are probably already faithful in the “big four” — prayer, Bible study, fellowship and service. But today, you are concerned about your future — and especially about God’s plan for you. As such you are probably wondering whether or not you are running ahead of God — or whether or not you are turning aside from the path that he has preordained for you… and I commend you on your sensitivity! But God works out our future-lives by allowing us to work them out for ourselves. So when it comes to aligning your intentions with God’s intentions, you are officially off-the-hook — and here’s why.
If God had a predetermined path for you, then your life would be deterministic — but it’s not… and that notion requires some bad theological anthropology. You see, a person cannot have a predetermined life and true free-will. One might ask then of someone like you (who is primarily interested in God’s will rather than her own will) — would not having a true free-will be an actual problem?
Yes. Volition defines humanity — but it also defines God’s position to humanity (Josh. 24:15; Jn. 1:12). In order for God to receive legitimate glory, honor and worship from us, the people he created in his own image, he must create us to be truly volitional creatures; otherwise we would be logically excluded from “choosing” to live for God or “choosing” to ignore him… because we’d be moral robots rather than moral free agents.
But couldn’t an all-powerful God just fix things to work around that restriction… and maybe even get everybody to heaven in the process? This is a common complaint — supposing that an all-powerful God could do this… but he’s mean, so he just doesn’t. But being all-powerful does not mean that God has the power to become non-God… and that is the problem when people postulate that God could have it both ways. Since God is logic itself (He is truth itself. [Isa. 65:16-17; Jn. 14:6]), he cannot participate in non-logic — which would be falsehood.
Logic demands that God cannot hardwire us in a way that we will worship him (as part of our “factory specifications”) and still have what we do be worship… but let’s say that he did do something like that; what would that worship-looking activity be? It would be the execution of a programmer’s code… that’s all… and such an activity could never be worship. Worship requires volition… and volition requires that we determine our own futures.
Now, God did indeed predetermine certain aspects of our lives — aspects over which we had no control. For example, you did not choose to be born; God just did that to you! He also determined your gender, the time and place of your birth, who your parents would be and the environment of your early childhood. But as you’ve grown, your power as a free-agent has increased, and you are making more and more choices for yourself. But please note this: although God has launched you into life and protected you along the way, and although Jesus has saved you and the Holy Spirit is guiding you (Rom. 8:14), there is no specific “correct path” ahead of you. You get to define that path for yourself… and with your attitude, I’m confident that your life will be pleasing to God. But how does God pull this off? How does he preserve your volition while accomplishing his will? Let’s peek behind the curtain.
We know that God is omniscient — that is, he knows everything… but have you ever pondered what that everything includes? Most people believe that God knows the future, but not many people realize that God knows every possible future. How is that different? This is how God ensures that you will do your best for him without taking away your freedom to choose your own path in the process.
When God looks into the future, he sees every possible future… but he sees you making your own choices in all of those possible futures. And since they are only possible futures, God chooses which of those he will actualize — and that will be your actual future. But, since God will actualize a future based on your free-will choices (remember, he has already watched you living them all out), he did not predetermine your path — you determined your path. God merely allowed you to live out the best of your own choices.
Do you see how this will help with your primary worry — that your self-determination will not align with God’s will for you? That just can’t happen.
In closing, I’ll just remind you that we Christians should not expect a trouble-free life… even though God actualized our best possible future. In fact, we Christian should expect to have trials and seasons of doubt (James 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:6-7)… I mean, look at Joseph.
If Joseph were to envision a future where he would serve God in faith and wisdom, I doubt that he would have envisioned a path where he lay trapped in a pit (Gen. 37:23) — barely escaping death at the hand of his brothers! And I doubt that he would have envisioned watching his gifts waste away while he languished in prison for “the crime” of being an honorable man (Gen. 39:19). What this means, though, is that God actualized all those negative experiences for him… so yes — this was God choosing “bad things” for Joseph! But note that God chose them out of all of Joseph’s possible lives and out of all of Joseph’s possible responses to the problems he faced.
Do you see the logical flow? Joseph first chose to honor God, and then God actualized Joseph’s “best possible” life. It was a life with considerable pain, yes — but look at the fruit: God preserved his people through Joseph’s pain — a result that was beyond Joseph’s sight as he made his choices… and that’s you right now: a faithful woman on a journey to service. Just continue on your current path (that is, keep pleasing God in the here-and-now), and the future will take care of itself.
God bless you.