God’s Will for Your Life in Two Words or Less

We expend a lot of energy trying to figure out God’s will for our lives. We seek his guidance selecting colleges, majors, career paths—all with the underlying notion that there is a hole in God’s plan that only we can fill. We labor away at discerning our special calling in life because we fear that if we don’t, we will (gasp!) be unfulfilled and dissatisfied, fall short of our potential, and be doomed to lead a subpar existence until that merciful day when we pass on from this life and enter into eternal bliss.

While we in the West seem to have a plethora of options for our vocation, most in the world do not have this luxury. Are those without options doomed by their circumstances to miss out on God’s unique plan for their lives? Are we who have some say in our career somehow better than those who don’t? Or, have our options blinded us to the truth about calling and vocation?

We all have a role in God’s work. In some real way, God—who needs nothing and is in no way deficient—has ordered the cosmos such that he needs us to do his mission. But is it a unique role? And if so, what’s unique about it?

We all have a role in God’s work. In some real way, God—who needs nothing and is in no way deficient—has ordered the cosmos such that he needs us to do his mission. But is it a unique role? And if so, what’s unique about it?

Everyone has been wonderfully and specifically made by God. But, truth be told, there a lot of people very similar to you roaming about the world today. Your particular skills and abilities are probably shared by at least a handful of people, and there’s probably someone out there who could do what you do better.

This is not an easy truth to accept. We’d rather point to some unique combination of abilities as proof of our worth. We have made an unholy marriage between our worth and our abilities when, in fact, our worth is not based on anything we can do. If you only had the ability to occupy space, you would be worth no less. You have intrinsic worth simply because God is your creator!

Your role in God’s mission is unique, but it’s unique because of the interplay between you and your present reality. There will never be another you in your circumstances. You, therefore, have the capacity to act as no one ever before ever has and no one ever to be ever will!

God has a unique role for you right now, right where you are. And he’ll have a unique role for you in that as yet distant future, whoever you’ll become, wherever you’ll be, whenever you'll get there. You don’t have to be afraid of missing God’s will because God’s will for you is essentially the same for everyone:

Be yourself.

In New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton writes:

A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak, to [God's] creative love.

But consenting to God’s creative love can be rough!

First, there’s the challenge of knowing how God has made you. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What talents has God gifted you with? How might you be able to invest them? Asking these questions can provoke an existential crisis—unless you ask with the awareness that we can only know ourselves imperfectly—and that’s okay! We all possess differing capacities for self-knowledge. So you can be in God’s will no matter how much you know yourself, so long as you know yourself to the degree to which you are able.

Second, being yourself is rough because it requires that we admit our utter reliance on God. As God’s creation, we are by definition reliant on God for our very being. Without God, we are dead. Yet we try to find all sorts of ways to get around our reliance on God—or at least convince ourselves we don’t need him. Yet, when we truly are ourselves we rely completely on God, submit to his authority, and trust in his goodness. When you figure out how to do all that without any angst, let me know.

Third, being ourselves is rough because it requires that we recognize our limited perspective. We cannot know the outcomes of our existence. We do not know whether our efforts will produce a ton of fruit or no fruit at all, or when. In the absence of this grand perspective we can only be faithful to do what’s before us to the best of our ability, leaving the results up to God. The challenge here is that we live in a results-oriented culture; faithfulness is not our preferred metric.

So, if God’s will for our lives is just to be ourselves, should we even try to discern our vocation? Yes! Of course, we should. If you have the luxury of discerning a career path, you have the responsibility to steward that resource to the best of your ability. So discern well!

  1. Discern without the burden of making the “right” decision. Just do your best. That means doing everything you do in complete reliance on God.
  2. Discern without getting paralyzed. Don’t wait to make the perfect decision and, in so doing, not decide. Every yes is saying no to everything else and that’s completely okay. There is no single right path. And even if there was, you don’t have enough perspective to see it.
  3. Discern without expecting to be fulfilled by your vocation or satisfied by your work. God may lead you to work which satisfies and delights you, but he may not. Fulfillment isn’t the point. Faithfulness is.
  4. Discern for the future without losing sight of the present. Choose to serve God today, in this minute, as you finish reading this post. If you seek God with your minutes, the hours and weeks and years will come.
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