As a pastor, one of the most common questions I receive from people is, “How can I know if this decision I need to make is God’s will or not?”
And I almost always reply, “Tell me what God’s will looks like to you.”
Most of the time, the answers sound similar: “Well, I know that God has a perfect plan for my life. I’m just terrified to make a decision that isn’t a part of that perfect plan. So how do I know if what I’m about to do is the right decision or the wrong one?”
After all, Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plan I have for you,’ declares the Lord.” Right?
It actually says, “’For I know the planS I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘planS to prosper you and not to harm you, planS to give you hope and a future.’”
Let’s set aside the argument that this verse should only be applied to its original context with the People of Israel, and make the assumption that it can still apply to our lives today. Notice that there isn’t just one plan; there are multiple planS. I do not think this is unintentional. Also notice that those multiple plans do not spell out specific details, but rather point toward a desired outcome or end-goal.
This verse took on new light for me when I heard a brilliant man named Reuben Welch explain the will of God as being “less like a single beam of light and more like a spectrum of options.”
I’ve taken that idea and formed a metaphor that I like to share with those people who come to me with this question:
Think of God’s will as being less like a single-lane road and more like a multi-lane freeway. Instead of having one lane that you are always trying to stay in, terrified that you might accidentally stray from it, God’s will might be more accurately portrayed as a multi-lane freeway, with several options to choose from, all heading in the same direction.
As long as you’re on the right freeway, heading in the right direction, you can find comfort that you are “in God’s will.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared that metaphor with someone and witnessed an instant sigh of relief. Although there are times in life when we think it would be easier if God could just show us the single lane that God has designed for us to be in, I’m not sure that’s how God works. I believe God gives us choices and says, “Take your pick. These seven lanes are all good. They’re all heading in the right direction.”
You can extend the metaphor in many ways. For example, there are other freeways, travelling in a variety of “wrong” directions, and they are constantly tempting us to “take a detour.” Or, I had someone once say, “I think there are also pilot cars that God puts in your life to help make sure you are travelling in the right direction.” There are also times when the traffic gets bad, and life forces you to slow down, and times when you speed up and change lanes over and over.
Take it where you will, but the bottom line is this: If you’re in a pastor’s office asking, “How can I know if this decision I need to make is God’s will or not?” chances are, you’re probably already closer than you think.