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Alive to God, Content with Not Knowing

In making decisions we want to know what God’s will for us is. Which job is the best one for you to take? Is that a good deal on that car or house you’re looking at? What do you say to your loved one that you’re not getting along with?

Hearing God’s voice (discerning his thoughts) is essential to life, but we may try too hard to know God’s will. Hearing God is part of an intimate relationship with him — it’s not a device for making our lives easier. More important than hearing God speak is being submitted to God’s purposes and enjoying his presence, even when we’re not sure what his will is regarding a particular situation.

Sometimes God does not want to tell us what to do! Instead he wants us to trust that he is with us and will help us to make a wise decision by following the general counsel of his Word and the guidance of trusted friends in the Body of Christ. Even then we may feel unsure about what is the best course to take.

Not Knowing

How does it feel for you not to know what is best or to be waiting and waiting for discernment on which path to take? Many people I talk with are quite anxious about not knowing what to do or whether or not things are going to work out for them — to be in a state of not knowing feels out of control and anxious. For most of my life this was true for me. Ironically, what I learned is that if we’re anxious it makes it harder for us to hear God’s voice or even to make a wise decision!

Five hundred years ago Julian of Norwich wrote about this:

It is God’s will that we should pay attention to all the deeds he has done, for he wants us to know from them all that he will do, but we must always stop ourselves from considering what the [next] great deed will be. And we must pray to be like our brothers and sisters who are saints in heaven and who only want what God wants, then all our joy will be in God and we shall be content both with what is hidden and with what is shown…

The more anxious we are to discover [God’s] secret knowledge about [the matters that concern us], the further we shall be from knowing it. (Revelations of Divine Love, p. 87-88)

Optimal Stress

Recent scientific research has proven the truth of Julian’s insight that generally, as our anxiety increases our effectiveness decreases. In all areas of life — whether in our work, relationships, or faith — we function best if we’re in a state of “optimal stress.” (See my article, “Optimal Stress.”) In other words, not only is it a problem to be over-stressed, it’s all a problem to be under-stressed. Instead of being anxious or apathetic we want to be alert — alert to God’s presence and activity as we go about our daily lives.

To be alert to God, but not hyper or obsessed with hearing from him, requires that we be joyfully content in his kingdom — even when we don’t know what God’s specific will is regarding a decision we’re facing. It’s okay not to know what the best thing to do is as long as we do know and trust that God is with us. (I elaborate on the difference between seeking clarity from God versus trusting him in our devotional, “Praying for Clarity from God?“)

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