A lot of us struggle to figure out God’s will for our lives. Maybe you’re in college, uncertain about what the future holds. Or maybe you’re considering a career change. You’re not feeling settled where you are at, and you’re wondering if God has something different for you. But it’s hard to know!
Struggling with God’s Will
When I was in college, I struggled A LOT with this question. I remember one time in particular, I was trying to decide if I should go into full-time ministry, or attend graduate school for psychology. I was torn. I prayed about it, but I didn’t sense a clear answer. I asked close friends and family for advice, but everyone had a different opinion. I read the Bible searching for answers, but I couldn’t find clarity.
Handwriting on the Wall?
I told my dad that I just wished God would give me handwriting on the wall. My dad thought about what I said, and told me that handwriting on the wall only happened once in the Bible (Daniel 5). And the guy died that night! Maybe handwriting on the wall wasn’t the answer 🙂
I talked with my mentor about trying to figure out God’s will for my life, and he told me a metaphor I have found helpful when I’m struggling with this question.
He said God’s will is like a big sandbox. There are some parameters. In other words, you need to stay in the sandbox. But there is freedom within the sandbox. In other words, you can play on the swing, hang out on the monkey bars, or play in the sand with the dump truck.
Let me unpack that a bit:
First, there are some parameters to God’s will. What does it mean to stay within the sandbox? Here are two key parameters to God’s will:
- Align your values with God’s values. Values refer to what we think is important or worthwhile. Values are important because they guide our actions and behaviors. I believe there are 3 key values that are emphasized throughout the Bible: love/mercy, justice, and faithfulness. Jesus put it this way: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). How closely do your values align with God’s values? Staying in the sandbox means that we value what God values.
- Put your talents to work. In one of my favorite parables, Jesus tells the story of a master who entrusted his wealth to 3 servants (Matthew 25:14-30). He gave them each a certain amount of money—5 bags, 2 bags, and 1 bag. When he came back from his journey, the servant who was given 5 bags had put his money to work—he earned 5 more. Same thing with the servant who was given 2 bags—he earned 2 more. The master blessed these two servants. However, the man who was given 1 bag just buried his bag in the ground—he didn’t do anything with it! The master was furious with this last servant, calling him wicked and lazy. The message is clear. We need to be responsible about using our gifts and talents. Staying in the sandbox means that we work hard to bless others with what we have been given.
Freedom in The Sandbox
When I talked about the 2 parameters for staying in the sandbox, I didn’t give a lot of specifics. The parameters didn’t tell me, for example, whether I should go into full-time ministry or attend graduate school for psychology.
Sometimes the lack of specifics can be frustrating. You might be like I was in college, wanting handwriting on the wall. But I think there’s a reason God doesn’t give us that: There is freedom within the sandbox.
God’s will isn’t the same for every person. God created us uniquely, with different gifts, talents, abilities, and interests. In the Bible, Paul uses the metaphor of a body to make this point (1 Corinthians 12). The eye and the ear are different, but both are essential to the body. In the same way, even though we are each different, all types of people are needed and valuable to God.
Because of this, there is freedom within the sandbox. We don’t criticize a child for playing on the swing, hanging on the monkey bars, or playing in the sand with the dump truck. All of that is okay, because they are using their gifts and talents in the parameters of the sandbox.
In the same way, as long as you are (1) aligning your values with God’s values, and (2) putting your talents to work, there is freedom to do what you want. Where do you find yourself coming alive? What issues or problems tug at your heart the most? What activities do you lose yourself in? As long as you are staying within the parameters of the sandbox and putting your talents to work, don’t worry too much about finding God’s will for your life. Do what you love to do and don’t look back.