Why is it Sometimes Difficult to Know God’s Will?
Sometimes I wish the Bible were more specific about some things.
When making big decisions – when studying particularly complicated, hot-button topics in categories of worship, morality, or ethics – when giving people counsel – sometimes I catch myself wishing that God had more clearly spelled out verbatim what He wants.
However, God didn’t ask me to write the Bible for Him. And that’s a good thing.
It’s ridiculous (if not blasphemous) to think that I (or anyone else) could improve on the Bible. “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor. 3:19). Not only is God’s Will perfect, but the way in which He communicates His Will is also perfect. “His way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true” (Psa. 18:30).
But this doesn’t answer our question. Why is it sometimes hard to know God’s Will on a given issue?
Some Things Are Concealed
By God’s design, some things to be harder to understand than others. “It is the glory of God to conceal things” (Prov. 25:2). God has not chosen to reveal everything to us.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut. 29:29).
It is a fact that there are Bible teachings I may not fully understand until I leave this world. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to study to present myself approved and work through these questions so I can pursue the most God-honoring option (2 Tim. 2:15). Should I take this job? Should I further my education? Is it ethical to ____ in this circumstance? Will it please God for me to wear ______ or go to _____ movie or drink ____? Should we homeschool? Does ____ have a Biblical right to marry ____? Do my parents need to be in assisted living? Should I talk to ____ about his/her problem? Should we participate in ____?
The Bible does provide answers to these questions (or at least principles as answers), but sometimes you have to do some hard study. In the struggle, we grow to depend on God. And over time – if we make decisions in humble, childlike faith – we will be able to look back and realize He has been working in our lives all along, even when we couldn’t see it earlier.
God has given us a Bible that equips with everything we need to know to live faithfully for Him (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But that is not to say He always gives a checklist or yes/no answers to our questions. Some issues are still hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:15-16).
Why? One reason is surely because God would rather us be totally transformed in the image of His Son than be totally informed apart from any real struggle to better understand His Will. Thus, Paul writes:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2).
This means God has a purpose in allowing difficult subjects. The Christian life is a test. He wants to expose our true motives and priorities, which are most clearly seen in our decisions about more ambiguous matters that may not be “black and white.”
God expects us to follow His Will (Col. 1:10) and He has revealed everything we need to know to live godly lives (2 Pet. 1:3). But He doesn’t want us to be mere automatons that follow a cold set of binary commands. He wants our lives to be living sacrifices, making daily decisions aim to glorify Him in what we do (Rom. 12:1).
God is Glorified in the Struggle
God did not say to Abraham: “I want you to sacrifice your son Isaac as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah. But don’t worry – I’m not going to make you follow through with killing him. At the last second, I will provide a ram in your son’s place.” Even if He had said that, surely Abraham would still have followed God’s command. But God would not have been as glorified and Abraham would not have benefited as much through the test.
It is the tough decisions that separate the wheat from the chaff. When you’re not entirely sure about something, the final decision comes down to what’s most important to you. Do you love the world, or do you love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30)? The answer is seen in the pattern of decisions that emerge over time and we will either conform to this world or be transformed into the likeness of Christ.
God is glorified when – after wrestling with what to do or believe – we choose God over anything else. The question will not be, “How close can I get to sin without actually sinning?” Rather, “What is the most God-honoring option?” As we mature in Christ, difficult decisions become less difficult. “For those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:14).
I don’t claim to know all the answers. When it comes to difficult decisions and complex doctrines, I doubt I will get everything right. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. And thankfully, we have a Savior who laid down His life so that even when we unknowingly err, the sins of Christians are covered (1 John 1:7).
He will never leave us or forsake us. As long as we keep our heads in the Book, He will eventually guide us back when we stray. And if we really will trust Him, like Abraham, we will see that He was guiding us through the difficult decisions all along.
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