How do you discern God’s will?

I’ve often asked this question in counseling sessions. I usually get one of two responses, sometimes both:

  1. “I wait to see which doors open and which ones close”, or
  2. “I wait until I have a peace about it”

When I get one of these answers, here’s what I know: This person is not hearing the voice of God.

Does God speak to you? If so, how exactly does He communicate—and how do you discover His will? Absent clear and unmistakable direction from God, it is possible to live in continual spiritual defeat. We need to hear from God.

When we struggle with discerning God’s will, we frequently also struggle in other ways. We wonder why the “peace that passes all understanding” seems to elude us. Instead, anxiety, frustration, and fear can paralyze us. Often, we simply embark upon a continuum of wrong decisions, some costly.

Regarding response #1 above, I can you tell from experience that open vs. closed doors are not consistently reliable. Does God open and close doors sometimes? Of course. Is that His primary means of communicating His will? I don’t think so. As I alluded to in part 1, over four years of journaling convinced me that what appeared to be open doors of A, B, & C did not necessarily lead to open door D, God’s will for me. Besides, what makes us think that Satan can’t open doors, too? Doesn’t he open doors by exploiting the lusts of the flesh, eyes, and pride? Examples of this occur with Eve in Genesis 3 and the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4.

Likewise, “having a peace about it” is not always a reliable indicator of God’s will. The most obvious way to prove this is to point to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his arrest and crucifixion. Matthew 26 and Mark 14 record that Jesus “began to be very distressed (from ekthambeō, to be alarmed) and troubled” (from adēmoneō, to be in extreme anguish). He said, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death”. Luke 22 tells us, “being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood….” Here we see Jesus perfectly in the will of the Father, as always, but He surely did not “have a peace about it”.

In part 3, I’ll explore what I’ve concluded about how to find God’s will and why it’s so important. I know, I said that at the end of part 1, but I decided it would be useful to first discuss ways we sometimes seek God’s will that are not consistently dependable.

So, tomorrow! Can you stand the suspense?