Q: How can I know God’s plan for my life? I’ve always felt that God was leading me to go to medical school, but recently I’ve started seriously thinking about working with Doctors Without Borders. For some reason, it kind of feels like the thing I’m supposed to do. Could this be God speaking to me?
Don’t we all sometimes wish we could just get a detailed life map that shows us exactly what God wants us to do? Maybe that’s because we’re afraid that left on our own we’ll mess things up along the way, or maybe we’re facing a tough choice and just want to know what is the “right” thing to do. As Christians–and especially in our teens and early 20s, when we’re making so many huge decisions–we talk a lot about God’s “plan,” “leading” and “will.” To tell you the truth, I think we overuse those phrases. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that at times God directly “calls” someone to do something specific, either in a moment, or as a lifetime mission. (We read about many of those callings in the pages of Scripture.) But I also think that sometimes we try to spiritualize the choice we’re drawn to in any given situation by saying that we feel God is “leading us” or “calling us” to a certain school, or to play a certain sport, or to go on a short-term missions trip.
About a year-and-a-half ago I read a book I wish I had read a decade ago: Decision Making and the Will of God (by Garry Friesen). It’s a thick book filled with a lot of heavy topics. If you’re up for a long read, I highly recommend it. But just in case you need the Cliffs Notes version in modern English, that’s what big sisters are for!
In a nutshell, Mr. Friesen argues that instead of trying to figure out God’s “personal will” for your life–in decisions like whom to marry, where to go to school, which car to buy and what career to chose–your time is much better spent figuring out what God’s Word says on the subject, applying the wisdom God has given you, and then choosing whichever option you like best! And let me tell ya, this method of decision making brings so much freedom!
Let’s look at each of those steps again:
Spend time really seeking out what the Bible has to say about the decision in front of you. If God’s Word is clear on a subject (like not dating unbelievers, not working for someone who exploits the poor, etc.) then your decision is made for you. In the pages of the Bible, we also find verses that guide us to examine our motives in making a decision (like not putting any person, job, or accomplishment in the place God deserves in our life).
- Do your homework. Research, pray, and ask the opinions of godly people who are wiser (and maybe have a few more grey hairs) than you.
- If the Bible doesn’t give a command or principle that directly speaks to your dilemma (in other words, you have a “nonmoral” decision to make), you’re free to choose whichever option you want. Any decision you make that doesn’t go against God’s Word is fair game.
- No matter what choice you make, be humble enough to trust the outcome to God. He gives us the freedom to make many decisions on our own, but that doesn’t mean He’s going to leave us stranded to face the consequences (good or bad) alone!
The bottom line is that God wants to be intimately involved in the process of our decision making. He wants to use these tough decisions to draw us to our knees and closer to Him. I have a feeling that is more important to Him than which college we choose, or what job we pursue. Our whole lives should be about becoming more like Christ, no matter what our circumstances, right?
Now, let’s apply this new decision-making technique to your situation, whether you should go to medical school or directly to Doctors Without Borders. I can’t think of any Scriptures that address either one. They both sound like amazing opportunities. I would do some more homework, more praying, and more asking around. Think about your motivation behind each of those options, and ask God to reveal any areas of your heart that might be tainting your view. Then use that gorgeous head God has given you and make whichever decision you feel is wisest for this season of your life. Whatever you choose, allow God to grow you, stretch you and make you more like His Son along the journey!