Most of us wish life were easier. If we’re being real for a moment, aren’t there times you’ve wanted someone to just tell you the answer? Or solve it all for you? And don’t we catch ourselves praying for this, as well?
We come up to crossroad experiences all the time. Which choice, which action, which thing is right? And maybe they both are, but will bring different consequences. Or maybe they’re both wrong—and panic grips our heart, right?
One of the hardest things we ever attempt is to know the will of God. It requires that we set aside our preferences, our selfishness, our pride. It requires our hearts to be stripped bare of worldly influences, with only humility left on the altar. It means we have to quiet the outside voices—even our own voice—and just listen to what God wants. It’s very hard to do. In fact, it’s so hard that many people live their entire lives without ever doing it once.
Without a doubt, people describe burying a child as the worst thing they have ever endured. Burying any loved one is heart wrenching. But these are the times when we have to reach beyond our own strength and discern the will of God. Will we be able to feel his love during grief like that? And will we stay close to him through such intense adversity?
Other trials visit us as well, which require true humility to learn the will of God. I think of a man who was so enraptured with a certain young woman that he wanted to marry her. Blinded by his infatuation, he didn’t pray to know if this union was right, he just plunged ahead, and found himself in a lifetime of anguish that could have been avoided if he had taken the leap of faith to learn God’s will and then follow it.
You want to buy that gorgeous house, but in a prayer you get the feeling this new location would not be good for your son. He will not meet the right friends in this neighborhood. If you choose the less flashy home, he will be in a ward of strong friends and his future will be more secure. Do you have the faith to set aside your own pride and listen to the Lord?
Your in-laws have made it clear they don’t like you. Every holiday, every gathering is taut with tension. Defensively, you do nothing to build bonds, writing them off as people not worth the trouble. But do you pray to know the will of God? And will you act upon that once you learn it? Some of us don’t even approach Heavenly Father with our dilemma because we don’t want to follow through with his answer.
You have children who have strayed. You’ve agonized as you’ve watched their unfortunate choices and you’ve prayed for miracles to help them come back. But what is God’s will? Is it to force them back? To cut them off? To nag them endlessly? Maybe it’s simply to love them and be patient. Maybe it’s to apologize to them for something they now resent. Maybe the answer is hard, an answer you don’t want. But whatever it is, you won’t know unless you pray with an open mind.
Forgiving those who have wronged us is another tough battle. But without even praying about it, we all know the will of God is that we forgive others. All others. So now we come to the second hard thing: Will we do it? Will we stop nursing that grudge, blaming, enjoying our suffering, and garnering sympathy? Will we finally move forward and let go of the past? Here’s where knowing God’s will is the easy part, but doing his will can be the trial of your life.
This second hard thing, doing God’s will, often takes courage. And God knew it would require every shred of our faith and commitment. But he’s there to buoy us up, to succor us as we struggle, and to bless us when we conquer.
Jonah is a great Old Testament example of someone who knew full well what God wanted, but ran away from the assignment, and tried to hide. Aren’t we this way when we get a prompting and we ignore it? So often we pray to know what’s right, get an answer, and then pray hoping for a different answer. An easier answer. The one we want. It’s been said that when people ask for advice they already know the answer but don’t like it. So we keep asking opinions until we get the one we like. And some of us keep praying even after the answer has been given, hoping we can get God to change his mind.
It takes great faith to do difficult things. And the setbacks that come into our life can be difficult beyond our imagination (look back at the things you can’t believe you’ve survived). But that’s the path to peace. When we can pray to know God’s will, and then summon the faith and courage to do it, we have the guarantee of ultimate victory. We will be right with God and man. We will know in our hearts we chose the higher road. The secret has always been to pray and then do. And then, despite life’s hardships, we will finally know absolute peace.