In summary, God’s regular method of giving guidance is through a combination of principle, preference, and providence. God enables us to discern His will for us by asking for His help, prayerfully using our minds by thinking through how Scripture applies, comparing alternatives, weighing advice, taking account of our heart’s desire, and estimating our capabilities. What more He may do in a particular case cannot be anticipated in advance. But wisdom will always be given if we are humble enough to receive it.
A Caution and a Comfort
Along with this “prescription” for discovering God’s will comes a warning label. Difficulties are inevitable whenever we take one aspect of the process to the exclusion of the others. The two most likely “single source” solutions people wrongly trust for finding God’s will are God’s providence and our feelings. When either one of those are taken to the exclusion of all the others—more often than not you will encounter the second warning: Bad decisions have consequences, and sin always does. “Some people ruin themselves by their own stupid actions and then blame the Lord” (Prov. 19:3, GNT).
When it comes to our personal decisions, knowing God’s will is still an inexact science. The Scriptures tell us we are to consider our heart’s interests and desires, but the heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9). We are to seek the advice and counsel of others, but the advice of one can conflict with advice from another (Prov. 18:17). We are to take into consideration our circumstances, but circumstances alone are not an infallible guide (Gen. 3:6). We are to seek God in prayer, but His answer will not come in the form of any direct revelation or vision (Heb. 1:1–2).
It is not true you are left with God’s second best for the rest of your life if you make a mess of things with your decisions. God will always accomplish all His holy will and ultimate purposes for us in all things, working even in and beyond all of our decisions, even those that are poorly made. “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me” (Ps. 57:2, emphasis added). God promises He “will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever” (Ps. 138:8, emphasis added).
The peace and confidence we have in our decision-making is that God loves us, and that He will work in our decisions for our ultimate good and His final glory. God is able to intervene and direct our paths. God will always accomplish His supreme purpose in every decision we make, though decisions made after we have sought Him biblically (through the Word and prayer) and made with the right motives (a desire to do what is good and right for His glory) will generally make things easier for us in the here and now. And even if we mess up—and we will at times mess up and face negative consequences—God will still oversee our lives, with all of our sins and mistakes, for our good and His glory. The peace and comfort we have shielding us from the howling winds of anxious fears is that He is still the God who, by His sovereign will, “all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).