Every Christian I have ever met has an interest in and a desire for pleasing God by living in accordance with His will. When it comes to personal decision making—especially in seemingly large, life-affecting decisions (“Is this God’s will for my marriage partner?” “Is it God’s will for me to accept this job offer?”), we want God to give us His counsel, His advice, His direction. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. In especially hard decisions, we want to make an appointment with God and sit down across the desk from Him and explain to Him the situation and the decision we face and then to sit back and listen and have Him tell us exactly what decision to make. Or—maybe even more honestly—what we want is for God to decide for us so that we won’t have to.

The question is, does God direct us when we make personal decisions, and if so, how can I find that guidance? Or, can I know in advance God’s will for me in matters not explicitly spelled out in the Scriptures? While we cannot know God’s infallible will about anything except that which is revealed in Scripture, we are not to think that we have been left on our own with no assistance from God. The issue is not one of God’s willingness to assist but of the methodology by which God has stated He will give that assistance. What we find is that finding God’s will in personal decision making is a process, not an event. It is a process wherein we follow principles that God has given in His Word.

Here, then, are the means by which God has promised to give us the aid we so desperately desire when it comes to making specific decisions for our lives. While they are listed in no particular order (except for the first two, which are necessary and foundational), when woven together they are the means by which God ordinarily directs us in the way we should go.

  1. The Bible: God’s revealed will and “our only rule of faith and life”

God’s speaking in His Word is the only inerrant and infallible source of guidance and counsel concerning any decision. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules” (Ps. 119:105–6). We can know with certainty that any decision that involves violating what God has already said cannot please Him.

  1. Prayer: Rooted in faith that God hears and cares

He is a loving Father and is delighted to help in the decision-making process. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, it will be opened” (Matt. 7:7–8). “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

God’s speaking in His Word is the only inerrant and infallible source of guidance and counsel concerning any decision.
  1. The counsel of godly, mature, biblically knowledgeable Christians who know you well

There is great benefit in consulting those who can confirm our decisions or alert us to potential dangers, challenges or other factors (blind spots) that we may not have considered. “Wisdom is found in those who take advice” (Prov. 13:10). “Plans are established by counsel” (Prov. 20:18). One of the most frequent violations of this general principle is asking our (sometimes less mature or even non-Christian) friends, who will most often say what we want to hear. Hence, the caveat “biblically knowledgeable” since “the counsels of the wicked is deceitful” (Prov. 12:5).

  1. God’s providence in arranging, confirming, creating, and giving direction

While circumstances cannot be infallibly interpreted, nevertheless they can be indications of the Lord’s direction. As God sovereignly ordains whatsoever comes to pass, it is comforting to know that “what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Rev. 3:7). Unsought opportunities can be the work of the Lord, and an openness to God’s redirection in timing or opportunity is a factor to be considered along the decision-making path.

  1. Walking in obedience to the light God has already given

Since we are to “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7), there is no reason to expect God will honor our requests for guidance about things unknown if we are already willfully ignoring Him on things He has made known. As James points out, “That person must not suppose he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:7–8).

  1. Your own interests, giftedness, desires, and talents

God regularly directs His will through our desires, gifts, and talents. He has often gifted us and hardwired us for accomplishing His very purposes in union with the things we like to do and are skilled at doing. “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Rom. 12:6). “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him” (Ps. 37:4–5). “The desire of the righteous will be granted” (Prov. 10:24).

  1. How will it impact others?

Does it affect you only? How our decisions affect others is a consideration that can lead us toward—or away from—decisions we might make otherwise if we had only ourselves to consider. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

  1. An internal sense of peace, or lack thereof

This may be the most abused criterion for determining God’s will. “I just feel this is what God wants me to do” is more often used as an excuse for sinning than as an indication of what the Lord truly desires for us. Our feelings do matter—not as the final determiner but as one of the ways God can work to confirm and guide. There is something to be said for having peace about a matter. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7).

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.

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).

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