Is it my whim or God’s Will?

I’m often either asked this question or have discussed this with other Christians. With so many gray areas in life—where doing a variety of things would fall inside the will of God—we long to know the choice God would have us make. What’s the best path?

 

I’ve met a number of aspiring writers who wrestle with this issue, too. Many people “have a book in them.” Perhaps they start writing as an experiment to see if they can really get some words down on paper. At this point it’s more of a whim. Some people give up relatively quickly; they find the idea of writing more fun than writing. They never make it a priority, letting other interests in life take precedence. For them, writing is probably a whim.

 

But there are others who find writing exhilarating. They delight in exploring and expressing what’s on their heart, something they’re certain will benefit others. At some point they become convinced God is blessing their efforts, and they want to share what they’ve written on a larger scale, often through publication.

 

So at this point does it cease being a whim and become something they’re just beginning to realize was God’s will all along? Has God called them to be a writer?

 

I’ve heard it said there are only three answers to our prayers: Yes, No, or Wait. But even when we get clear answers, the results aren’t always what we expect.

 

Sometimes when we think God is leading us in one direction and we come upon a closed door, we might think that means No. For example, if publication doesn’t happen is God saying no to your writing efforts? Every writer I know, regardless of how talented, has been rejected in one way or another. I know one writer who worked toward publication for twenty years. How many of us would have given up on a goal long before that?

 

I’m in the midst of a wonderful Beth Moore Bible Study right now, and one of the personal examples she gave included how she seeks God’s will for her own life. They include these ideas:

Begin by making a really specific prayer request. Don’t be shy when asking God for direction!

 

Look to Scripture for an answer. The Bible is how God talks to us these days. It’s always amazing to see how timeless the Bible is; people who lived two or three thousand years ago really aren’t much different, at least on the inside, than we are today.

 

Ask God to help us recognize the answer. Staying in the habit of being in continual communication with God is always a good idea!

 

Ask God for confirmation.

 

Did you notice a couple things? All of these steps demand a certain amount of time, as well as a lot of prayer.

 

I would add one more thing. I’ve always thought it a good idea to consult other trusted Christian friends. With writers, it’s important that we seek outside input with our projects—from trusted and experienced eyes. Is the input from others confirming the direction we feel led to take?

 

So what kind of methods do you use to determine whether your next project, the next turn in life, the choices you make, would be a whim or God’s will for you to follow?

27 Replies to “Is it my whim or God’s Will?”

  1. This is a great post/discussion. I wrestle with this same question often. Lately, God has been showing me that I need to move in His timing, not mine. Many times I try to run ahead of God with a particular “whim” that I am feeling and I become convinced that my timing and choices must be right. However, while I’m racing ahead with my ideas, God is saying in a still small voice, “Wait… Trust me. Wait for me to move. My plan is so much wiser and better.”

    I’ve been trying to wait and listen and that has helped tremendously in determining the next step, whatever it may be. Also, by learning how to wait and listen, my prayer time with God has increased tremendously and that makes a big difference in being able to recognize if I am running ahead of God on a whim, or whether I am staying within His perfect timing/will for my life. I also strongly believe that if you are earnestly seeking to follow Proverbs 3:5,6 (Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean NOT on your own understanding, in ALL your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”) in your life, then being able to wait and listen to the Lord and follow where He is directing, will become so much easier.

    Another area in my life that God has been teaching me, which kind of builds on this concept, is learning how to submit to whatever He is working in my life, whether I see it as good or bad. It so much easier to listen to God and have a better sense of where He is leading You if you let go of the steering wheel and allow God to take over completely. Confidently choosing to live a life of complete submission to God, no matter what that looks like.

    After reading Jerry Jenkins book, “Though None Go With Me”, it was impressed upon my spirit to pray this prayer daily…

    “Lord, help me to live a life of complete submission & obedience to You, and in humble service to others.”

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful thoughts, Ritty! Your experience is so on-target, that the more we stay in tune to Him the easier it becomes to sense His will. I think when we have our own past to look at to see His faithfulness, it gets easier to trust Him with our future. I’m echoing your prayer!

  2. Great post, Maureen. That’s a question that never really goes away. So many times I fell like I have to step out in faith that God will change my course if I’m headed in the wrong direction because if I just stand back and wait to feel certain about his plans, I’ll never move. Sometimes I only get that confirmation you spoke about in hindsight. And let me tell you, there are times when God has slammed a door in my face so hard it made me cry, but later I thanked him for the redirection. We must live in a constant state of submission in order for him to lead us. A tough task, indeed.

    1. Karen, your post reminds me of something my husband quoted to me the other day, something he came across in his reading. This other person said to God: “Lord, if this isn’t the way You want me to go, you’d better slam that door because I’m headed for it full steam ahead.” In other words, he doesn’t want to be stalled with indecision, but might get hurt when that door gets slammed. As you said – ouch! But somehow I think standing still would be worse.

  3. If we believe in a sovereign God who is never taken by surprise, but rather plans and ordains all things for the good of His people (Romans 8:28), then I don’t believe the question is ever “what does God want me to do?” The question is, “how do I best glorify God with the gifts and opportunities He’s given me?” This may not be an easier question, but I think it’s a better question. If you have an ability and a desire to write, then write. Is God glorified when you use a gift He has given you? Of course! He hasn’t gifted everyone to the same degree (we’re not all called to be C. S. Lewis), but how far your gift goes is His business–whether it’s just to bless your friends and family, or whether it’s international book sales.

    And if you’re blessed to be good at a number of things, look at where God has placed you in life. Which gifts are best suited for where you are? I’m a musician, and when I was a teenager I had aspirations of performing professionally. In God’s providence, that never happened. But I use that gift to play for church and for pleasure, and I don’t feel in the least as if I’ve missed out. You may have “missed” an opportunity to be a teacher or college professor, but maybe now God has put you in a place where you can teach Sunday School, or homeschool your own children. And perhaps all along you’ve had the burning desire to write, and God has now put you in a place in your life where that’s something you can pursue. I think that’s where I’m at right now.

    That’s my take on the topic. I hope that helps someone.

    1. I really like what you had to say here, Colin. I think sometimes we get so paralyzed by fear of stepping in the wrong direction that we never step at all. Some people have a very direct and clear call on their life from God. For others, I believe God would be equally pleased with them regardless of which choice they opted for in areas such as career path or schooling or family plans, etc. It all comes down to what you said – glorifying God in the situation you are in.

    2. Thanks for your thoughts, Colin! I love what you’re saying. I think another way to say it would be to see where God is already working, and then see if our gifts can fit a need. If we look at it from that viewpoint, it takes away some of the negative feelings we might have, because it shifts the focus from us and our desires to what God is doing. A great way to remember what’s really important!

  4. Nothing like a profound post to start the morning …
    Sometimes our “whims” are God’s will –and I think that’s exactly your point: discerning the difference. (And sometimes our whims take us away from God’s will for us … and that’s a problem too.)
    It’s important for me to have my “safety net,” which is another term for “trusted counselors” — people who know me sometimes better than I know me. They know my strengths, my weaknesses, my limitations–and sometimes they hear God when I can’t over all the maybes and shoulds and shouldn’ts –all the noise. I may know the “right” answer, but that doesn’t mean I know the answer that’s right for me, right now.

    1. I love your use of “safety net” here, Beth! God hasn’t placed any of us alone in this world, and I really do think those around us are there for a reason. Confirmation can often come through those He’s placed in our life.

  5. This is a deep subject with which I wrestle on a daily basis. Your post and the comments provide much food for thought. Thank you.

  6. This is hugely appropriate for me right now, as I have been wrestling with this very question. I appreciate your tips for discerning whether it’s will or whim. I admit, I don’t often God directly for an answer. How can I expcted to find a concrete answer if I don’t seek one in the first place?

    Many, many thanks, Maureen.

    1. I’ve been guilty of the same thing, Michelle! I’m sometimes a little timid in my requests, but I think God is as offended by that as by doubt. And yet when I search my heart I don’t doubt Him – all I have to do is look outside my window at Creation to know God must love us or He wouldn’t have given us such vast and varied gifts. So the next time our prayers are too vague let’s remember today!

  7. Thanks, Maureen, for this great food for thought. Over time, God will certainly confirm whether or not we’re following His will. If we’re not, the crash will be loud. If we are, the doors will continue to open and confirmation received. Blessings!

    1. Thanks, Donna! That hindsight is always so clear, isn’t it? If we do face a crash there will undoubtedly be some kind of alternative, because life goes on despite our own choices (the good ones or the bad). I’m of the mind that God’s blessings are sprinkled on various pathways, and challenges, too. If life was automatically easier for Christians everybody would be one, with only common sense and no faith required. 🙂

  8. Hi Maureen-

    First of all, I literally JUST finished “On Sparrow Hill” last night and LOVED It. I devoured both it and “The Oak Leaves” in less than a week… what powerful stories! Thank you for them!

    Second, I’ve been really struggling with God’s will in my writing life a lot lately. A lot of factors have led me to believe that maybe it’s time to give writing up all together or at least set it aside for awhile and while everything in my fights against it– I love writing– I’m really trying to pray about what God is calling me to do. Thanks for the post that really outlined a lot of what I’ve been feeling.

    1. Thanks for the kind words about On Sparrow Hill and Oak Leaves, Erin. I’m glad you enjoyed them!
      About God’s will . . . I think at some point all of us must struggle with what roles or assignments God has given us. And some of the seasons in our life are certainly better than others! To me, those less-than-desirable seasons are the ones we need to remind us of where our real home is, where our real value can be found. Sometimes joy isn’t in the fun stuff, it’s discovered in the hard stuff.
      And those seasons where we can’t write? I had fifteen years away from writing, so I pray your season isn’t that long, but please know that the experiences you have along the way will enrich the writing to come!

      1. Like Erin, I just finished reading “The Oak Leaves.” Reading that novel, Maureen, opened my eyes to so many lessons that God is trying to teach me – trust, obedience and that God directs our lives. I’ve found prayer to be a great solace and also a guiding force as I seek to follow God’s intent for my life.

  9. This was an excellent post!
    I went away this past weekend to spend some time with 2 friends, but also to spend some quality time with God. I had been praying for wisdom for quite some time about my writing, and a few other issues. On the last day, (after he had shown me several things) I “reminded” him that we would be leaving later so if he had anything else I needed to know…as if he didn’t already know we were leaving! After I prayed that prayer, I opened the Beth Moore Bible Study I’m doing and the treasure for that day’s lesson was Isaiah 11:2 “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD.” He will give me wisdom right when I need it.

    1. I’m laughing about how we “remind” God of the things we think He ought to know! As if we can only be in tune to Him under the right circumstances. Isn’t it amazing how we limit Him – even as He teaches us He’s limitless?

      Thanks for the Isaiah quote – it’s so perfect, and reminds me how consistent the Bible is no matter how many voices the Lord speaks through.

  10. Great discussion! Thanks for the thoughtful post, Maureen. I think if we’re serious about being Christ followers we all wonder from time to time if we’re in God’s will. While it’s frustrating at times to figure out, I think the awesome thing is that we have to lean close to God to hear the answer. So regardless of the answer, we’re walking beside Him. And that’s got to be a good thing, right?

    1. So true, Megan! I think that’s why He isn’t always concerned about how easy our decisions are, He wants us to get used to leaning on Him.

    1. Great advice, Lucille. I love that image about pushing on doors – sometimes a variety of them! Next time an opportunity arises, I’m going to use that visual about a gentle push and an earnest prayer. Thanks!

  11. Seeking God’s will also requires a certain amount of courage and a whole lot of trust. Trust that His will for us is really what is best for us, and the courage and trust to know that He will equip us for anything He calls us to do.

    Encouraging post!

    1. So true, Erica! If someone had told me when I was a kid that I’d grow up to be the mom to a profoundly handicapped child (who is quickly turning into a young man!) I probably would’ve been terrified. But here I am, taking one day at a time, rejoicing in the little things – tho still sometimes worrying and fretting about the future. That’s when it really comes down to what you’re saying. Courage and trust, and that my son’s life is a gift from God. I need to trust His plan for everything – including my son’s future. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. That is such a timeless question that all Christian deal with, whether its writing, job concerns, or relationships, it’s always the same question “Lord is this your will for my life?”
    Like many writers sometimes that question stalls me for long periods of time. Am I wasting time writing when I should be doing something else? But if He didn’t want me to write then why do I have this run-away imagination and overwhelming passion to put those ideas on paper? But my years have taught me to be patient, all things will be revealed in His timing, not ours. Then I think ok, maybe I’m supposed to develop this talent he has given me, and if that is true then I have hindered my own success by continually putting it on the shelf as I struggle with direction.
    He will reveal all things in His timing, amen?

    1. He certainly will reveal all things in His timing, so amen to that!
      I’m of the mind that writing is never wasted; we’re learning something new about ourselves or the world or God, processing everything through our own filter and growing from it. I can’t say everyone who wants to get published will get published, but before I became published I reached the point where my time spent writing was more about obedience than publication. I felt God’s pleasure when I wrote, for the kind of reasons you cite: the imagination He gave me accompanied by an overwhelming passion for it. So I just kept at it, and I’m still holding obedience over worldly results – mainly because with something that fits me as well as writing does, I know I’d write whether or not I was published.

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