Years ago I had a friend who was sure he was supposed to get married. The problem, however, was that he hadn’t had a date in years. When I asked him if he went out much in order to try to meet someone or asked how we was planning to get something started, he simply said, “If it’s God’s will for me to get married, then God will provide what I need.” It sounded so right – too right. I replied, “Bro, unless you’re planning to marry a female pizza delivery driver, I think you need to clean yourself up a little, shave, and get out there to put some things in motion.” We both had a good laugh.
But seriously, most young people of faith I meet seem to sincerely want to know what God’s will is for their lives. They ask questions such as, “Will I ever get married and if so, how will I know if it’s God’s will?” or “What’s God’s will for my vocation?” or “How many children will I have?” or “Is it okay with God to seek to accomplish my dreams?” “Does God care if I move to a new city or transfer to a different university?”
In reality, what we really want to know is, “What are God’s plans for me?” We know from scripture what God’s will is for every person, “this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:13a). Unfortunately, this doesn’t give us much detail. After years of emailing God my specific-detail questions, I finally stopped after never hearing back. Because thankfully, as we all know, this isn’t how God works. (Reminds me of the movie Bruce Almighty).
My point is that much of your experience and success or failure or fulfillment or faithfulness in life, depends on you. Of course, apart from the grace of God we can do nothing, but God seems to respect us too much to do everything for us without our effort and involvement.
While the “will of God” has been the subject of countless books, great speculation, and curiosity over the centuries, at the end of the day, we need to embrace the fact (and mystery) that we will never fully understand all of the whats and the whys, and instead ask ourselves what is within our power or our control to cooperate with God as much as He has given us the capacity to do so.
I am a firm believer that because we are made in the “image and likeness of God”, we were endowed with the gifts and faculties of reason and a free, volitional will. God encourages us to “take dominion over the earth and to subdue it beneath our feet.” He calls all of humanity to make the courageous journey from the 6th day into His Sabbath rest on the 7th day. And this is the journey of our lives and of our faith.
A good friend once told me, “God will not do for you what you can do for yourself.”
At first glance, this took me off guard and somewhat bothered me. It made me feel as though God needed my help or my cooperation in order for things to change in my life. But the more I thought about it, the truer it became.
So as a disciple of Christ (disciple = a continual learner), what does God want you to be responsible for in your life that communicates to Him that you’re paying attention and striving to be faithful with what He’s put under your charge? What is within your power to do that may cause the Lord to say, “Let it be according to your faith”? Here are several suggestions:
1. Develop discipline (which is a similar word as “disciple”).
As you’ve probably already learned, life is hard. The sooner you accept this reality, the sooner you will stop trying to make it easier on yourself. If you are without discipline, you will be without power. Discipline is something that can be developed over time but requires daily consistency. Whether it’s getting to bed early, praying, budgeting, working out, etc… these all require discipline to be effective.
2. Embrace hard work.
The second law of thermodynamics is called “Entropy.” In physics, entropy is a mathematical measurement of a change from greater to lesser potential energy. In simple terms, on a molecular level, all the heat and energy in the universe is in constant decline and unless new energy is brought in from an outside source, things will eventually grow cold and die. Take your hot coffee as an example, let it sit for an hour and it’s cold. This law applies to everything: gardens, finances, relationships, laundry baskets, your relationship with God, etc. If we’re not pruning all the various things in life that require time and energy, they will soon be in a state of chaos.
3. Pray for wisdom.
“If anyone among you lacks wisdom (i.e., you and I), let him ask of God who gives generously to all without partiality.” (James 1:5). I’ve come to realize that scripture encourages us to pray for wisdom because God isn’t always going to give us the answer. Sometimes the consolation or word or sign never comes and decisions are going to need to be made. So we pray for wisdom and trust in God as we step out in faith to make choices.
4. Be quick to repent from sin.
“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” (Proverbs 24:16). God is after our hearts. He wants us to love him out of our freedom. When we fail to do this, God has given us the gift and sacrament of reconciliation. Everybody struggles in various degrees with meeting legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. Instead of being scandalized by our sins, let our sin become true godly sorrow that leads to repentance. This is what I love about the Catholic Church – it always asks and requires more of me. Not from me, but of me. It’s as if the Church knows there is greatness inside of us and She refuses to settle for less than our very best. She calls us to become what we could never become on our own – saints.
5. Spend time with yourself.
Examine your heart and life. Write, journal, reflect. What have you learned about yourself thus far? Admit your strengths and weaknesses, your wounds and insecurities to your closest friends or family. Many of us come from broken homes and are in need of healing. Don’t be so proud that you refuse to seek out counseling. Before you can deny yourself, you must have a “self.” This is the healthy self-love that Jesus implies when He said, “Love your neighbor as (you love) yourself.”
6. Develop an appetite for learning.
When it comes to managing life (i.e., faith, finances, investing, relationships, communication, recreation, etc.) and making it work, there is no end to what we can learn and how to better improve our lives. Beginning with our souls, we’re called to apply God’s wisdom and grace to every area of our lives. Taking care of our physical bodies, keeping a close watch over our finances, planning for the future, growing in knowledge of our faith and the Catholic Church, etc. Use all the gifts God has given you to grow your soul, your heart, your mind – refuse to settle for a half-hearted, passion-less life.