After an interesting event last night and after going to a Joel Osteen event Friday night, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the idea of God's particular will for each individual's life and about the Christian obsession for finding it. And while the idea that finding God's will for your life being a form of bondage may seem counterintuitive, I believe to some extent we Christians have been fed some seriously misguided teachings.
One of the most quoted pieces of scripture, especially when discussing God's will for us is Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Usually those who are seeking God's will, some great plan laid out for them by the Almighty, use this verse as a promise from God that He has some great plan for us that will prosper them and keep them safe. They see it as proof that if they just figure out what God's big plan is and follow it, God will protect them from all harm and provide a warm and comfortable life for them to live.
Unfortunately, if you read the whole passage, this is not a promise that God gives to all His children. It doesn't matter how many coffee mugs and key chains this is printed on, it isn't a message to anyone but those who have been exiled by Nebuchadnezzar. There is no guarantee that God will prosper us and not harm us. In fact, one of the promises we do have is that we will be persecuted, have struggles and suffer for the will of God (Matthew 5:10-11 is one of many places where this is promised).
Because of all the false teaching on this verse, and entire ministries that are built on false teachings of this verse, many people fall into a subtle, but dangerous bondage. They begin to believe the lie that says if they aren't prospering according to the world's definition of prospering, if they are being harmed by what they are doing, if they are confused about the future and losing hope, then they are not in the will of God. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The result of this bondage seems to be the hoards of Christians, standing around waiting for a big lighting bolt of insight from the sky about what they are supposed to be doing. They fritter away their lives waiting for the thing that will prosper them while they miss opportunity after opportunity to serve God's people. They spend countless hours reading and hearing speakers talk about how to find God's will for their life and eventually use their supposed lack of clarity as an excuse to not jump into opportunities to serve. What they truly are doing is focusing on themselves and how God can serve them, which stunts their growth toward being more Christlike (more on that in part 2).
It's time to give up the notion that God's will for our life is going to be easy and prosperous. God's goal for us isn't to uplift us and make us comfortable. God's goal for us is to become more Christlike. Though the rewards of that are huge, the pain of getting their is excruciating.
No one knew this more than the apostle Paul. He was obviously living out God's specific will for his life. Yet it got him thrown in prison, caused him much personal strife and sacrifice, caused him a thorn in his flesh that hurt him daily, cost him a number of friends and tore his heart to pieces. God's will for our life is more about denying ourselves and picking up the cross and carrying it than it is about our prosperity and comfort.
As much as I hate saying this, I'm led to believe over and over again that if Christianity doesn't hurt, you're not doing it right. The goal is not to be uplifted but to become Christlike. And Christ was crucified. God wants the crucifixion of our flesh (Galatians 5:24) so that our spirit may be free. Don't let the desire for prosperity and protection from harm keep you in chains.