The Road Taken…Or Not


The Road Not Taken

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
“Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
“And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost –

Robert Frost and I both have wondered about which road to take. How about you?

Agonizing over decisions–past, present, or future decisions–knowing that choices have consequences and wanting with all our hearts to choose a path we won’t regret. As Christians, you and I have an even greater concern–doing what God would have us to do.

Finding God’s will is daunting in a complicated world–paralyzing even. With alternatives that “pile up sky-high” and well-meaning advice in abundance, it’s often easier to just stay put instead of risking making the wrong decision.

Recently, I noticed that a lot of my friends–men and women alike–are struggling with finding God’s will. I started to ask around and read a few books–and I made a discovery!

I discovered that most of us suffer from a misunderstanding of what God’s will really is.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to explain the problems with the modern–and quite prevalent–view of God’s will, present a more Biblical option, and explain how we can apply this better view to making decisions. Sound exciting? I think it will be!

As we get going, I hope you will comment, sharing your experiences and questions about God’s will. If all of you send in enough questions, I might even do a Q&A post featuring YOUR questions about finding God’s will for your life!! Comment away!

“How do I know whether something is what God wants me to do—or just what I want to do? What if I feel like it is God’s will to do something that my authority disagrees with? I thought this job was God’s will, but now I’m not so sure. What do I do now?”

This seems to be the crucial moment for many of us. Our entire futures hinge on the paths we choose in the next few years. What college major? What job? What ministry, new town, person to marry, church to attend? Well-intentioned neighbors start asking, “What are your plans?” It can get overwhelming, especially when clear direction doesn’t seem to be falling from heaven when we need it.

My goal is to give you some hope. There is a way out of all this frustration. As I’ve examined the facts, I am convinced that there is a way to get free of the confusion and doubt and guilt. We don’t have to have writing in the clouds, wet fleeces, gut feelings, signs from heaven, or anything like that in order to make choices that please God.

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“Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives. And yes, we can be assured that He works things for our good in Christ Jesus….But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, He does not burden us with the task of divining His will for our lives ahead of time…. I’m not saying God doesn’t care about your future. I’m not saying God isn’t directing your path and in control amidst the chaos of your life. I believe in providence with all my heart. What I am saying is that we should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tightrope, or a bull’s eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel.”

Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, pages 24-25

As I prepared for this post, three books shaped my opinion on God’s will: Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen and J. Robin Maxson, Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur, and Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. I am indebted to these theologians for the content you are about to hear. Check out the bottom of the post if you’re interested in learning more about these resources!

Why NOT the Modern View?

This might surprise you: there are actually three kinds of Gods’ will that theologians discuss.

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God’s sovereign will is His secret plan for history that no one knows until it happens. This is unchangeable–everything that has happened, happens today, and will ever happen. God has it all in His hands. What comes to pass is His will, His sovereign will.

Another kind of God’s will is God’s moral will. This is how He wants us to live, revealed in Biblical commands. We have many commands as Christians—be thankful, pray without ceasing, live at peace, be diligent, be generous, take suffering patiently. Simply, God’s moral will is how He wishes us to act—which can be summed up in Love, loving God and loving others. Colossians 1:9 is just one example of this kind of God’s will:

“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…” (NASB, emphasis added)

For centuries, these were the only two kinds of God’s will that Christians considered. However, over the last several generations, people have become concerned about a “individual will” of God that each person has to somehow decode. This “individual will of God” concept is so dominant today that most of us grew up with the idea. On closer examination, the modern view is actually full of inconsistencies, encourages guilt, doubt, and frustration, can be distracting, and has little Biblical support.

First, what is this Modern View? It is that God has a perfect plan for our lives that He expects us to figure out in order to have success. This individual will of God can, according to proponents, be found through circumstances, counsel, impressions, feelings of peace, signs, and sometimes even casting lots!

“In the conventional view of God’s will…we get the impression that He not only hides His will from us, but He then expects us to find it. So we obsess over God’s will of directions, eventually getting frustrated with God for not showing us what He wants. We end up disappointed with ourselves or angry with God because we can’t seem to figure out how to find God’s will for our lives…..

“The way many Christians treat God’s will is no different than you might treat a horoscope. We come to God and we want to know, ‘Is the job market good for Kevin today? Will I find my true love? Should I live in states that start with the letter A?’”

Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, pages 46-47

Let’s start with what the Bible has to say about this idea.

First, there’s a hefty amount of good teaching in the Modern View.

It’s not totally wrong, and it’s not outside the realm of Christian thought. We aren’t heretics if we believe this way. God does have a beautiful plan for each of us, down to every detail, like the number of hairs on our heads. But there’s also an assumption there—that we have to decode this mystery path in advance, or at least in advance of each step.

Does the Bible suggest that this should be done? What about faith? What about trusting God for what we can’t see?

Read through Paul’s epistles and look at the context of “knowing God’s will.” Each time, the emphasis is on good works—not finding an individual guidance system, but on doing the moral will of God. Proponents of the Wisdom View, the alternative to our modern view, have examined these verses and others, demonstrating that when the Bible speaks of God’s will, the context points to sovereign will and moral will rather than an individual will (see Decision Making and the Will of God for a thorough theological analysis.)

Another problem with this modern idea of God’s will is that it can be terribly distracting!

Ironically, a concept meant to ensure obedience to God has turned into a roadblock to doing what God wants of us. Instead of getting things done, many Christians—especially Christian young adults—are waiting around hoping for God to beam down an answer to their every directional query. God expects us to roll up our sleeves and love others—but we’re often too busy waiting around to discover who and where and when we’re supposed to love. Our top priority should be doing what we already know we’re supposed to do from reading the Bible.

Also, many people have become discouraged with trying to discern the next step in God’s will.

They agonize over decisions that God doesn’t address directly—no Bible verses to be found that say, “Thou shalt marry Bob” or “Thou shalt move to Maine” or even “Thou shalt take Calculus II.” (Although I’m sure most of us are glad about that last one not being in the Bible!) It is sad that something that is supposed to be so joy-filled and free as following Christ has become such a heavy burden–surely an indication that we are adding unnecessary regulations to decision-making! This is a sure-fire way to feel guilty and full of doubt for the rest of your existence, as you second-guess your way through decisions, wondering why God hasn’t revealed to you the next move. This miserable path is definitely not how God wants us to live!

Finally, this Modern View is just plain inconsistent.

Think about it. So, you’re supposed to find out before any decision—without a shadow of doubt—just what God wants you to do. Do you limit this to only big decisions? How do you know what is a big decision? What if what appeared to be an inconsequential choice turns out to be a life-changing event?

Do you see the problem? To be consistent with this view, you’d have to decipher everything—and I mean EVERY thing! What grocery store to shop in, what color of shirt to buy, what pair of shoes to wear each morning, how many bites of breakfast to take…where would it end? Does God really want to micromanage these aspects of your life—aspects that He has given no specific command about?

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At this point, I’m hoping that you are all feeling the relief I experienced. A great burden is lifted! We don’t have to scout for a subjective word from heaven! We don’t have to agonize over equal options! There is freedom!

So…if the modern approach is lacking, how DO we make God-glorifying decisions?

I’m glad you asked. Tune back in next week and we’ll talk about it! 😀

If you want to get ahead of the game, here are the books that helped me as I studied God’s Will:

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Chased by the Multitudes


“And seeing the multitudes…”

– Matthew 5:1 –

Do you ever feel…chased?

About to pop for one minute of stillness? One blessed second without voices asking for favors, more tasks added to the to-do list, another job arriving in your inbox?

Multitudes find me, especially at the end of the day, when the day’s grit has scraped a raw path between my toes. My skin and my patience both wear thin.

Multitudes seek me, especially in the early morning when the sky is a quiet, starless navy in the hour before dawn. I try to soak in the peace–but then it shatters.

Multitudes swarm. In the house, in the driveway, in the church down the road, in Wal-Mart. Everywhere.

I wonder how Jesus did it. I’m not God, I don’t do miracles, I have sin weighing me down–but how did He handle the constant press of bodies, the endless needs, the truth-hungry, the miracle-seeking?

I think Jesus was emotionally and physically drained at this point. Mark’s Gospel says:

“And He said to [the disciples], ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” – Mark 6:30

I don’t pretend to understand the full implications of the total humanity and Divinity in Jesus. All I know is He is sinless, yet voluntarily vulnerable to grief and pain. Some commentators suggest Christ’s withdrawal was to get out from under Herod’s nose, since it was not His time to die, nor was His death meant to be a beheading like John’s. But as my family recently read this passage, I jolted, realizing the draining situations He had just left behind.

It’s part of humanity–rejection hurts. People he loved turned their backs on Him–family perhaps, craftsmen who had grown up hewing wood with Him, women his mother had often accompanied to the well, families that his family had traveled with on the way to Jerusalem for Passover. These weren’t random strangers, these Nazareth-born Jews that rejected their Messiah. They were his brothers-in-law and childhood schoolmates. This is not a glancing blow–what a sorrowful, deep wound for Jesus! I think we are mistaken to think that just because He is fully God that His Deity shielded Him from hurt.

If this were you, how would you take it? What if your siblings thought you were crazy? What if your extended relatives called you a blasphemer? If your church tried to throw you in jail or hired a hit man to get rid of you? If the kids down the street that you played with growing up, your classmates throughout school, all of the people who had rubbed shoulders and gone traveling and laughed and eaten with you–what if every single one of them rejected you, viciously?

The ache. The disappointment. What a heavy spirit Jesus surely carried after that encounter!

And then to find out that John the Baptist had been murdered by the manipulated Herod Antipas. Jesus’ ministry had launched out of John’s proclamations, grown by the disciples that John had nurtured. The wild joy and fearlessness of His cousin surely had refreshed Jesus many times–and now he was dead.

Matthew 14:13 recounts:

“When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by himself.”

He took his disciples and left.

“Yes. Rest. That’s what we need.” Don’t you know that the disciples were relieved to shove off from shore and row to a place free of Roman puppets and cranky neighbors and–most of all–free of people!

So they got away, to a deserted place.

And, almost before they could turn around, the crowd appeared. Five thousand men, not to mention their wives and children!

And Jesus had compassion on them (Matthew 14:14). Compassion.

When the day has wrung me out, I don’t feel like compassion. I feel like running. I feel like hiding. I definitely do not feel like teaching, or ministering, or feeding one more. I want to get away and rest a while. Or forever.

But that is not what our Savior did. He stayed.

Of course, there are times that we must rest. But for most of us, that time is NOT just whenever we feel tired, is it? Again and again in our lives, we have to push on in spite of pain or exhaustion. We have to work toward the prize. We have to pray for compassion, for enough love to give to just one more person before we collapse into bed at night.

Press on, sisters. Don’t lose heart.

Cry out for one more drop of mercy to share, one more word of love to scatter, one more smile to brighten a path. Let’s be women enough to rejoice and thank God even while sweat is dripping from our faces and our muscles burn with effort.

Because the multitude is so much more than just a cluster of unmet needs.

In the crowds He sends to us, Jesus often tucks in someone who needs just what we have to give.

Tucked in His own multitude of 5,000, low-on-faith disciples watched and wondered. A boy saw his lunchbox turned into a banquet. What joy!

Are the sufferings now worth anything compared to what we are promised in return, one day?

This, like so many things, is about faith.

How we face our “multitudes” is about faith! Do we really believe that God will reward our labor? Do we really believe that we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9)? Do we really believe that the next person that comes in front of us is a person we are heaven-called to love? Do we really believe what Jesus said–that the last will be first, that whoever loves Him will obey Him?

With wisdom, we will take breaks. We should seek rest and recreation, allowing ourselves to be refreshed, enjoying the good things that God provides.

But let’s not wimp out, girls! We have a mission of love to accomplish, and such an awesome Captain leading the charge!

So next time I get up early and my silence shatters…

The next time you drive into the lot and the people descend…

Remember Jesus’ compassion. Remember how much we are forgiven. Think of how lavishly we are loved–and then, “go and do likewise.”

Besides…who is to say? Sometimes we are the teacher at the front of the crowd.

And sometimes we are the needy child, carrying a sack lunch, unaware of the glorious blessing about to swoop down on our head.

As Morning Arises


“For in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

– Colossians 2:9-10 –

 My Jesus, Thy kindness, as morning arises,

Breaks light o’er the shadows of sickness and pain.

Your love inexpressible, patiently wrestling,

Striving with me as this Jacob says

“Bless me, my Lord!”

In Your goodness and power,

You reply softly, “Why do you doubt?

My love, you are Mine, and always will be.

Look now–thy blessings are bought,

Ready and waiting, more vast than the sea.”

My Lord, oh, my Lord, hear my joyful cry,

My life made abundant in Him crucified.

For long before my anxious pleas,

God sent His blessing–the Prince of Peace.

Someday soon a morn will arise

With healing and beauty and glory again,

Restoring completely this globe wrecked by sin,

The Prince in His fullness to come as reigning King.

My Jesus, Thy kindness, as morning arises,

Breaks joy over my heart, a blessed refrain.

Give me eyes to see that in You I am complete,

As redemption draws closer and the groaning world waits.

Birth of Friendship


“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…'”

– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

We all know why the ugly duckling thought he was ugly.

We call it comparing apples and oranges, that way he measured himself by what he was not.  His fuzzy gray wings–turning white, made for soaring–would never resemble the gleaming, multi-colored plumage of the adult ducks. His ugly feathers made him fear that he would always be an outcast, fitting with neither the adults nor the adolescents. None of the other ducklings were gray. None of the others were turning, slowly, white. But his gloomy contrast to his fluffy yellow siblings was not a true comparison at all, was it? He was a swan, not a duck. When he saw swans skimming across the sky, he felt the connection–the call of the sleek birds that resonated within him.

That’s the grace of sameness, the gift of friendship. When God made us, He formed each of us into a distinct personality, complete with skills, expressions, desires, and a future than no other person shares in the exact way.

But, in the middle of this distinctiveness, He placed a capacity to belong. He sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). Not just biological families, but in groups of acceptance.

What if God had made us all to be loners, incapable of finding a true place to simply be?

Instead, He created a niche, a place where we could say “What? You too?” There’s another person who “gets me,” more of the same kind as me, people who accept that I am one of them. This sharing goes beyond external preferences to the inner person–there are people that, however different, still embrace and understand.

Of course, we’re all at different places. Just because God created us to be relational creatures doesn’t mean that relationships are pain-free, does it? I remember lying on my bed as a little girl, crying, because I just wanted a friend–a real friend. Some days even now, I ache for the far-away people I love, wishing I could just give them a hug or hear them laugh. In a curse-laden world, loneliness still happens. Estrangement still happens. Sin still separates.

And yet…

Yet, there is light in the dark, however fragile it may seem. With gospel-grace, some families cling together in redeemed relationships. Some friends still live out fifty years of fellowship, growing closer as the decades roll. Some marriages, bound together by the love of Christ, still endure till death truly parts. In a world where it is easy to get lost, we still have the hope of finding a home.

Some of you read this with sadness-you haven’t yet found a home as secure as that. Has God made you relational in vain? Has He given you a capacity that He will not satisfy?

For you there is a home–and a home for every one of us, whatever the state of our families or friendships!

Ultimately, your craving for a place was created to be filled by the Only True, Living God.

HE is your hiding place, the secure home where you can rest and be known fully. HE is the One who will take you in and be Father and Friend, the One who understands you because He made you like Himself.

We sons of earth all share an image, like a wax seal imprinted on our foreheads–a seal that proclaims “You are in the image of God.”

There is no surprise that we feel an affinity for one another–a bond unites us, the Signature of the same Artist.

And yet the greatest tie is between each of us and this Artist–and we discover that we were formed to be like Him. Like Him–not as omnipotent deities, but as living, feeling, eternal spirits with knowledge and capacity and ability to love. We were formed to be glorious replicas of Christ, on a smaller scale. But, oh, what we have done to mar the resemblance!

Still, do not fear. All is not lost. You and I are not doomed to search forever for belonging, only to find that no other says, “You too?”

Jesus stepped into a planet He made, walked on dirt that a breath of His could have turned into more men, touched plants that a single word of His could have cause to shoot up to the heavens or wither to the dust. He was not so “Other” that He was untouchable–He made himself touchable. And, in being touchable, He gave Himself over to still more vulnerable things: to the anguish of one friend turning another over to death, to the ridicule of such an unimpressive physical figure claiming equality with the High God, to betrayal from all, to being scarred.

How, how, how could a hunger-less God be faint with famishing pains in a desert? How could a God sweat anguish, first in the wilderness with the brine of humanity and then in a garden with His very blood? How can God have blood, have dependency on the rushing liquid trapped in narrow veins? How could God be Immanuel, with us? He came. Felt, hurt, bore–all this. For us.

Now, when we meet Him on the road, we look around in surprise and say, “What, you too?”

And He shows us the deep scars that can erase ours, and smiles. “I too.”

And then, as He sets His love on you, something changes. The sin of your heart breaks you and you run to Him. Something happens.

Whatever may come of human affairs–all the intricate, endless relational tangles–something truly remarkable has happened.

“Friendship is born at that moment.”

You’re not an ugly duckling anymore. You’ve found a place to belong. Free in all your God-planted individuality and gifting and unique opportunities, you don’t have to search for a nest. And with His two words “I too,” the bond of love pulls your heart into a family of God’s bought ones, siblings also adopted, twice-born, accepted.

You are home.

“You are not alone
I will always be with you
Even to the end

You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy

Do not be afraid
Nothing, nothing in the world
Can come between us now

You work so hard to wear yourself down
And you’re running like a rodeo clown
You’re smiling like you’re scared to death
You’re out of faith and all out of breath
You’re so afraid you’ve got nowhere left to go

Well, you are not alone….”

– Andrew Peterson, lyrics from “Rest Easy” –