3 Ways To Know God’s Will For Your Relationship
How many times have you thought - maybe even said - something like this (usually in exasperation):
God, I want to do your will - just tell me what you want and I’ll do it!
If we're honest, I think we've all been there. I definitely have.
It comes up in every area of life from time to time, including our relationships. Whether we're single, dating, engaged or married, we want God's will to be done in our lives.
After all, that desire is at the heart of what Jesus taught us to pray:
'Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.' (Matthew 6:10)
We want to know God's will for things like these:
- Do you want me to stay single for this season, or maybe even forever?
- Would it be wise to date this person? Should I keep going in this relationship, or are we simply too different?
- Is this issue a deal-breaker? Would we be better off breaking off our engagement, or can we work it out over time?
- How can I help my spouse mature in an area of long-standing weakness? Where does God want to crucify some area of selfishness I've allowed to take root in how I relate to my spouse?
And so on.
Sometimes - okay, most of the time - we want God to hit us with a truth bomb so that we know exactly what he wants us to do in a specific, given situation.
There's plenty we could say in response, but that's another post.
I Want To Know Your Will God... Kind Of
Today, let's get honest about the fact that we often don't really want to do God's will in our lives or most important relationships.
I've been thinking about it a lot as I work my way through Jack Miller's book 'The Heart of a Servant Leader.' It's a collection of pastoral letters he wrote to people he knew, and I've been blown away by the rare blend of grace, wisdom and personal vulnerability they contain. In fact, I feel like it's about how the Apostle Paul would write if he were alive today.
In any event, in one of his letters (see page 30) he talks about the reality that sometimes we don't actually want God's will for a variety of reasons. I bet you can identify with at least some of these. We may...
- have reservations about a path we suspect God wants us to take
- be afraid he wants us to do something beyond our capacity: either in terms of our gifting, or the sanctification it requires
- selfishly love comfort and the praise of others too much
- desire the security that seems to come with having some part of life under our control
In summary, Miller says our attitude can basically be, ‘Don’t bother me, God, and don’t ask me to do anything that doesn’t make good sense to me.’
Ugh. Guilty as charged. SO many times I kind of want to know God's will for my life and relationships, but a deeper part of me doesn't.
But if that's where we are, Miller poignantly asks, ‘Why should God give me guidance when my heart is closed to some aspect of his will?’
In other words, we find ourselves in the situation James describes in chapter 1:
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)
If we ask God for wisdom (verse 5), we must do it without doubting (verse 6) or we are 'double-minded' (verse 8) and cannot expect to receive the wisdom we're requesting (verse 7).
I think James and Jack Miller probably would have been good friends.
My Bad Example
Can you think of an example where you only kind of want to know (and/or do) God's will in your relationship?
(If you're alive, it shouldn't be that hard.)
Lately, God has shown me I can be selfish in my marriage. At the end of a long day of work and meeting my kids' needs, it can feel like there's nothing left. No energy to love, care for, and creatively engage my wife. And then there's all the other stuff... moving the different balls of our lives forward: paying bills, answering emails, yada yada.
There have been times where I've felt God's call to put more effort into my marriage. To reach back (or rather, up) and do more. But I've often not fully wanted to listen to that because it requires effort and energy I'm not always sure I have.
And yet, I love my wife like crazy and I want her to feel special. Because she really, really is.
So, I've kinda sorta wanted to do God's will... but not really. With God's help, I'm working on it.
Maybe you can identify in your relationship.
3 Ways To Do God's Will In Our Relationships Without Reservation
So, what can we do when we find ourselves wanting to do God's will in our relationship, but struggling with it?
Here are three quick suggestions. Try them on, and see which resonates with you.
- Look to the example of other believers and learn. Miller mentions a time his son-in-law unselfishly sought God's healing when he was very sick. That inspired him to surrender his own will to God, too. Who can you think of who has done this well? What can you learn from them?
- Look to the example of Christ in his darkest hour. In Gethsemane, facing his Father's wrath at the cross for our sin, Jesus prayed, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.' (Matthew 26:38, 42, 44) I suspect it's fair to say none of us are facing quite this degree of challenge in our relationships. By being honest about what he wanted, yet submitting his desires to the Father's in the face of unimaginable suffering, Jesus gives us a blueprint for our own submission. Take a few moments, and follow this pattern with the greatest challenge in your relationship right now.
- Seek God's help to submit. It's easy to miss, but in Luke's account of Gethsemane, right after Jesus yields his will to his Father's, it says, 'And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.' (Luke 22:43) It didn't take away his anguish, and it didn't take away the cross, but he received fresh strength to keep trusting God. We don't have to 'buck up' or just determine to do what God wants on our own. He stands always ready to help us in our time of need. (Psalm 46:1) Are you afraid that submitting to God's will could be more than you can bear? Have an honest conversation with him about it, and ask for his strength.
Doing God's will from our hearts won't be easy. Not until Jesus returns, anyway. And especially in our closest relationships. But when we're honest about our struggles, look to the examples of others and (especially) Christ, and seek God's strength, we'll find it gets easier.
And when we submit to the Father's will, the kingdom comes in ways that go far beyond our best plans.