Written by Lara Tovmassian, Art by Christine Hwang
What is God calling me to?
This question has caused many sleepless nights for devoted Christians everywhere. As born-again believers, we inherit a sense of duty and responsibility to properly steward the one life God has entrusted us with. Whether we are considering a specific situation or life in general, the notion of God’s will can feel ambiguous.
Does God want me to do this or that? Does he want me to have this career or that career? Does He want me to live here or there?
We go through life pondering these questions, praying that God will send answers down like rain. We search for God’s will in every detail, unsure of how he will reveal it to us. Before we know it, God’s will becomes an overwhelming and indiscernible enigma, and this frightens us to no end.
If I can’t know God’s will for my life, then how will I live it out? If I can’t live it out, then how will I do the right thing? If I don’t do the right thing, will God still love me?
Over time, my understanding of how God communicates His will to me has transformed. As a young believer, I thought knowing God’s will for my life depended on my experience of “the feeling” â€“ you know, you’re in a completely ordinary situation, maybe standing in line at a coffee shop, and you have this extraordinary feeling you can’t explain that God wants you to order a soy latte instead of a cappuccino. We often explain this feeling with the language of “I felt led” to do a certain thing.
While feeling led by the Lord to do something is certainly a factor in the decisions we make, we sometimes rely too much on this feeling, causing us to remain inactive if we have not yet experienced it. In the coffee shop scenario, ordering your coffee becomes a much more stressful endeavor than it needs to be. Suddenly, your faithfulness hinges on your choice between two caffeinated beverages. This is simply not the model of faithfulness that we should follow.
After many years of depending on “the feeling” to dictate my choices, I had an experience that forced me to reevaluate my views on the subject. During my first semester of college, I faced many questions regarding my future.
Where is God leading me? What do I want to do for a living? What am I passionate about? What is the best way and environment for me to live out these passions?
In the midst of these overwhelming questions, I experienced “the feeling.” After learning about a missions conference in Illinois, I initially felt strongly led to attend. As I prayed about whether or not I was called to go to this conference and become a missionary, I made every effort to make arrangements to attend.
But there was a problem: the conference was less than a month away and the logistics for getting there were just not falling into place. I had nobody to go with, nowhere to stay, and no way of paying the $500 deposit, let alone the overall expense for admission into the conference. I labored and labored, mulling over financial possibilities and emailing random people who I didn’t know but I knew were attending.
One night, I received a call from my dad. He explained to me that, all things considered, he did not feel it was wise or possible for me to move forward with attending this conference. As difficult as it was for me to hear this, I knew he was right. If this was truly the direction that the Lord was calling me to go, the doors would have been opening in that direction. There would have been affirmation in the details and planning of it all. In the end, even after experiencing that initial prompting towards attending this conference, a combination of prayer, circumstance, and wise counsel led me to realize that this was not the path that God had marked out for me.
After having this experience, I needed to reconsider my thoughts about God’s calling. It became clear to me that emotions cannot be a person’s only, or even primary, means of following God’s will. A college friend of mine once explained it perfectly to me: “God’s revealed will for your life is that you be in prayer and in the Word. If you are doing those two things, all of the secondary circumstances that come about will be an outflow of that revealed will.”
To clarify, the revealed will of God is that which we can know and understand through Scripture, and the hidden will of God is that which only God knows and has ordained for us. While emotions can help direct us to God’s will, they can also cause us to believe things that are contrary to God’s word; in the event that you are feeling led to do something that you know is inconsistent with God’s Word, you can be confident that this feeling is misleading you. Scripture and prayer must be our compasses in all decisions.
Our God is not a sneaky god who whispers to us around corners, waiting to punish us when we hear him incorrectly; when God is leading you in a direction, He will make that clear to you through His Word, through prayer and through biblical mentorship from fellow believers. Yes, you may experience feelings of peace and assurance in some instances; in fact, you probably will. But I caution you against depending on such feelings to validate choices that you know are biblical, or worse, ones you know are not. Study the Word, seek the Lord and act out of the confidence that His Truth grants to you.
Written by Lara Tovmassian, Art by Christine Hwang