“How do you know what God’s will is?”
I asked my mom for her thoughts on this subject several years ago—just about the same time it came up during a college class. I thought that what I learned would be worth sharing here!
During my conversation with my mom, she kept coming back to describing a feeling of inner peace that she gets when she is following the will of God … even when all the details aren’t worked out or when she’s not personally convinced of the logic of the decision.
In one of my college classes, a professor pointed out something that I had never really thought about before: We like it when God opens doors for us, but we don’t like it when he closes them. It never really occurred to me before that a closed door is God’s leading. A possibility that dead-ends … usually leads me to think that I did something wrong or perhaps that I wasn’t listening well enough to God.
Acts 16:6-10 tells a story in which Paul is looking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul is prevented from going to Asia and Bithynia/Pontus (closed doors), although he tried to go there first. “ … they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas” (Acts 16:7b). It seems like Paul and his companions sort of went to Troas by default, since they had been prevented from going in other directions!
Next, Paul has a vision during the night of a man from Macedonia begging them to come to Macedonia. This was further direction from God. “After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:10). Wouldn’t it be nice if God spoke to us more often in visions? Or if he put a physical note under our pillows? Once in a while, it would be great if something like that would happen … but I guess knowing what is going to happen leaves very little room for trusting God.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” - Proverbs 16:9