Once a year, my family and I put on our baseball hats, hop on the trolley, and head to downtown San Diego to attend a Padres game. At some point during the event, the three-cup game appears on the screen, bidding fans to figure out which of three constantly moving cups hides a ball. No matter how hard I try, I can’t win the game. The frantic movement of the cups leaves me dizzy and confused.
When we think about decision-making and God’s will, we sometimes feel as if God is playing the three-cup game with us. We imagine that his will is there in front of us, if only we could pick up the right cup to reveal it. Such thinking betrays that we would be served by a careful study of the term “God’s will” in Scripture.
Before we make decisions, it’s helpful to understand that we can divide God’s will into two categories: his revealed will and his hidden will. God’s revealed will for us is found in his Word, while God’s hidden will, as implied in the name, is hidden and cannot be known until we’re able to look back on it.
What We Know
From our limited vantage point as time-bound, finite creatures, we can’t know the future. The length of days we each have on this earth and what will happen tomorrow are part of God’s hidden will. While this may initially sound defeating, it’s helpful to consider all that we do know about God’s revealed will in his Word.
We can’t know the future, but it’s helpful to consider all that we do know about God’s revealed will in his Word.
We don’t know where we will live in five years, but we do know how we are to live.
We don’t know if we will marry or who we will marry, but we do know God wills that we avoid sexual immorality and marry someone with a similar love for Christ (Eph. 5:3; 2 Cor. 6:14–15).
We don’t know if our entrepreneurial venture will be successful, but we know God’s will is for us to conduct our business uprightly and trust him in plenty or in want (Prov. 16:11; Phil. 4:11–13).
We don’t know which neighborhood or country we will live in, but we do know God wills that we love and serve our neighbors (Mark 12:28–31).
What We Want to Know
In Deuteronomy 29:29, Moses reminds the often-wandering hearts of his wandering people, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Here, Moses makes a similar distinction between the secret things and the revealed words of God. How similar we are to the wandering Israelites, constantly wanting to peer into the secret things! We want to know the origin of evil, to see the full blueprint of our lives laid out before us, and to understand things God never intended for us to understand here on earth.
However, God has lovingly determined what’s necessary for us to live our lives according to his purpose and his plan. Being a good Father, he’s given us all that we need to know him and make him known during our pilgrimage on earth.
We waste precious time when we seek to find out the hidden things in the decision-making process. God would have us walk by faith in his revealed will and entrust to him the hidden things. After all, they’re much safer in his sovereign hands.
When we begin to wrestle and doubt, it’s helpful to remember that we can know God’s intentions and will for us most clearly through the incarnation of his Son. To that end, Paul rhetorically asks, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).
What God Cares About
Rather than seeking to curiously peer into God’s hidden will, we’re invited to chase after his righteousness (Matt. 6:33). As we walk in alignment with God’s revealed will, we can trust his hidden will to unfold as God has planned since before there was time. In his book The Will of God as a Way of Life, Jerry Sittser expresses the comfort we find in knowing and seeking to obey God’s revealed will:
If we seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, which is the will of God for our lives, then whatever choices we make concerning the future become the will of God for our lives. There are many pathways we could follow, many options we could pursue. As long as we are seeking God, all of them can be God’s will for our lives, although only one—the path we choose—actually becomes his will.
We tend to spend so much time agonizing over all the potential paths we could take that we often overlook what God cares most about. He cares less which path we choose and far more how and why we choose it.
Whether you become a teacher or a doctor, he cares more about the kind of doctor or teacher you’re becoming. He cares far more about what’s going on within the walls of your house than about the colors of your walls or the specifics of your address. He cares more about the way you love your neighbors than the neighborhood you live in.
We spend so much time agonizing over all the paths we could take that we overlook what God cares most about.
While God is large enough to invite our wonder, our curiosity, and our questions, he has fully provided the truths we need to honor him with our decisions. He welcomes our musing and mulling over the things we don’t understand, but he commands us to live in view of what he’s clearly revealed in his Word.