I have had many conversations with Christians about how to know God’s will for our lives. One of the things that I have noticed is that people have very different ideas about the Lord’s guidance and how to find it. Getting perspective from the divine is a very old idea, stretching back deep into the Old Testament times and out to all the pagan religions. In some ways I wonder whether we haven’t picked up some wrong ideas from the Old Testament and paganism about finding out the will of God as New Testament Christians. I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but I would like to share some initial thoughts about the topic and hear your responses.
It comes across to me that many Christians feel a certain amount of pressure to be guided by God – whether it is for big decisions like work and marriage, or daily. After all, they are taught that spiritual people are led by the Spirit. That all sounds wonderful until you get practical about it. That’s when all the problems and differences in people come out. Many believers, feeling intense pressure to please God, end up seeking His will in different ways. The classic approach is to look to Scripture. Some look to the bible as a magical source of guidance, flipping through the pages looking for a verse to jump out at them. Others study it, trying to tie all the strings together into a coherent biblical worldview that they can be “guided” by. Others look to their circumstances – to signs and patterns in the physical world – for help in deciphering the path forward. They say things like “I prayed for a car last night, and then this morning I saw a BMW advert on TV. Maybe God is trying to tell me I should get that model”, or “I have been really sick for a while now, maybe God is angry with me!”. I am sure there are other approaches. I must say that I have experienced examples of all these during my life that I believe were guidance from Him, and yet I want to say that I have also seen many times how we can vainly strive for guidance in these ways unfruitfully.
The point I want to raise is that it seems to me that Christians can be easily sucked into “Christian divination”. Instead of inquiring of The Lord like David, we can end up taking matters into our own hands. Instead of fostering relationship with the Holy Spirit, it becomes transactional, which is a hallmark of pagan spirituality. When we do “Christian divination” we are the ones who interpret which verse jumps out at us, or develop our own theology, or begin to guess God’s responses through ‘coincidences’ and what is happening around us. The thought occurred to me the other day that this kind of reading of omens and leaning on our own interpretations is fundamentally different to inquiring of the Lord because it actually doesn’t need an answer from Him! Instead of bringing us into connection with the Most High, it leaves us in control of guidance – and (most significantly) it leaves us spiritually lonely. How have you been guided by God in the past? How did you know it was truly His guidance? Why do you think people struggle so often in this area?