Did you know that there’s been a dramatic shift in the age when most young adults complete all the major transitions into adulthood? We’re talking about leaving home, finishing school, becoming financially independent, getting married and having a child. Back in 1960, 77% of women and 65% of men had completed all these transitions by age 30. Fast forward to 2000 and those numbers dropped to only 46% of women and only 31% of men having completed those same transitions by the time they turned 30.
Why? For one thing, today we have an overwhelming number of choices. But in addition to that, young people struggle with making big decisions. Robert Wuthnow, whose book After the Baby Boomers is the source of the statistics in the first paragraph, calls these 21 to 45-year-olds ‘tinkerers.’ They tinker with doctrines, churches, relationships, college majors, advanced degrees, living at home and even with spiritual practices. Those who are Christians often get stuck waiting to know ‘God’s perfect will,’ or ‘for a door to open,’ or ‘for a word from the Lord’ and so on.
Years ago, when I was contemplating leaving my job at AT&T, I read everything I could get my hands on about finding God’s will. I was desperate. I’d never had a grownup job anywhere other than ‘the phone company.’ It was lucrative and secure. But I had no peace . . . my single-minded passion for moving up in the company had almost ruined my marriage. Yet I had no open doors to another job. I needed God to tell me what to do. Stay or go? Keep on or start over?
My investigation into finding God’s will led me to an understanding that served me well then and since. And at some point, I found Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something, which spells it out with an economy of words. He says the New Testament illuminates 3 flavors of God’s will . . .
God’s will of decree – This is what God ordained. Some people call this His sovereign will. He decides. He rules. He’s never wrong. We can’t know his will of decree . . . we can only accept and respect it. It cannot be thwarted.
God’s will of desire – This is how things ought to be. It’s the bulk of the New Testament and of Jesus’ life and teaching. Sometimes called God’s moral will . . . it’s His prescription for how we should live our lives, how we should love and relate to others and how we should relate to Him.
God’s will of direction – This is God’s specific plan for your life; could be called His individual will. Should I leave this job? Buy this house? Move back to my hometown? Pray as long and as hard as you will, but God rarely tells us what to do. DeYoung says He loves us too much to take away our free will. He lets us choose for ourselves and that’s ok, so long as we operate within the bounds of His will of desire . . . His moral will as revealed in the New Testament.
While there’s the age-old argument about what’s predestined and what’s not, there’s more consensus around God’s wills of decree and desire. His authority over Heaven and earth is obvious. And His desire for our behavior to reflect what Jesus did and what the New Testament says is pretty clear. The harder part comes in regard to God’s will of direction. DeYoung argues (and I agree) that God’s individual will for me and you can only be understood in arrears. “Looking back” he writes, “we will often be able to see God’s hand in bringing us to where we are. But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, He does not burden us with the task of divining His will of direction for our lives ahead of time.” God gives us His Word, free will, access to the wise counsel of other Jesus-followers and the assurance of His presence with us no matter what we decide. Then we decide and go! Our challenge is to trust Him with the outcome . . . regardless. That’s what we call faith.
So, my advice for those who are tinkering away their lives? Just do something!
Scripture: But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
Mentor Tip: When my guys face life decisions, I never give advice. I point them to Scripture and tell them any relevant parts of my story that might serve as an example, whether I got what I wanted or I didn’t. God was there with me and He’ll be there with them too!