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Why God’s Will Isn’t Always Clear

If God wants us to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” (Colossians 1:10), why doesn’t he give us more specific guidance in our decisions?

The Spontaneous 95 Percent

Consider all of the decisions you make during a typical day. Most are quick and spur-of-the-minute. John Piper estimates “that a good 95 percent of [our] behavior [we] do not premeditate. That is, most of [our] thoughts, attitudes and actions are spontaneous.” That’s true. And it’s a bit unnerving when you think about it. The majority of the decisions that end up becoming the bricks in the building of lives are just “spill over from what’s inside.”

Even if we do stop and pray about such decisions, it is very rare that we discern God’s specific leading regarding what we should wear, what or where we should eat, if we should respond to this instance of our child’s sin with correction or forbearance, if we should put off that time-consuming errand till tomorrow, or whether we should check our email again.

The Massive 5 Percent

But what about the other five percent of our decisions?

Some of these are massive and life shaping. Should I marry this person? How much money should I give away and where? How much should we save for retirement? Should we adopt a child? Should I pursue a different vocation? Should we homeschool or not? Should I pursue chemo or an alternative cancer treatment? Should we buy this home? Which college should I attend? Is it time to put my elderly parent in a nursing home? Should I go to the mission field?

Shouldn’t we expect God to direct us more explicitly in these?

A Concealing Design

The answer is no, not necessarily. Why? Well, the short answer is because he is God, and we are not. “It is the glory of God to conceal things” (Proverbs 25:2). Considering all the factors in play in the universe, it is likely no exaggeration that there are trillions of reasons for why God directs the course of our lives, and he prefers to carry out his purposes in ways that confound, surprise and humble humans, angels and demons.

There is a tremendous glory that God displays when, without tipping his hand to us in advance, we suddenly recognize that he was working his will all along when we couldn’t see it. And he is also merciful to withhold information from us that he knows we aren’t ready to know, even if we think we really want to.