St. Anthony Messenger

How Can I Know God’s Will?

I have a very simple but important question: How can I know God’s will in my life?

Please bear with me because I must question an assumption implied in your inquiry: that God operates in human time. If so, then God could have one plan for you this week and a very different one next weekÑand you simply want to know how to learn the details of God’s current plan for you.

God, however, does not exist in past/present/future as humans do because that would require imposing our experience of time onto God. Therefore, we cannot say, for example, that God intends you to wear the particular shoes you are wearing today. God’s overall will is that each of us becomes holy (1 Thes 4:3) and that each of us lives as a person made in the divine image (Gn 1:27).

In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye asks God, “Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan if I were a wealthy man? ” God does not have a vast, eternal plan that Tevye should be a poor man, that the Smith family last week should welcome a newborn child with Down syndrome, or that Grandma Jones would have successful heart surgery last month.

God is involved in these situations because no part of creation is apart from God, but God is not involved like some all-powerful chess master, deciding each detail of a person’s life. If God were, then you would have to say that absolutely everything that happens is always God’s willÑincluding the abuse of children, the use of chemical weapons in war, and every other tragedy or injustice.

After something bad happens (usually to someone else), we may say, “It was God’s will, ” but that explanation is obviously absurd in the face of events that are clearly not God’s will (such as those events listed in the previous paragraph).

God does will that we be grateful for the talents and opportunities that we have, that we use them not simply for selfish gain, that we respect the dignity of each person we encounter, and that we use the world’s resources responsibly.

I encourage you to see, judge, and act in all situations as you know God wants you to see, judge, and act.

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