Understanding God's Will for Our Lives
My first big decision as a young adult was deciding where I would attend college. Growing up in Southern California, I wanted to stay somewhere close to home but go away at the same time. I applied to several universities and ended up deciding between two schools that were, of course, near the ocean: The University of California Irvine and The University of California Los Angeles.
Everyone had an opinion about where I should attend school, but even after several months of research, I was unsure. So, one morning I tossed my surfboard into my Hyundai hatchback, jumped on the 405 Freeway, and drove to check out both UC Irvine and UCLA.
I decided to visit UCLA first. As I passed through Orange County and headed past Huntington Beach, Long Beach, and eventually to Westwood (near UCLA), the traffic continued to slow. Everything you have ever heard about traffic in Southern California and Los Angeles is painfully true—it’s horrible. There are just too many people and cars in one place, so it’s often more of a parking lot than a freeway.
When I arrived at UCLA, I could not find a place to park. I drove around and around with no success. Thirty minutes later, I gave up. Out of frustration, I decided I would drive to the beach and go surfing, then come back for a campus tour later.
At the beach, I again couldn’t find parking. Ugh. On top of there being no parking spots, there were no waves. This was not how I thought the day would go for me. I drove back to the UCLA campus and still could not find a place to park. This was getting ridiculous. As I swore under my breath (yes, I was not exactly Christ-like in the moment) , I found the onramp for the 405 South and decided to look at UC Irvine.
Forty-five minutes later, I pulled into a large parking spot on the campus of UC Irvine—without even looking for one. The campus was quiet and beautiful. I walked around a large park in the middle of campus and ended up crossing a bridge to what could quite possibly be what we will eat for lunch in heaven: In and Out Burger.
I then drove to Newport Beach, not far from campus, and went surfing. The waves were incredible; I surfed three to five- foot waves with only a few other people in the water. As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, I thought more of where God wanted me to go to college. I knew where I wanted to go to college, but was it where God wanted me to go to college?
My friend, Claude Hickman, author and the U.S. Director of The Traveling Team, challenges people with the simple idea that God calls people into a shared life with him. There is not always a specific path God wants us to take. Hickman speaks of the importance of obeying God. God is not so much telling us what to do in every decision, but pointing us to abide. God gives us a compass, not a map, to live our lives.
God is more interested in our hearts than in the details of our lives. I remember a friend of mine who was struggling about a particular job opportunity. He was offered a role in a company that seemed like a good fit, but he was agonizing over if it was exactly what God wanted. I remember asking him, “If you are seeking God, walking with him, don’t you think he is okay with whether you say yes or no to this job?” My friend was growing in his relationship with God, so my suggestion to him was to simply keep doing what he was doing and take the job. I helped him understand that God wanted to continue to live in a trusting relationship together; that was most important.
God gives us the general direction. The Bible is a relational book that helps us grow in a friendship with him. God is most concerned with how we are following him; the rest of life should follow this relationship.
God is not so much telling us what to do in every decision, but pointing us to abide. God gives us a compass, not a map, to live our lives.
For example, a student in my Bible study was dating a woman who he thought he wanted to marry. He asked me how to know if it was God’s will to marry her. I asked him, “Do you think God has just one person out of seven billion on this planet that you will marry? If so, how do you know she is the exact one?”
I went on to share with him that God wants us to walk with him, follow his commands in the Bible (of which there are many concerning dating and marriage), and go from there. This student had been dating for over a year, he and his girlfriend were both walking with God, and they did marry within the year.
So, where do you think I decided to go to college? You know I love to surf so I think it’s pretty obvious. I chose UC Irvine over UCLA, and I am so glad I did.
For more on understanding God’s will for our lives, and other aspects of the Christian life, check out my new book, Dropping In: Experience the Life You Were Meant to Live.
Experience the Life You Were Meant to Live