Mailbag

The Mailbag: Is casting lots a biblical way to make decisions?

 

I recently had an older Christian tell me that they feel it is appropriate to make decisions by “drawing lots” (writing decisions on different slips of paper, praying that God would reveal his will, then blindly drawing one piece and choosing that decision). They justified this by saying that in Acts 1:26, the disciples did this to choose Matthias. How would you respond?

Super question! Whenever we see Bible characters doing something in Scripture, it’s always a good idea to figure out whether or not we should be doing the same thing.

My response would be to encourage the person to read Acts 1 in its entirety to get a better understanding of what took place when Matthias was chosen.

We need always to keep two things in mind when we read the book of Acts: 1) it is a historical narrative, and 2) it is transitional. 

A historical narrative is simply a report of what happened – like a newspaper article – not usually a command for us to do the exact same thing as the characters in the story. It is largely descriptive, not prescriptive. Acts reports that Peter raised Dorcas from the dead, but that does not mean that God is commanding you to raise people from the dead any more than Genesis reporting that Noah built an ark means that God is commanding you to build an ark. So the simple fact that Acts reports that Matthias was chosen by lot does not automatically mean that’s how we’re to make decisions.

Acts is also transitional. It records the events that took place as God’s people were transitioning from following Old Testament Judaism to establishing the New Testament church. And in the same way that when you’re building a house you only lay the foundation once, many of the events or issues in Acts were a “one and done” kind of thing (ex: the sign of speaking in foreign languages, the apostolic sign gift of miraculous healing, the question of circumcision, etc.)

It’s a little bit like opening up a brand new board game for the first time. You’ve got to assemble the spinner, punch the tokens out of the piece of cardboard, take the plastic wrap off the cards, and figure out what that poorly worded rule in the instructions means. But the second time you pull that game out to play it, you don’t have to do those things again, because you already did them the first time. You can just start playing the game.

Both the descriptive and transitional nature of the book of Acts should make us extremely cautious about blindly emulating the specific behaviors of its characters. When we want to know whether or not we should behave in a certain way, we need to look first to the prescriptive passages of Scripture which deal with that issue.

If we wanted to know how to have a godly marriage, for example, we would look at passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7, and Exodus 20:14,17. These are all passages that clearly tell us what to do and what not to do in order to have a godly marriage.

What we would not do is look at David’s and Solomon’s lives and conclude that polygamy is God’s design for marriage. We would not read about Hosea and assume that God wants Christian men to marry prostitutes. We would not read the story of the woman at the well and think that being married five times and then shacking up with number six is OK with Jesus.

So which prescriptive passages can we look at that teach us how to make decisions in a godly way?

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Proverbs 3:5-7

(These are just a few verses, and of course there are others that would be pertinent to specific details about particular decisions. Read more about godly decision-making here.)

Ask God for wisdom, do what His Word says, turn away from evil, persevere, trust God and His Word above what you can see in your circumstances, and He will direct you. This is the Bible’s general instruction to us about making godly decisions. Christians are not instructed to cast lots in order to make decisions.

But is it a sin for Christians to cast lots, flip a coin, draw straws, etc., when making a decision? Maybe, but not necessarily.

You described your friend’s process of lot casting this way:

writing decisions on different slips of paper, praying that God would reveal his will, then blindly drawing one piece and choosing that decision

I realize you were probably trying to be brief with that description and there’s likely more to it than that. But if that’s an accurate description of how she makes most of her decisions – putting no more thought, wisdom, or effort to search the Scriptures into her decisions than that – then I would say that probably qualifies as the sin of laziness. Because God has been clear to us in His Word that we’re to make the effort to use the brains He gave us to dig into Scripture to see what He has to say about the issue, ask Him for wisdom and guidance, trust Him, and obey Him.

Additionally, I’m concerned that, if she doesn’t know her Bible well enough to make decisions based on Scripture rather than casting lots, and if she thinks making decisions this way is biblical simply because of a descriptive verse about Matthias, then she probably doesn’t have enough knowledge of Scripture to guarantee that all of the decisions she writes down on her pieces of paper are biblical. I mean, what if she has two pieces of paper and she writes down, “Leave my husband for my boyfriend,” and “Stay with my husband and be a godly wife.”? One of those choices isn’t biblical. Is she going to assume it is and that God wants her to leave her husband for her boyfriend if that’s the paper she draws?

On the other hand, let’s say your friend is a mature Christian who knows her Bible. She’s trying to decide between two job offers that would each be equally biblical for her to take. She has prayed and asked God for wisdom. She has compared each job, its requirements, and its logistics with Scripture. She has sought out godly counsel. She’s equally drawn to both jobs. Yet she still can’t bring herself to make a final decision. If the only way she can bring herself to make that final decision is to flip a coin or cast a lot, I can’t see any biblical problem with that. (Is that scenario likely to happen? Probably not. There’s rarely a situation in which both options are exactly equal. Life just doesn’t work like that, and that’s one way God guides us and gives us wisdom.)

Finally, I’d like to point out a few more things about the casting of lots for Matthias. Namely, that the way the disciples did it, and the circumstances in which they did it, are vastly different from your friend’s circumstances and the way she’s doing it. Again, let’s look at Acts 1 in its entirety.

• The casting of lots for Matthias took place before Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), which means that, with regard to receiving direction from God for a particular decision, the disciples were still operating in an “Old Testament” sort of way. This is why we see lot casting much more commonly in the Old Testament, and we never see it again in the New Testament after Acts 1. From Acts 2 on, we see Christians praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and direction. If your friend is a Believer, she, unlike the disciples in Acts 1, has the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide her.

• Look at the timeline (v. 6-11). Jesus had just ascended, like, five minutes ago. Not only was there no Holy Spirit (in the sense that we have the Holy Spirit now), there was no church, no New Testament to read for instruction, very few Believers, and no understanding of how to “do” Christianity. The disciples were doing the best they could with the knowledge that they had, and nearly all that knowledge was from the Old Testament. Your friend has the benefit of having  the entire New Testament, a pastor and fellow Believers to counsel her, and 2000 years of church history that has hammered out how to “do” Christianity.

• If your friend is simply writing two options on pieces of paper, praying God will help her pick the right one, and then blindly picking, she’s not casting lots the same way the disciples did for Matthias. Look at verses 12-26.

·This was not a personal, individual decision, this was a corporate decision for the embryonic church. The eleven remaining disciples (13), the women, Mary, and Jesus’ brothers (14), about 120 in all (15), were all gathered and taking counsel together.

·This body of Believers was gathered together for an extended time of corporate prayer for direction to make the right decision for the church, not a quick “God please help me pick the right piece of paper,” kind of thing.

·The disciples searched and knew the Scriptures that applied to this situation (15-20) and had a biblical set of parameters for making the decision about who would take Judas’ place. (21-22)

The way the disciples cast lots for Matthias was much more akin to the scenario I described above about your friend choosing between two jobs (which, as I said, would not be biblically problematic).

I think it would be much more beneficial and spiritually healthy for your friend to learn how to make decisions based on Scripture than to continue her practice of casting lots. I would strongly suggest she read my article Basic Training: 8 Steps to Finding God’s Will for Your Life.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Obedience, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ When God Says No

Originally published May 19, 2017

When I was sixteen years old, I was convinced God was calling me to be the next Sandi Patty…I wanted God to use me- to put me on a stage every night in front of thousands of people so I could sing to them about Him…Somehow, it never occurred to me to care what God thought about all this or what He might want to do in my life. If I thought about it at all, I just assumed He was on board with my plans. Like, how could He not be, right?¹

There’s much ado about dreaming big dreams for God in modern evangelicalism. Think of the biggest thing you want to do for God and then “step out on faith” and make it happen. Sometimes we’re even told God is offended if our dreams aren’t big enough. It means we don’t have enough faith. It means we don’t believe God – or love Him – enough.

Or does it?

If you study through the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, you’re going to get to know Saul and David pretty well. And as you observe and compare their words, their behavior, and their interactions with God, a major theme that jumps out is obedience to God’s word versus doing what’s right in your own eyes.

Saul was an “I did it my way,” kind of guy. Time and again, he looked out for number one. Tried to build up his own kingdom. Did what he thought was best.

In 1 Samuel 15, God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Everything. Every living creature and all their stuff. All means all.

But Saul had big dreams. So, he destroyed all the worthless stuff and all the people, but he saved the king and all the valuables. He disobeyed God’s clear word in favor of what he wanted to do.

Here’s the interesting part, though. When Samuel showed up and said, “Why did you disobey the Lord?” Saul said, not once, but twice, “I did obey the Lord.”

Why? Because Saul was going to offer some of those sheep he spared in a grand and showy sacrifice to the Lord. He was going to “do great things for God” and, in his mind, that was far better and more glorious than simple obedience to God’s explicit command.

By contrast, God says David was “a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” David sought the Lord and obeyed His words.

But David had a dream, too. He loved God deeply and wanted to do something big to honor Him.

“See now, I dwell in a house of cedar,” David said, “but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” David wanted to build a grand and glorious house for God.

It was a good dream. A dream that stemmed from godly motives. A dream that was, in reality, part of God’s plan.

But God said, “No.” Because it wasn’t God’s plan for David.

Sometimes there are things we want to do for God in life or in ministry because our hearts are fairly bursting with love for Him. Nothing small or insignificant will suffice – we want to do great things for Him because He has done so many great things for us.

Can I just tell you – that heart is what is most precious to God, not whatever it is you can dream up to do for Him. Every parent who’s ever received a clay ashtray or a bedraggled dandelion from her five year old knows this. We love the heart of our child who wants to show her love for us, even if the gift itself isn’t quite right.

And just like you would have to tell your five year old no if she wanted to demonstrate her love for you by having the family skip church on Sunday so she could cook you a four course brunch, God sometimes has to say no to the things we want to do for Him because those things – even though motivated by love for Him – conflict with His word, are out of sync with His timing, or aren’t His specific plan for us, personally.

It might be your heart’s deepest desire to serve God as the perfect Proverbs 31 wife…and God says no by declining to provide you with a husband. Maybe it’s always been your dream to raise a house full of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…and God says no by preventing you from bearing or adopting children. “I’ve always loved to tell people about Jesus,” you think, “Surely He’s calling me to be a pastor.”…and God says no in His word because that’s not His plan for Christian women.

God said no to David, too. It wasn’t the right time. It didn’t fit with what God was trying to accomplish in Israel at that moment. And David wasn’t the right man for the job. God had other things He wanted David to do.

How did David respond when God said no? Did he push forward with his own plans and build the temple anyway? Spend the rest of his life sulking or angry at God? Turn away from God all together?

No. David responded with humility that God would use him in any way, joy over God’s love and blessings, and thanksgiving for God’s plans and promises.

That’s what a heart that truly loves God does. It obeys Him. It finds joy in any task He might bring our way. It is thankful and humbled that God takes any notice of us whatsoever and lavishes His grace and mercy upon us by allowing us to do what He wants us to do.

God didn’t allow David to build the temple. God didn’t allow me to become a top Christian recording artist. Maybe there’s something God isn’t allowing you to do. Will you joyfully obey Him in the things He does have planned for you? Will you be thankful and humbled that He desires to use you as part of His good plans and purposes even if those plans and purposes don’t match your own?

May we all follow David’s example – and the Greater David’s example – by saying, meaning, and living out, “Not my will but Thy will be done,” even when God says no.


Additional Resources:

How do I move on after God says “no”?

Basic Training

Basic Training: 8 Steps to Finding God’s Will for Your Life

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

What is God’s will for my life?

I’ve asked this question before. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but it was probably some time in my late teens to mid-twenties. You know- when you’re making all those big, life-changing decisions: Where should I go to college? What should I major in? What kind of career do I want? Which job should I take? Should I move to another state? Whom should I marry? When should we start having children? How many children should we have?

Maybe you’ve asked the same question yourself. Life as a young adult can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you’re still kind of immature and inexperienced, and you have to make so many big decisions that have such intense and long-lasting impact on your own life and the lives of others. As you age, there are still big decisions to face from time to time, and they can still feel overwhelming.

So, how can a godly woman who wants to make sure she’s making a godly decision be certain she’s following “God’s will for her life”?

1.
Reframe the Question

When we use the term “God’s will for my life” we’re usually thinking in terms of a life map. A career track. A family plan. It’s almost as if we think of God as pulling up the spreadsheet that has our name on it and that every category of our lives is neatly planned out and squared away in a little box. The way we would organize it.

College: LSU
Major: Education
Career: Teacher
Marry: Joe Blow
Kids: 2
Retirement age: 65

That’s our focus, but that’s not God’s focus. Does God care about and guide us through all of life’s circumstances? Of course, but God’s primary concern is our holiness and growth in Christ, not our choice of a career or whom to marry. Those life circumstances are merely tools in God’s hands to shape us into more Christlike people. We look at the life circumstances first and think it’s God’s highest priority that we choose what matches up with His spreadsheet. God’s highest priority is that we pursue Him and holy living, and leave the details up to Him. The question really shouldn’t be, “What is God’s road map for my career, family, etc., from this point forward?” but “In the process of pursuing Christ, how can I make godly decisions that line up with Scripture?”


2.
It’s In the Book

When we want to know anything about God, the Bible is always our go to source of information. What does the Bible say about God’s will for our lives?

God’s will for your life is to trust and obey Him in suffering.
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls
to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:19

God’s will for your life is whatever is good, acceptable, and perfect.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

God’s will for your life is joyful obedience to Him.
not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, Ephesians 6:6-7

God’s will for your life is to pursue purity and forsake impurity.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 1 Thessalonians 4:3,7

God’s will for your life is to live in gratitude to Him.
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

God’s will for your life is to be a living testimony to Him.
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence
the ignorance of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:15

God’s will for your life is to live for His desires, not your own.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2

God’s will for your life is to be wise, not foolish.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17

And there’s so much more. Any Scripture that instructs you on how to live your life is God’s will for your life.


3.
Live in the Word

An athlete preparing for the Olympics doesn’t just go about life as usual and panic the day before his event because he doesn’t know the right techniques and strategies for his event. He trains and studies every day so that when it’s time for his event, he’s as ready as he can be.

The Christian life is a little bit like that. While the athlete knows exactly what his event will be and exactly which day he’ll have to perform, we don’t always know what kinds of life decisions we’ll be faced with or when they’ll materialize. But daily study of God’s Word is the best way to prepare our hearts, train our minds, and strengthen our character so we’re as ready as we can be for whatever circumstances God sends our way.


4.
Pray

A strong daily prayer life also helps prepare our hearts and minds to make difficult decisions. We should absolutely pray about the particulars of specific situations that challenge us, but just the general practice of communing with God in prayer day by day teaches us to depend on Him, trust Him, be conformed to His will, love Him, honor Him, and submit to Him. And that’s a great foundation for making godly decisions.


5.
Flee from Sin

Sometimes the formidable decisions we face are a result of our own sin. So just stay away from sin. Not only is that God’s will for your life because it honors and glorifies Him, but, as a bonus, you can totally avoid having to make the difficult decisions that are part and parcel of the consequences of sin.


6.
Get Invested in Church

In addition to the fact that it’s God’s will for your life to be a faithful, active member of a local, biblically led and structured body of believers, investing yourself – your time, your love, your priority, your money, your service – in the life of the church means that when you face challenging decisions you already have a godly support network in place. Brothers and sisters in Christ will be at the ready to pray for you, provide practical help and advice, comfort you, point you to God’s Word, walk through it with you, check on you, rejoice or grieve with you, and so on.


7.
Get Wisdom

Get wisdom,” Proverbs 4 admonishes. God isn’t going to just bop you on the head with a magic wand, and “Presto!” you’ve got the wisdom to make godly choices. It doesn’t work that way (believe me, I’ve tried). You have to proactively pursue it. How do you get wisdom?

Study God’s Word Copious amounts of it, every day, starting with the wisdom literature. Listen to good, doctrinally sound sermons from your own pastor and others. Get plugged in to a good Sunday School, Bible study, or discipleship class. Read doctrinally sound books. Discuss Scripture with others. Find out which biblical principles apply to the decision you’re faced with and pore over them.

Pray Ask God to grow you in wisdom. Ask Him to help you correctly apply Scripture to your situation and lead you to the wisest, most godly decision. Ask others to pray these things for you as well.

Seek out wise brothers and sisters for counsel. Reach out to mature Christians who can offer godly advice and help you apply God’s word to the decision making process. Set up an appointment with your pastor (or an  ACBC certified Biblical Counselor) for counseling. Seek the expert advice of brothers and sisters who are professionals in the field (legal, medical, educational, etc.) of your dilemma.

Get informed. Usually, in order to make a wise and godly decision about something, you have to know the “facts of the case” first. For example, if you’re trying to make a wise decision about whether or not to take a certain job, first find out as much as you possibly can about the job, the company, the work environment, the pay, and so on. You can’t rightly apply Scripture (or pray, or seek counsel) if you don’t know what you’re applying Scripture to.


8.
Trust God

You’ve studied Scripture about it. You’ve prayed about it and have others praying for you about it. You’ve sought wisdom about it. You’ve done everything you can do on your part to pursue godliness and make a biblical decision, and all that’s left is to make the actual decision.

So make it and quit fretting over whether or not it’s “God’s will.”

Yes, it’s really that simple.

Why? Because if you’ve done all that prayer and study and seeking wisdom, guess what? You’ve already done God’s will for your life: You’ve pursued Him. You’ve pursued holiness. So go ahead and make the choice that seems the wisest and most godly. Stuck between two options that appear to be equally godly? Choose the one you like better. Sometimes God uses those unique tastes, preferences, and “bents” He has fearfully and wonderfully knit into us to guide us one way or another.

Go ahead and make the decision and stop worrying (because we know worrying isn’t God’s will for your life). Trust in God’s sovereign power to control the situation, His care for you to guide you and carry you through, His love for you, and His desire to do what’s best for you.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6


It is precious in God’s sight when we want to please and obey Him, but He doesn’t want us to become overwrought along the way with anxiety over decisions. When God tells us we can trust Him to guide us and direct our paths, He really means that. Strive to live godly in Christ Jesus and trust God to handle the rest.

Obedience, Sanctification

When God Says No

When I was sixteen years old, I was convinced God was calling me to be the next Sandi Patty…I wanted God to use me- to put me on a stage every night in front of thousands of people so I could sing to them about Him…Somehow, it never occurred to me to care what God thought about all this or what He might want to do in my life. If I thought about it at all, I just assumed He was on board with my plans. Like, how could He not be, right?¹

There’s much ado about dreaming big dreams for God in modern evangelicalism. Think of the biggest thing you want to do for God and then “step out on faith” and make it happen. Sometimes we’re even told God is offended if our dreams aren’t big enough. It means we don’t have enough faith. It means we don’t believe God – or love Him – enough.

Or does it?

If you study through the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, you’re going to get to know Saul and David pretty well. And as you observe and compare their words, their behavior, and their interactions with God, a major theme that jumps out is obedience to God’s word versus doing what’s right in your own eyes.

Saul was an “I did it my way,” kind of guy. Time and again, he looked out for number one. Tried to build up his own kingdom. Did what he thought was best.

In 1 Samuel 15, God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Everything. Every living creature and all their stuff. All means all.

But Saul had big dreams. So, he destroyed all the worthless stuff and all the people, but he saved the king and all the valuables. He disobeyed God’s clear word in favor of what he wanted to do.

Here’s the interesting part, though. When Samuel showed up and said, “Why did you disobey the Lord?” Saul said, not once, but twice, “I did obey the Lord.”

Why? Because Saul was going to offer some of those sheep he spared in a grand and showy sacrifice to the Lord. He was going to “do great things for God” and, in his mind, that was far better and more glorious than simple obedience to God’s explicit command.

By contrast, God says David was “a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” David sought the Lord and obeyed His words.

But David had a dream, too. He loved God deeply and wanted to do something big to honor Him.

“See now, I dwell in a house of cedar,” David said, “but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” David wanted to build a grand and glorious house for God.

It was a good dream. A dream that stemmed from godly motives. A dream that was, in reality, part of God’s plan.

But God said, “No.” Because it wasn’t God’s plan for David.

Sometimes there are things we want to do for God in life or in ministry because our hearts are fairly bursting with love for Him. Nothing small or insignificant will suffice – we want to do great things for Him because He has done so many great things for us.

Can I just tell you – that heart is what is most precious to God, not whatever it is you can dream up to do for Him. Every parent who’s ever received a clay ashtray or a bedraggled dandelion from her five year old knows this. We love the heart of our child who wants to show her love for us, even if the gift itself isn’t quite right.

And just like you would have to tell your five year old no if she wanted to demonstrate her love for you by having the family skip church on Sunday so she could cook you a four course brunch, God sometimes has to say no to the things we want to do for Him because those things – even though motivated by love for Him – conflict with His word, are out of sync with His timing, or aren’t His specific plan for us, personally.

It might be your heart’s deepest desire to serve God as the perfect Proverbs 31 wife…and God says no by declining to provide you with a husband. Maybe it’s always been your dream to raise a house full of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…and God says no by preventing you from bearing or adopting children. “I’ve always loved to tell people about Jesus,” you think, “Surely He’s calling me to be a pastor.”…and God says no in His word because that’s not His plan for Christian women.

God said no to David, too. It wasn’t the right time. It didn’t fit with what God was trying to accomplish in Israel at that moment. And David wasn’t the right man for the job. God had other things He wanted David to do.

How did David respond when God said no? Did he push forward with his own plans and build the temple anyway? Spend the rest of his life sulking or angry at God? Turn away from God all together?

No. David responded with humility that God would use him in any way, joy over God’s love and blessings, and thanksgiving for God’s plans and promises.

That’s what a heart that truly loves God does. It obeys Him. It finds joy in any task He might bring our way. It is thankful and humbled that God takes any notice of us whatsoever and lavishes His grace and mercy upon us by allowing us to do what He wants us to do.

God didn’t allow David to build the temple. God didn’t allow me to become a top Christian recording artist. Maybe there’s something God isn’t allowing you to do. Will you joyfully obey Him in the things He does have planned for you? Will you be thankful and humbled that He desires to use you as part of His good plans and purposes even if those plans and purposes don’t match your own?

May we all follow David’s example – and the Greater David’s example – by saying, meaning, and living out, “Not my will but Thy will be done,” even when God says no.


Additional Resources:

How do I move on after God says “no”?

Mailbag, Marriage

The Mailbag: I “feel led” in a different direction from my husband.

 

My husband and I recently moved to a new state. After living here a few months, I ‘m not sure this is where God wants us. At the time of our move, my husband had another opportunity for us to go to a different state than the one we just moved to. In prayer and reading God’s word I think we should’ve gone to that state instead. That opportunity is still open, and I feel led to go. I’ve prayed and asked God and still feel led. I’m so confused. I am starting to feel like my husband is a hindrance in my following God’s will. He is supposed to be the leader of the family but he’s not a godly leader. I am a Christian woman who is trying to follow what I think God is leading me to do.  My problem is I have a husband who isn’t in God’s word, nor trying to be, and he says no. 

One of the most stressful situations in a marriage is when your spouse is an unbeliever, one spouse is much more spiritually mature than the other, or there are major differences on theological issues between spouses. I know this is difficult, but I hope I’ll be able to point you in a helpful direction.

It’s good that you’re reading your Bible and praying as you seek God’s direction. I’m not sure (but am very curious) as to which Bible passage you might have read that leads you to believe you moved to the wrong state. I can’t think of one that addresses that issue because the Bible is not personally specific in that way. It gives us wisdom and godly instruction and principles which God wants us to use to make wise choices, but there aren’t any verses that say things like, “You should have moved to the other state,” “Marry Bob, not Fred,” or “Buy the minivan instead of the convertible.”

You say, “I am a Christian woman who is trying to follow what I think God is leading me to do.” That’s great! That’s always the attitude of heart we should have. And the first thing we need to understand is that God leads us through His sufficient and authoritative Word. That means, when we have a decision to make, we don’t go by subjective feelings and impressions, we go to God’s written word and make sure we’re obeying everything it says about our situation.

The good news about your situation is that God spells out His will for you very clearly in Scripture. If you really mean what you say about wanting to do God’s will and follow what He’s leading you to do rather than doing what you want to do and calling that God’s will, here it is:

God is leading you to submit to your husband:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5:22-24 (emphasis mine)

Unless your husband is abusing¹ you or encouraging you to do something sinful, God’s will is for you to graciously submit to his decisions. Denying your request to move to another state may not make you happy, but it does not qualify as abuse or sin. Notice, this passage says wives are to submit “in everything,” not just the decisions we agree with. The remainder of this passage goes on to instruct men about how they’re to treat their wives in a godly way, but it does not say that wives only have to submit to their husbands if their husbands are godly or “in the Word.”

God is leading you to conduct yourself respectfully:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 1 Peter 3:1-5 (emphasis mine)

Sometimes when we ladies want something from our husbands, we can be like a dog with a bone, talking them to death about it (Dare I say, nagging?). While husbands and wives should talk through major issues and decisions together, if you’ve calmly, lovingly, and respectfully offered your husband your input and he has made his decision, you need to stop trying to convince him to do it your way. Let it go, Elsa. Behave and speak with love, grace, and kindness toward your husband as you move on with life in your marriage. You may not win him over to your opinion, but that’s not your ultimate goal. Your goal – as you mentioned in your e-mail – is for him to be godly and in the Word. Your behavior and demeanor can help win him to godliness.

God is leading you to be content:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11b-13

If anyone knew what it was like to bear up under unpleasant circumstances and find his contentment in Christ rather than in temporal happiness, it was Paul. Paul had learned the secret to maintaining his contentment no matter what: the strength only Christ can provide. Christ can enable you to be content in this circumstance of your life, too. Just keep your focus on Him and ask Him to strengthen you.

God is leading you to pray for His will to be done and to trust Him for the outcome.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 (emphasis mine)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (emphasis mine)

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done.” At Gethsemane, He demonstrated it for us. God did not change Jesus’ circumstances, because it was His will for Jesus to be crucified. But Jesus trusted God to do what was right and best, and He obeyed and glorified His Father to His last breath.

Are you praying for God’s will to be done in your situation, or your will? Keep in mind that God is sovereign. If it were His will for you to be in another state right now, that’s where you would be. Nobody can thwart God’s will. Have you ever considered the possibility that it’s not that your husband is a “hindrance in following God’s will” but that it was God’s will for you to be living in this state and that He caused or allowed your husband to move you there because that’s what He wants? Ask God to do His will in your situation, obey Him no matter the cost, and trust Him for the outcome.

Finally, I’d like to address something you mentioned in your e-mail that you didn’t seem to think was connected to your main question. Actually, it is. You said that you found my blog while searching for one of the false teachers I warn against. If you’ve been sitting under the teaching of the woman you mentioned, or these teachers, or any other teachers who don’t properly handle and teach God’s word, that is a large part of your confusion about your situation. These teachers do not correctly teach people how to study, understand, and apply God’s word to their lives.

You’ve been taught to “feel led” to do things that are in conflict with God’s word. God leads us and speaks to us through Scripture, and it is Scripture alone that we are to go to and depend on to live a godly life and make wise decisions, not our feelings, opinions, and experiences. Unfortunately, teachers like the one you mentioned often lead their hearers to attempt to interpret subjective feelings, ideas, impressions, and circumstances as “God’s will” rather than seeking what God has already revealed to be His will in His written Word. I would encourage you to put away the pre-packaged “Bible” studies, simply pick up your Bible, study it, and obey it.


¹Physical abuse. A husband’s decision not to bow to his wife’s wishes in a situation like this does not constitute abuse. Any wife who is being physically abused should get to safety and get help.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.