Does God Have a “Will” for Our Lives?

Does God Have a Will for Our Lives?

The Huffington Post recently posted an article by Emily Timbol entitled “Don’t Believe the Lies, God Doesn’t Have a Perfect Match for You.” The main point of this article is that God is not a cosmic “matchmaker,” and that one should therefore not look to the internet or any other “fad” to fill one’s empty heart, or fulfill one’s eternal “purpose” from God:

I love my husband, but he’s not God’s match for me. Such a thing doesn’t exist. God is not an omnipotent Yenta, spending His days deciding which coupling would lead to the easiest, happiest, most attractive (white, based on the ads) twosome. He certainly isn’t sending down Christian biased algorithms to profit driven websites, so they can do the work for Him.

Why?

Because soul mates is something we made up. Not God. Nowhere in the Bible does God, Jesus or the apostles give any hint that there is one perfect mate out there that we should be searching for.

This is true. The scriptures (nor any part of tradition of which I’m aware) do not suggest to us that there is one, “perfect” person for everyone. Some people are meant to be single, some people will marry a person that makes them miserable, and so on. Truth be told, the idea of a “soul mate” comes more from Plato’s dialogues than it does the old or new testament:

[Zeus] said: “Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us … human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love.

Plato, Symposium (Source)

Plato’s rather odd description of “primeval” man (as a round creature, no less) is cited by internet memes and books related to “finding true love,” but it of course is more allegory than reality. However, it should be noted that Plato suggests that if one’s “other half” is killed, such a person should then search for another “half” to make them whole again. This desire to be “whole” — to be linked with another — is what the Symposium quantifies as “love.” And incidentally, pederasty is upheld as a highest form of love in the Symposium.

However, at the heart of this idea of “finding one’s soul mate” is whether or not God has a “will” for our lives, and even unto the extent of every mundane decision we are to make.

I was recently discussing this topic with a preist friend of mine, and he noted that such an expectation (discerning “God’s will” and the like) is futile, due to the fact that God does not have a gnomic will. The distinction between a “natural” and “gnomic” will is something for which the Church owes a debt of gratitude to Maximos the Confessor, whose theological ruminations became the foundation for the decrees of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (AD 681). The natural will is that which is in concert with the Logos or the telos of one’s being. The gnomic will, on the other hand, is the will of one’s “intentions” or “free choice,” and is a product of the fall; the gnomic will either guides a person into decisions that are sinful and determined by the “passions,” or into decisions that are in union with the Divine energies of God. As such, Jesus Christ (in the incarnation, becoming fully man) has no gnomic will, being omniscient. In other words, there was never a time in which the Lord Jesus Christ was “ignorant” of what he should be doing; he never had a “crisis” of choice, guided by sinful passions.

When it comes to “making choices,” one is engaged in a spiritual struggle between one’s passions and between the Logos. Will we make decisions that are determined by sin, or by faith? By succumbing to the passions, or by succumbing to the “will” of God as revealed in Christ? After all, if one wants to know the Father, one must look no further than the Son (St John 14:9).

As a result, the way one is to “make a decision” in this life (whether major or minor) is to do so in cooperation with the Spirit of God and the Divine energies. We are to make choices that are “of the Spirit,” being the products of union with the Trinity, and not choices that are “of the flesh.” The apostle Paul outlines this beautifully in one of his occasional epistles (Gal. 5:16–25):

But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.

There is no “voice from heaven” to guide us through each decision. We are not meant to embark on a painful and frustrating journey of “discerning God’s will” that often leaves people more confused and dejected than it does satisfied. The way to act “according to God’s will” is to act in such a way that is in harmony with the Divine energies (“activities”) of God himself, such as the “fruit of the Spirit” listed by the apostle above. It is hopeless to attempt to find “God’s will” for every decision we make, as if this were even possible.

Christians are to live according to the revelation given in both Christ and in the tradition of the Church (the scriptures, the hymns, the lives of the Saints, etc.), which are one and the same. By so doing, one can become less and less dependent upon — and slaves to — the passions, and more and more in harmony with the “will” of God, as revealed to us in both Jesus Christ and in the life of the Church.

The way of “love, joy, peace” is the way of Christ; and by following this way completely, one will never make a “wrong” decision or be acting contrary to “God’s will.”

G. V. Martini

About G. V. Martini

G. V. Martini works as a senior product manager for a software company and is a subdeacon in the Orthodox Church. He and his family attends St. Innocent Antiochian Orthodox Church in Everson, Washington.

Doctrine

2 comments:

  1. “The gnomic will, on the other hand, is the will of one’s “intentions” or “free choice,” and is a product of the fall; ” … was the emergence of gnomic will a result of the fall or did the fall simply corrupt gnomic will. If there was no gnomic will prior to the fall, what part of the human psyche did satan tempt, .. the natural will thus perverting it and creating gnomic will? This is an area which I have had trouble grasping.

    Inclina Aurem Cordis tui
    John B

    1. It’s my mistake to have phrased this as if the gnomic will is a “thing,” rather than a state or activity. Gnomic willing is more accurate.

      My understanding, following a rudimentary understanding of St. Maximos the Confessor, is that gnomic willing is a result of sin—a result of being knocked out of balance and oriented away from God—and that by training our will to choose good over evil (as taught by Paul in Hebrews, for example), we can overcome this weakness and allow our natural will—a will that chooses that which is of God as exemplified by Christ and the Saints—to take over.

      There’s probably a lot of semantic mistakes in what I just wrote, and English is tough with these concepts, but … there you go. 🙂

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