Here are 4 ways you can discover exactly what God wants for you and this person you have questions about.
1. Use a Holy Trial and Error Process After a Healthy Time of Prayer
Trial and error is a process of attempting to solve a problem by using multiple solutions to see which one works. For Christian, this process can be very helpful when it comes to relationships but it also needs to be used very wisely and prayerfully. It’s best used when the “error” is not a huge consequence.
For example, you would not want to use trial and error when deciding if you should marry someone. If you marry someone and realize this was an “error” and now you wish you didn’t marry them, it’s too late as God does not permit divorce just because you feel like you made a mistake.
However, when the “error” would not be devastating and long-lasting, this method can be very useful in trying to figure out God’s will for you and a particular person. Notice how Paul used this method in discerning God’s will in visiting certain people. Romans 15:30-32 states:
I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.”
First Paul asked for prayer, but then Paul deferred to “God’s will” when determining if he would see them as he wanted to. Prayer is our appeal for God to answer our plea, but we then are called to just see what happens because we know God’s will has the final say.
Paul also used this method in Acts 18:21, “But on taking leave of them he said, ‘I will return to you if God wills,’ and he set sail from Ephesus.” Paul didn’t try to figure out God’s will first and then decide to return to Ephesus. His plan was to simply return to Ephesus one day but he concluded that if he was prevented from this that it was simply not God’s will.
Likewise, when it comes to relationships, we often get stuck because we want to know God’s will before taking action. But oftentimes God will reveal his will through the actions that we take. Sometimes instead of asking God what will happen if you call her, you just need to call her and then God will show you what will happen. Sometimes instead of asking God what will happen if you go on a date with him, you just need to go on a date with him and then God will reveal what will happen next. Of course ask God if he is releasing you to take these types of actions. But it’s not always wise to wait for God to tell you what will happen if you do take these actions.
James 4:15 says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” Here we are told to submit to God’s will but also to just plan to “do this or that” and then if God wills it this will happen. If God doesn’t will it, you will be prevented. But you won’t know until you try.
2, 3, and 4. Use Direct Obedience, Applied Obedience, and Subconscious Obedience
I’m lumping points 2-4 together because these three forms of biblical obedience are so intermingled in real life it just makes sense to talk about them together.
The simplest answer to the question, “How can I know God’s will about a relationship I desire?” is, “Obey the Bible.” This answer is correct because in one sense “the will of God for you” is always found in the “word of God to you.” It’s always God’s will that you live a biblical and obedient life. While that answer is correct, I think it is insufficient in actually helping Christians when it comes to relationships because there is a bit of nuance when trying to obey God’s commands in the context of romance.
I’ve found it helpful to think of obedience to God in at least three general categories. The first category is the most obvious: direct obedience. This is when you read a clear command in the Bible and you just obey it word for word. For example, 1 Corinthians 7:39 states, “. . . she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” This is simple and clear. You are free to marry another Christian. You are not free to marry an unbeliever.
The second type of obedience takes a little more wisdom to use: applied obedience. This is when you take a relevant command or biblical principle and you wisely apply it to your circumstance even though your circumstance is not directly explained in the Bible. For example, the Bible does not say “Do not date an unbeliever” but the Bible does say not to be unequally yoked and don’t marry an unbeliever (2 Corinthian 6:14, 1 Corinthians 7:39). Therefore, most Christians have applied these commands to the concept of dating and have concluded it is wrong to date an unbeliever because dating is a form of yoking meant to lead to marriage.
Or let’s say you are trying to figure out what is a safe line for physical intimacy in dating. The Bible doesn’t say “Don’t lay down in bed at 2am wearing nothing but your underwear with your boyfriend or girlfriend.” But the Bible does say, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality . . .” (Ephesians 5:3, NIV). It would be a good application of Scripture to say it is not God’s will for you to put yourself in any situation that is obviously sexually motivated.
The third form of obedience is probably the most used but also the least thought about: subconscious obedience. This is what we do throughout the day without even thinking about it. We just do it. For example, when you speak with your coworkers on your lunchbreak, do you cuss or do you use edifying language? When you are interacting with a single person that you find attractive at church, do you flirt in a sexualized way or do you show interest in a respectful way? When someone you are talking to says something offensive to you, do you lash out in anger or do you give them the benefit of the doubt and ask them to clarify what they meant by that statement you found offensive?
All of these decisions will happen in a split second but in these little moments we are either going to be following God’s will for our lives or disobeying God’s will for our lives. As Ephesians 4:1-3 states:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
If you want to know God’s will for you and someone, you must “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” and God will then make his will clear to you.
In summary of these points, if you want to know God’s will for you and someone, obey the Bible directly, apply it wisely to your life, and pray that the Holy Spirit will help you live your life in a holy manner even when you are just making subconscious decisions.
I’m a firm believer that when we simply try to obey God and live biblically, he will take care of the rest and he will make his will clear to us in his timing. You won’t miss his will if you are obeying his word.
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