Can you miss the will of God for your life? This is an age-old question that people will never stop asking. It can also be simple or complicated to answer depending on what angle you decide to take.
In this article I will try to give a balanced answer to the theology of this question while also addressing the practical side of “missing God’s will” and how that might look in real life.
You Cannot Miss God’s Sovereign Will for Your Life, But You Can Miss God’s Prescribed Will for Your Life
I unpack the two wills of God in great detail in my article/video called, “Does God’s Will Always Happen in Relationships?” The sovereign will of God always happens. What God planned from the beginning of time, like the gospel of Jesus Christ, will always happen because God wills it (Ephesians 1:11, Proverbs 16:33, Acts 2:23). The prescribed will of God, however, is what God commands people to do, which does not always happen (Luke 7:30, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 John 2:17).
Obviously there is a large element of mystery to how these two wills of God work together. The best way I’ve come to understand their relationship is that God brings about his sovereign will through the free choices of human beings. People make real choices that have real consequences, but God is still in control of the outcomes of those choices.
People often want to emphasize “cause” in these conversations about the will of God. I think it is more helpful to emphasize “control.” God doesn’t cause everything (like sin), but he is in control of everything (even sin).
There Are Consequences to Our Actions When We Disobey God’s Prescribed Will
The previous point focuses more on the theological side of the question, “Can you miss the will of God for your life?” What most people are asking, however, is will God always turn things around so we don’t miss out on the good things he wanted to give us? Or can we actually miss out on good things when we disobey God? Does God’s sovereign will overrule his prescribed will? In short, no. God’s sovereign will and his prescribed will work together as discussed in point 1.
The theology explains the “behind the scenes” so to speak. It is the backend of this question. Now I want to try and answer this question from the front end. In other words, we also want to explain this question in the context of real life details. What happens in our lives when we rebel against the prescribed, specific will of God for our lives?
When you disobey God’s will, three things can happen. You will be punished, you will be discipline, or you will reap the consequences of your actions. I’ve talked about this more in the article/video What’s the Biblical Difference Between Punishment, Discipline, and Consequences? I recommend referring to that resource for the full explanation, but this is relevant to the question, “Can you miss the will of God for your life?” because the Bible does clearly state that there are effects to the causes our sin initiates.
So the way this will look in real life when you disobey the will of God (meaning the prescribed will of God/God’s will of command) is that God will always work to correct you and bring you back on the specific path he desires for your life. This is called discipline. Discipline is when God seeks to correct sinful behavior and teaches us to live righteously. Another way to say it is that when God disciplines us, he seeks to bring us back into his will for our lives. The Bible says that God always disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6). So when you sin and rebel, God will seek to discipline you and restore to you what he originally intended to give you.
However, the Bible also states that there are consequences to our actions. Consequences are different than discipline. Consequences are the natural results of our actions. The Bible says we really do reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-9). Sometimes the natural consequences of our choices really do cause us to miss something good God wanted to give us earlier in life.
For example, when it comes to relationships, when we sin and turn from God, certainly God seeks to discipline us. In most cases, we can get back on the path God had for us and receive what he wanted to give us. Let’s say a man lived very sinfully in his 20s, 30s, and 40s but then he received God’s discipline in his 50s. It’s very possible God would have given him a Christian marriage but since he rebelled for 30 years he did not receive that marriage. But now that the man is back in the will of God, it’s still possible that God would give him a Christian marriage now in his 50s.
It’s also possible that the natural consequences of his 30 years of rebellion will cause him to remain single for the rest of his life. This is not God punishing him or holding out on him. Rather, because the man rebelled during the prime years where most people pair off, the statistical averages are much less likely for him to get married.
So it’s certainly not impossible for God to bless this man with a marriage, but it is also possible that he missed out on something good because he lived in rebellion to God’s will for so long. I don’t think it would be fair for this man to simply say, “God never wanted me to get married to a Christian woman.” Perhaps God did desire that but the man was not walking in God’s prescribed will for his life.
When we look at it from this perspective, yes, you can miss the will of God for your life.
You Won’t Miss God’s Will for Your Life If You Obey God’s Word Throughout Your Life
I know my answers are not completely straight forward. I also know that anyone who gives you an overly simplified answer about the will of God does not really respect the complexity of our Maker. It’s right to not know God’s ways all the time (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Perhaps a good take away and action step to the question, “Can you miss the will of God for your life?” is this: You will not miss the will of God for your life if you obey God’s word throughout your life. When people ask this question about missing God’s will, I think what they are really asking is, “Does God just have one will for my life and can I miss that specific path?”
It’s the wrong mentality to think of God’s will for your life as a series of steps you must take in chronological order or else you will miss his will. The will of God for your life is not like crossing a river by hopping from stone to stone. Miss one stone, slip off a wet rock, and boom, you miss God’s will.
When you think of the will of God (meaning his prescribed will), it’s better to think of it as a way of life rather than one specific trail you must follow. I don’t believe it is accurate to think of God’s will like a winding, narrow trail weaving through a dense forest that you must follow perfectly. I believe it’s more accurate to say the will of God is like heading North instead of South.
God is not asking you to make sure every morally neutral choice is within his will for you. If you want to be married, for example, you are not going to miss God’s will for your marriage because you decided to go to Chipotle on Friday instead of Applebee’s because if you went to Applebee’s the waiter was actually going to be your future husband. But because you went to Chipotle instead of Applebee’s you are now going to be single forever. That’s not how the will of God works for your life.
Rather, God’s will for your life is that you live in a Christ-like manner. In other words, when you obey the word of God it is impossible to miss the will of God for your life. This is where we must come back to the sovereign will of God. When we obey God’s prescribed will, we must leave everything else in the hands of the Lord. God is responsible for accomplishing his sovereign will for our lives. We are responsible to live our lives in a way that is in alignment with God’s prescribed will.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
God calls us to follow him and live lives that are unlike those who are stuck in the sinful world. Following God’s will for your life is more about what “pattern” our lives follow rather than following one specific path of morally neutral choices in a perfect sequence. We are to live for Christ. If we do that, we will not miss the will of God for our lives.
Sometimes the Root of Our Question Is, “Does God’s Will Match My Will?”
It can be hard to really get to the root of a question sometimes. However, I think the real question people are often asking is “Does God’s will for my life match my will for my life?”
The goal of our lives is not to manipulate God into aligning his will with our will. Rather, our aim must be to align our will with his will. John 7:17 states, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”
Here Jesus is clearly referring to the prescribed will of God. God has commended us to live a certain way through the clear teachings of his word. When we make that the true motive of our lives, we will not feel the pressure and anxiety of “missing the will of God.”
When we are anxious and fearful about missing God’s will, sometimes the root of those emotions is a deeper fear that God’s will is different than our own will for our lives. What if you want to be married but that’s not God’s will? What if you want to get a better job, but that’s not God’s will? What if you want someone to forgive you after you hurt them, but that person refuses to forgive you?
When we are consumed with accomplishing our own will for our lives rather than God’s will, we will grow fearful and worried. The way to overcome this fear is by truly aligning your will with God’s will. God’s ultimate purpose for your life is to glorify him through the grace of Jesus Christ. When you make that your ultimate will for your life too, you will be free to live with joy regardless of the details of your life. Why? Because no matter what happens specifically, you can always glorify God in your circumstances.
Whether you are single or married, employed or unemployed, healthy or sick, you can always seek to bring God honor through the way you live.
Can You Miss the Will of God for Your Life?
Yes, you can miss good things God might have given you if you would have obeyed God’s word. If you obey God’s word, then you will not miss God’s will for your life. God is sovereign and is always able to accomplish his sovereign plan.
You may also like:
- Can Sexual Purity Be an Idol?
- Christian Relationship Advice: When You Want Divine Intervention (4 Tips…
- 4 Tips If You Want to Serve God in Christian…
- 3 Unattractive Qualities that Could Be Keeping You Single
- How Persistent Should a Christian Guy Be in Pursuing a…
- Emotional Promiscuity: 5 Ways to Avoid Crossing Emotional Boundaries Before…