Does God’s will always prevail? More specifically, does God’s will always happen in relationships? This is a common question for Christians when it comes to dating and marriage.
When we talk about the will of God, it can be confusing because we know God is omnibenevolent (all good) and omnipotent (all powerful/sovereign) and yet bad things happen in life and relationships. So why do bad things happen if God has all the power and desires good for humans?
Sadly Christians often feel torn to choose between the all-powerful God or the all-loving God. They usually choose the all-loving God and thus assume God’s will does not always happen. But we do not need to choose between God’s power and God’s goodness. We need to increase our understanding of how they work together. (For more on this, read my article on Desiring God called, “Where’s God’s Love in Loss?”
We often make the jump that God’s will must not always happen because sinful, bad things happen all the time. Since God would never plan for evil or cause sin, God’s will must not always prevail. But there are so many Bible verses that talk about God’s predetermined will always happening.
So which is? Does God’s will always happen in relationships or not? The key to answering questions like these is to realize there are two types of “God’s will” in the Bible. In this article I will explain God’s sovereign will, his prescribed will, and then how these two “wills” play out in Christian relationships.
(Note: Much of the information covered in this article I learned from John Piper. You may want to read his article about God’s will.)
God’s Sovereign Will Always Happens
The first “will of God” is what many, including myself, refer to as God’s sovereign will. When we say that God is sovereign, we mean that he has a plan and will always accomplish that plan. Sovereignty is a prerequisite for divinity. If you can’t do what you want whenever you want, you are not God.
Over and over again the Bible teaches us that God is completely in control of every molecule that has ever existed. What happens in reality is always God’s will because God is always in complete control of reality. Otherwise you are saying God is not in control and the causes that form our reality are more powerful than God. Yes, we live in a cause and effect world, but the Bible teaches us that the outcomes are already determined through God’s power (Matthew 26:39,Matthew 10:29,Acts 4:27–28, Daniel 4:35).
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)
So God’s sovereign will always happens. For example, before the beginning of time God planned for Jesus to be crucified. But the free choices of humans brought about the crucifixion. Again, however, the crucifixion also happened because God planned for it to happen. Acts 2:23, for example, points to God’s will and man’s will causing the crucifixion:
This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”
God’s will, in this sense, always happens. But there are many things that displease God that occur on earth. So how do we reconcile God’s sovereignty with his displeasure towards pain, sin, and hurt in the lives of humans.
God’s Prescribed Will Does Not Always Happen
The second type of “will of God” which the Bible teaches us about is what I refer to as God’s prescribed will. I like the word “prescribed” because this type of “will” is God’s directions and instructions to us. Like a prescription from the doctor, God has prescribed a way of life for us to live and given us commands we should follow. Others have referred to this as “God’s will of command.” This type of “will of God” is what God wants and has told humans to do but which he gives us the option to fulfill or not fulfill. It is God’s will that you obey him, but we all know we do not always obey.
But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.” (Luke 7:30)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification:that you abstain from sexual immorality.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
“ . . . give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17)
Here we can see that humans often break God’s will for their life and do not follow God’s plan. The Pharisees “rejected the purpose of God for themselves” because they did not obey God truly. When we sin and disobey, God’s will is not done.
God’s Sovereign Will Still Prevails Even When Humans Do Not Follow God’s Will for Their Life
When you take God’s sovereign will and God’s prescribed will both into account, you can begin to see how God is in control even of things that he does not want. As John Piper puts it:
In fact, knowing the difference between these two meanings of “the will of God” is crucial to understanding one of the biggest and most perplexing things in all the Bible, namely, that God is sovereign over all things and yet disapproves of many things. Which means that God disapproves of some of what he ordains to happen. That is, he forbids some of the things he brings about. And he commands some of the things he hinders. Or to put it most paradoxically: God wills some events in one sense that he does not will in another sense.”
No matter what happens in life, God is in control. Even when Satan acts, God is the one who allows it (Luke 22:31, Job 1:6-12). When humans do evil things, God allows it. God either causes or allows everything that happens. Therefore God is in control.
But God gave us commands for a reason. The Bible tells us what ought to be. God wants good for humans which is why he tells us how to live our lives; but to allow us true freedom so we can experience true love, he allows us to disobey him. We are not breaking his sovereign will, but we are breaking his prescribed will for us. When explaining how God’s will always happens in one sense and does not always happen in another sense, John Piper states:
Here’s an example from 1 Peter. In 1 Peter 3:17 Peter writes, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” In other words, it may be God’s will that Christians suffer for doing good. He has in mind persecution. But persecution of Christians who do not deserve it is sin. So again, God sometimes wills that events come about that include sin. ‘It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will.’”
Our sin does not mean God is not in control. Evil does not mean God is not in control. It means God allows sin and allows evil. You can break God’s commands, but you cannot break God’s authority over you. Whether you obey him or not, God is still the Master of the universe.
Does God’s Will Always Happen in Relationships?
So now let’s apply what we’ve learned to relationships.
God’s prescribed will does not always happen. But his sovereign will always does. He does not want bad things to happen, but even the bad things that do happen are under God’s control. Everything that happens is either directly caused by God or allowed by God, and everything that exists in reality exists because God has allowed it to exist that way.
These same theological truths should be applied when answering, “Does God’s will always happen in a relationship?” It depends on what “will” you are referring to. God does not will that hurt, pain, adultery, or any sin ever happen in a relationship. But God is in control of your life even when these things do happen. He knows what will happen and why it happened and how he will gain glory through it all.
Many times people want to know if God’s will always happens in relationships because they want to know if they can miss out on something good in relationships that God wanted for them. The answer to that is yes. Anytime you sin you are missing out on something good God has for you.
However, we can take this too far and start assuming that even when we are obeying God’s word we will miss God’s will. This is impossible. If you do your best to obey God’s will, that’s all you can do. The rest is in God’s control. You are required to obey God’s prescribed will through being filled with the Spirit and being sanctified. God is responsible for his sovereign will.
Cut through all the confusion that arises in relationships by doing your best to apply the word of God to your relationships. That’s God’s will for you. Love God and love people. Don’t worry about what God does or does not have planned for you in specific ways in relationships. We don’t know if he plans for you to be with that person or this person, to be married this year or never.
What we do know is that he has good planned for you. When you obey God’s will you will experience God’s goodness.
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