Maybe God doesn’t care

Direction Cheri CowellI recently taught at my church out of Cheri Cowell’s excellent book Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life.

One of the most eye-opening key lessons from this book is its debunking of the idea that if the way is clear, that must be God’s will. To sum up Cowell’s point up in my own words, the path of least resistance is a Zen concept, not a Christian one. As we see in the book of Job, obstacles may come precisely *because* we are doing God’s will.

A more subtle lesson, but just as important, is counterintuitive. If we spend lots of time in prayer over a decision, seeking God’s will, and we don’t receive any clear guidance, what are we to think?

Perhaps there is some obstacle, like unforgiveness, that’s hindering our discernment.

Or maybe God just doesn’t care.

How can that be, if, as Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps”?

Well, yes, God is Sovereign, and his purposes will not be thwarted.

But we also have free will. It would be absurd to believe that we only have free will so we can either do God’s will or disobey. Surely there must be times when the decisions are more subtle than that.

A boss may have a specific goal for his employees, while giving them autonomy in choosing how to achieve it. He won’t micromanage them by giving advice in those areas, because he trusts them to make right choices without his help.

God is not a micromanager. He has given us a big-picture goal: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

So if he isn’t giving specific direction about a particular issue, maybe it’s because either way is fine with him.


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

3 comments on “Maybe God doesn’t care

  1. Sorry, but God does in fact care about every little thing. Read the books of the old law again if you need proof. He simply whispers while our flesh shouts and can easily drown him out. Usually, we’re not hearing his answer because we don’t want to hear it because, in our hearts, we are really just looking for him to give us permission to go our own way. (Myself included sometimes, of course.) I can see where the conclusion “God doesn’t care” would be tempting, that’s usually said defensively when we are in fact being convicted not to do something we’re badly wanting to do.

    That’s why I’m issuing a word of warning not to assume divine silence constitutes divine permission or to teach that it does. Remember how often kids use that thinking as an excuse to do something wrong without parental permission? Someone who is spending lots of time praying over a decision already has a conviction that they shouldn’t make it without God’s counsel. Intentionally or not, you’re encouraging people to give up trying to crucify the flesh so they can hear from God and instead simply go their own way. That would be embarrassing to have to explain to God when we get to Heaven to say the least.

    Keep in mind, we can totally get turned around in the other way, too, assuming a certain way isn’t the way God would want us to go when it is the way God wants us to go and it’s really our own flesh that doesn’t want to go that way.

    • Andrea —

      What you write is absolutely true. And I knew I was going to ruffle feathers with such a provocative title. Note at the end of the post I pointed out that our goal is to be perfect as he is perfect. Within that boundary, he may sometimes leave the choice between A and B up to us.

      I do Cheri’s book a disservice by trying to sum it up in such a short space. She has a lot to say about decision-making, and this is only one minor point among many more important ones. I just wanted to write about it because it was the most surprising and, in a way, refreshing. The idea is not that divine silence is permission to do something stupid. Cheri devotes a whole chapter to “Obstacles to Hearing from God.” But the idea here is that once those obstacles are removed, if you have two equally good choices — say, when you’re asked to choose between serving on either the church finance committee or the building committee — and you ask God which, sometimes the answer will be a clear call to one or the other, but sometimes the answer will be “whatever you like.”

      He is a loving father, not a dictator.

  2. BTW, God didn’t give us free will so we could go our own way. He gave us free will so we could freely choose to love him and obey his sovereign will. Thank God for grace!

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