We all struggle or have struggled with anxiety. We might know why practically, but do we understand why theologically?
There are many different theological answers one might give for our anxious behaviors. But in this post, however, I’ll give one reason that I’ve noticed many Christians seem unhealthily preoccupied with: the hidden will of God for their life.
The Bible speaks of the will of God in several ways. So when someone asks, “What’s the will of God for my life?” it’s not as easy to answer as one might think. We first have to define what we mean by will before answering the question. Though there are more, the most frequent usages of the word will in Scripture refer to (1) God’s decretive will, (2) God’s preceptive will, and (3) God’s will of disposition.
In his book, What is Reformed Theology?, R.C. Sproul defines the aforementioned wills in this way:
1) Decretive Will: Sometimes referred to as God’s sovereign, efficacious will, by which what he decrees must necessarily come to pass. If God decrees sovereignly that something will happen, it will certainly take place. The decretive will is irresistible.
2) Preceptive Will: Refers to God’s precepts or commands as outlined in Scripture. It’s the law he enjoins upon his creatures.
3) Will of Disposition (or desire): This describes God’s attitude. It refers to or means that which is pleasing or delightful to God.
But then there’s also the hidden will of God. Or some refer to it as God’s will of direction. What does this will entail? This entails what most of us are looking for: knowledge of every little detail of God’s specific, individual plan for our life.
It answer questions like: Will I get married? What city will I live in five years from now? Will I get the job? How will the meeting go next week? When will I die? How will I die? We want to know this because we’re trying to be God.
I don’t think that Christians who battle anxiety are fretfully anxious about God’s decretive and preceptive will, or his will of disposition. We know that God is sovereign, we trust the Bible, and we seek to please him. What I am arguing, however, is that when we do struggle with anxiety, it is primarily because we are anxious about God’s hidden will for life.
In practical language, we might say something like, “I’m having a hard time trusting that God will provide for my future, that everything is going to turn out okay.” If we were to translate this into theological language, we would say, “I’m having a hard time trusting in God’s hidden will for my future.”
Do you see how this creates anxiety?
We’re anxious because we want to know something God does not intend to reveal beforehand. To be preoccupied with God’s hidden will is a fool’s errand. God’s hidden will is just that: hidden. It’s a secret — he is not pleased to reveal it, nor is he pleased that we seek it. This, moreover, as Sproul puts it, is “an invasion of God’s privacy.” God’s hidden will for our life is none of our business, and it is not spiritual nor helpful to seek it. As Deuteronomy 29:29 puts it, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God . . .”
Martin Luther contributes by saying:
For thoughts of this kind (God’s hidden will), which we want to search out something more sublime, above, and outside that which has been revealed about God, are thoroughly diabolical. We accomplish nothing by them expect to hurl ourselves into destruction, because they propose an object to us that defies investigation, to wit, the unrevealed God. Let God rather keep His decrees and mysteries in hiding.
There is a great relief when we let God do his job. Yes, God has a specific plan for your life. Yes, all of God’s decrees will certainly come to pass for you. Yes, he is working all things out for good in Christ Jesus. And yes, in hindsight we’ll be able to trace his hand to see how and where he’s brought us. But, while we’re in the here and now, we don’t need to be anxious about stuff we don’t know. We don’t need to be anxious about every little decision we make. As Kevin DeYoung says, “Because we have radical confidence in God’s will of decree, we can commit ourselves to his will of desire, without fretting about his will of direction.”
Let God be God. To be preoccupied with God’s hidden will is not spiritual nor helpful. God does not burden us with the task with respect to figuring it out. Don’t self-inflict yourself with anxiety by fretting about something that God will not reveal to you. Instead, give your life to God’s revealed will trusting in God’s decrees for your life, knowing that our great God and King is both sovereign and good.
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