Here are a few ways the question, “What is God’s will?”, is often asked: “Did God will this tragedy in my life? Are the bad things I experience and see around me God’s will… as in, He willed them to happen?”
Just as in the “predestination or free will?” question, we find evidence in Scripture to support a yes-and-no answer. But whether or not the answer is yes, no, or both, God is all-powerful, sovereign, and possesses total control over His creation and, therefore, any situation in which we find ourselves.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. (Matt. 10:29-30)
Nothing happens apart from God’s will.
But if it is God’s will that He “wants all men to be saved” and is “not wanting anyone to perish” (1 Tim. 2:3; 2 Pet. 3:9), it is evident that God’s will is not always accomplished. This is an apparent contradiction. What gives?
In his book, The Will of God, Leslie D. Weatherhead offers a plausible explanation. I will offer here only a brief recap of his view.
Jesus’ words to Peter at the Last Supper serve as a splendid example of Weatherhead’s view.
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32)
The Bible says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thess. 4:3). To be sanctified is to be set apart, to be made holy, and to grow into the likeness of Jesus. Anyone who has walked with the Lord for any period of time recognizes clearly that we do most of our growing in and through trials. It is the difficult times that draw us closer to Jesus. It is possible to grow spiritually in good times, yes, but the growth rate is exponentially less than the growth rate in tough times.
Therefore, if it is God’s will that we be sanctified, we can see that our trials—yes, even our tragedies—can be the permissive will of a loving God. They are not necessarily caused by God—although they could be—but certainly are permitted… just as in Peter’s case.
In the midst of an extremely tough experience, I asked my pastor friend, Det Bowers, “Is this from Satan or from God?”
He replied, “Yes.”
I responded with a perplexed look, and he said, “Does it really matter? Just use this as an opportunity to grow spiritually… to get closer to the Lord. And use it for the lives of those around you.”
That was clearly God’s will.