I have received direct word from God about his will for your life. You can put away the college major guidebooks, career counseling sessions, and eharmony profiles. I know what he wants from you. Ready?
Joy, prayer, and thankfulness.
“Oh, come on! That’s not his will. Those are abstract concepts! Where’s the Google calendar for the next 10 years?” I’ll tell you where it is: in the book of 1 Thessalonians.
Paul writes this letter to a church that, from what Paul says, is following hard after Jesus. They are enjoying fellowship, bravely enduring persecution, and digging into faith. He ends his first letter to them with a few instructions for how to continue to live in light of the gospel, and then he tells them this:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
That’s God’s will, my friends. That is what he desires for us: to allow his joy to flood our hearts, to be attuned to the things he is doing by speaking to him and listening to him, and to trust him enough to thank him for his work even when we don’t feel like being thankful.
As college students, it’s easy for us to run around in circles looking for God’s will. With what seems like an eternity of future stretching ahead of us, we have to wonder, what would happen if we took a wrong step and did what God didn’t want? Would we end up teaching elementary school to kids in Arkansas instead of wearing a suit and tie to a Wall Street workplace? Would we marry John instead of Joe, or Jane instead of Jen? Would we buy the brown shoes instead of the black?
The blessed truth is that we have an actual eternity stretching in front of us, not just the four score and seven or so years that we have on this earth. And in view of that eternity, God is much more concerned with the person we are than the shoes we are wearing or even the place our paycheck is coming from.
Granted, his will for us is a tall order.
If I had written 1 Thessalonians, it probably would have read something closer to, “Be joyful when you can; pray when you remember; give thanks when it’s the obvious reaction, for this is pretty easy to do even apart from Christ Jesus.”
Doesn’t that sound so much less wonderful? That’s because it is. And God wants wonderful for us. He doesn’t want our sometimes efforts or our own ability: he wants to transform us. To change who we are. To sanctify us.
A little earlier in his letter, Paul tells the Thessalonians that God’s will is for them to be sanctified—a big church word even to them. So, joyfulness, prayer, and thanksgiving are a glimpse of what defines a sanctified person. The beautiful part is that we are not responsible for our own sanctification. God himself will do it.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Will. Do. It.
No matter what the economy, your grades, or your parents’ basement may say, God has a plan for your life. It is for him to renovate every inch of yourself, to free you from blame and to make you the person he designed you to be.
What would happen if we took the time that we spend worrying about our futures and spent it instead praying for joy, giving thanks for all of the circumstances that God has put us in, and asking him to sanctify our lives so that our desires align with his?
I bet that God would be faithful and do it.
Jen Herrmann is an InterVarsity student and chapter president at the University of Oklahoma. She's double majoring in Professional Writing and Film and Media Studies.