God has a wonderful plan for your life. Is it possible you missed it? We’ve all made bad decisions–could it be that some of your past choices have put you in a place outside of God’s will? How can you find God’s will for your life?

Questions like that rise from the assumption that God’s will has mainly to do with where you are and what you’re doing. But a survey of what the Bible says about God’s will and his guidance reveals a very different perspective.

It’s never God’s will for you to do something God forbids–ever. It’s never his will for us to lie or steal or commit adultery or disobey Scripture in any way. But what about when we have to choose between multiple good options? Should you take this job or that job? Marry that godly person or a different godly person–or stay single for kingdom purposes? But this house or that house? How do we make hard decisions?

How David Sought God’s Guidance

A good place to go with these questions is Psalm 25, where David seeks God’s will for his life. Perhaps the most striking truth in that psalm is how little David focuses on the outcomes of his decisions compared to the motives behind the decisions.

4Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5guide me in your truth and teach me … 8Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. … 12Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. … 14The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” (Psalm 25:4-14)

(For an audio devotional on this passage, click here. It is a chapter taken from the book Lost in Prayer.)

When we agonize over a hard decision, it’s usually because we’re concerned about which option will produce the best outcomes. Should I buy this house or that house? In my list of pros and cons, the list is mostly about whether things will work out better for me in one or the other. Will I end up better off financially? Will I enjoy one more than the other. Will one create more hardship than the other?

Those questions are worth asking, but for David, questions like that weren’t at the center of his decision-making process. For him, finding God’s guidance was a lot more about how he made the decision than about which option he chose. He wanted to be in God’s path (v.4), God’s truth (v.5), and the fear of the LORD (v.13).

Which Car Should You Buy?

Should you buy the blue Toyota or the red Honda? It’s a big decision, so you seek God’s guidance. If God answers your prayer for guidance, in what form will the answer come? An email from heaven saying, “Buy the red one. The transmission in the blue one will go out in one year.”?

No, that’s not how God guides us. Whether or not one will last another 200,000 miles and the other will fall apart in a month isn’t what’s important. When God provides his guidance, it comes in this form:

“Here’s how to make this decision with a heart that cares more about eternal things than temporal things …”

“Here’s how to make the decision with humility rather than pride …”

“Here’s how to honor your spouse as you make the decision …”

“Here’s how you can eliminate covetous attitudes as you choose …”

In other words, “Here’s my way. Walk in it.” It’s the way of righteousness and the fear of the LORD.

Does it matter if you but the one that’s the better deal and that will be more reliable? Sure. Part of walking in God’s way is using wisdom the best you can, and there’s nothing wrong with avoiding foreseeable trouble. But avoiding trouble is way down on the list of importance compared to things like what your heart trusts, what you love, and which motivations rise above others in your heart. Finding God’s will is more about walking through the decision-making process with godly attitudes than it is about whether you end up buying the blue one or the red one.

Are You Out of God’s Will?

So could it be that you’ve missed God’s will for your life? Is it possible to take a wrong turn in life that’s so wrong that it takes you off the path of God’s wonderful plan for your life forever? No, it’s not. It isn’t possible because God’s wonderful plan for your life has very little to do with where you are, and a whole lot to do with how you are walking. Being in the center of God’s will isn’t about whether you’re working as a plumber or a scientist as much a whether you’re doing that work as if serving the Lord, not men (Eph.6:7).

If you have a hard decision and ask me to pray that you would be able to discern God’s will, I will pray. But don’t be surprised if the next time I see you my question isn’t “Which option did you choose?” but rather, “Did you walk in righteousness in the way you made the decision?”

What a freeing truth this is! If God’s will were mainly about which option we choose, what we do, and where we go, then one really bad turn (like marrying the wrong person) really could place out outside of God’s will for life. But if God’s will is mainly about what direction your heart is going right now, then it’s always, always possible to be right smack dam in the center of God’s wonderful plan for your life.