“What is God’s will for my life?” At some point in time, each of us has stopped to ponder this loaded question. While perhaps, the true answer is beyond our limited comprehension, it is important that we understand, at least on some level, what direction God is leading us on our spiritual journey.

Here are a couple of analogies that I’ve used in my own life to help me wrap my mind around the infinitely-complex concept that is God’s will and how we fit into it:

Analogy 1: He’s got the whole world in His hand…

One way to think about God’s will is to imagine that God is holding us as we stand in the outstretched palm of His enormous hand.  He, in his infinite wisdom and according to His perfect will, can move us in any direction He desires by simply moving his hand.  We, on the other hand (no pun intended), have some freedom, through the things we do and decisions we make, to move around on His hand. Ideally we want to be in the center of His palm (His will).  When we are in the center of his palm, we feel the safest and God can move us along the fastest.  The further we wander out of the center of His palm, the more He has to slow His movements so that we don’t fall over the edge, in turn slowing our spiritual progress.  In fact, sometimes we might stray so dangerously close to the outer edge of His will, as we can be prone to do, that He has to stop and possibly apply pressure, perhaps painfully, to keep us in His hand.  This is because, as much as we may make mistakes and maybe even deliberately try to run away, He will never let us fall off His hand.  We can never truly escape God’s love.  Alternatively, when we are in tune with Him and the leading of His Holy Spirit, not only can we learn to stay in the center of His palm, but even learn to lean into the turns as He carries us through the twists and turns of life.

Analogy 2: Like a Bob Ross painting…

Recently Netflix added a show called Bob Ross: Beauty is Everywhere to its list of programs you can stream online.  Yes that Bob Ross.  The soft-spoken, afro-sporting painter whose show used air on PBS right after Sesame Street when I was a kid.  Well, last week I made my kids sit down and watch an episode with me and besides the nostalgia and constant complaints from my bored, less-than-impressed kids, I couldn’t help but notice the inherent life lessons about God’s will as Bob’s painting slowly takes shape over the course of about 22 minutes.  Other than the somewhat vague title of the episode, we, the audience, have no clue what the finished painting is going to look like.  Similarly, we may not have a detailed understanding of where God’s will may be taking us exactly.  As Bob paints, he seemingly randomly brushes, scrapes, sweeps, smears, or pokes paint in various places of the canvas, all the while blending colors and textures.  It is clear that he has a plan and he is constantly inviting us to participate by following along at home.  Every so often, we will begin to recognize when a rock, tree, or cloud, etc, will begin to emerge from the randomness, but as soon as we think we have figured out the final image, he adds another detail which takes it in a new direction.  The viewer is taken on a rollercoaster of emotion, thinking, “What is that? Oh, I think I see it.  Oh no, he just ruined it! Wait now I see what he’s doing. Why did he do that?!? Oh, that’s beautiful!”.  Most remarkable is Bob’s perfect balance of confidence and flexibility, precision and fluidity.  It inspires a level of trust and faith that if you just do what he says, it’s all going to turn out perfectly. Maybe that’s just about the same way we can/should relate to God’s will in our lives.

How can we know what God’s will is? Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” So whether we’re riding in God’s palm or painting a picture with Bob Ross, let us always be seeking to renew our mind to stay in the center of His will.