I parked my car, sat for a moment, and sighed. I had a massive decision to make and was desperate for clarity. What did God want me to do? I was confused, trying to discern God’s will for me. I needed him to point me in the right direction.

I looked across the street from where I parked, and the Atlantic Ocean was the brightest of blues, instantly producing a smile from my overwhelmed face.

I crossed the street and began the long walk toward the end of the pier. When I reached the end, I gazed across the ocean, feeling the weight of the decision ahead.

Two years earlier, my family moved to Florida despite being lifelong Midwesterners. Our family stepped out in faith together, allowing me to pursue a job where I would be home more, and hoped to develop better family rhythms.

Now, there were changes coming to this same job, and I feared it would no longer be something I could do well. I wondered if I should resign, or if I was supposed to press through the unknown that stood in front of me.

I asked God to speak to me. I pleaded with him to give me direction. I said,

“God, it’s either you here, or it’s nothing. I need you to show me what to do, what path to take.”

I popped my earbuds in and began to listen to the song “Oceans.”

I noticed a small group of dolphins jumping in the distance before focusing my eyes on the gentle sparkling waters. In that very moment, the lyrics of the song jumped out, much like the dolphins in the distance. I listened as the artist sang about trusting God without limits, and walking on water, going wherever he calls.

I desperately wanted to hear from God, and relayed my desire to trust him. To resign without having another job lined up seemed risky or even foolish. I started to wonder if that was the point, that I should take a step even if I couldn’t see where my feet would land.

It was in that moment that I became confident the only way to trust God was to figuratively walk out onto the water and take a risk. So that’s exactly what I did—I resigned, and my family returned to the Midwest.

I look back eight years later, and am fairly impressed by how spiritual that moment seems. I can imagine it as a dramatic scene in a movie.

Try and picture the main character deeply pondering the decision, questioning which direction to go. As he gazes toward the horizon, the music slowly plays while his head rises as the clarity of the moment fills his mind. He boldly walks across the pier, returning to where his journey started as the music picks up. The camera tightens around his face, and we see the beaming smile that comes with the confidence he now feels. I’d watch that movie.

The problem is in my looking back, I have become confident the decision I made wasn’t rooted in wisdom.

It proved to not be the best decision for my family, for myself, or my faith. In the following years, I walked in confusion, questioning whether I knew how to hear from God.

Sharing that story is a little painful, especially when I consider what I have since learned about discovering God’s will. As I sit here with the benefit of hindsight, there are many things I would do differently if I was able to have a do-over of that seemingly divine moment on that pier.


1. Discerning God’s Will: Ask What You Know to Be True

I would begin with a realization that in those desperate moments of seeking God’s will, the question to ask is, “Right now, when it comes to what I am trying to discern, what do I know to be true?”

Let’s use a relationship as an example. Perhaps you are sincerely seeking God’s face, eager to discern if this person is the one you should date, or even marry. Pause and ask what you know to be true in that situation. Let’s say you get along well and are attracted to each other. You often laugh together. But if you’re honest, you don’t really see evidence of the person walking with God. Maybe a couple people have expressed concern about the relationship. You probably get the general idea.

When we can name the truth of our circumstances, it helps clarify what’s in front of us.

Most of us will struggle to do this on our own because of the emotions that can cloud our ability to be logical. It’s usually helpful to invite another person into this step of the discernment process. Had I done this at the start, I might have seen just how much our family was thriving in that season of our lives.

The remainder of my learnings are along the lines of what I know to be true about God. If I had the ability to go back, there are two major truths about God I would prompt myself to remember.


2. Discerning God’s Will: Remember God Is in Control

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

I wasn’t aware of my own desire to feel as though I was in control. It turns out, I made the decision that was the easiest for me, not considering God’s ability to carry out his purposes through role changes at the job I had. From my viewpoint, I had to take control, which I could only do if I resigned and focused my efforts on a new job.

The actual truth is no decision I made was going to disorient God or mess with the things he had purposed. He never lost control, and was always fully able to execute his purposes through any circumstances. God didn’t need me to try and hold things together, as he was doing that just fine all by himself.


3. Discerning God’s Will: God Is for Me

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4).

He is the only true God, and nobody has seen another God who acts on behalf of his people. In any circumstance, I still belong to Jesus. By his incredible grace, he is for me. The implications of God being for me are incomprehensible.

“If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31b)?

I wonder what could have happened had I sat with those verses for a while. I wish I had challenged myself to consider what God being “for me” meant in my current circumstances. I was hurt by the role change, which led me to quickly assume I no longer had a future in that place, despite leadership saying the opposite. I acted when I should have waited. I aggressively moved forward instead of patiently following.


The Answer to Discerning God’s Will

In those times when I have stressed over what God wanted me to do, the answer was always in the Bible. He wants to change me, to make me more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). He invites me toward a deeper devotion to him, by experiencing changes inside of me that produce new things in my life (1 Peter 1:15-16).

I wonder: what if God’s will isn’t about making “the” decision, but making “a” decision and taking steps forward with Jesus?

Is it possible God is more interested in who we are becoming instead of where we are going?

Could the answer to knowing God’s will be found in clinging to what we know to be true while stepping out in a faith that flows from knowing Jesus?

I did not want to leave our season in Florida. My family was thriving. We found rhythms and joys we had never experienced. While we didn’t want to stay there forever, I forced our departure more out of fear than faith.

There was no wrong choice. He was going to walk with me either way. I chose what I thought was best while missing what he truly wanted. He wanted me. His desire was to bring greater transformation in my life. He was calling me to a deeper knowledge of him, an increased faith and greater obedience. He didn’t need me to be in the Midwest for this to happen.

Today, I have a greater understanding of the bigness of God. My choices aren’t going to disorient him. He invites me to make decisions while walking with him each step of the way. He’s working in me, and that’s where my primary focus should remain.

I am grateful God has taught me these things, though I wish I had learned them sooner. I moved from Florida to Indiana, and three years later moved to Iowa. My family and I are in our fifth year in Iowa, still carrying scars from the choices I have made.

Often, I need to step back and see the ways God has worked things for our good. Each day he invites me to be with him, become more like him, and learn from him. When I can cling to what is true, I can fix my eyes forward, knowing he is for me. I have been freed from the burden of carrying my future, embracing the freedom to walk with Jesus one decision at a time.

I walk with a newfound confidence when it comes to discerning God’s will. I still find myself uncertain what’s next in my life, and won’t even try to predict where I will be in five years. The confidence comes from knowing God invites me to walk with him while embracing the things he wants to do in my heart.

I can’t say where God is going to direct me in the days ahead, but I am stoked to walk with him on that journey. After all, maybe discerning God’s will isn’t as complicated as I once thought.