Excerpted from The Quest
"My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt."—Matthew 26:39
The symphony orchestra was on stage, absorbed in their final tune-up and last minute practicing of the intricate passages they would soon be playing. Violinists noisily sawed on their strings while walking their fingers up and down the necks of their graceful instruments. Behind them, the woodwinds gently purred their mellow sounds. Seated behind the woodwinds were the trumphets, blaring in staccato confusion. In the rear, percussionists banged away, tuning their timpani. It was a grand cacophony.
The conductor stood poised on his podium, patiently waiting for the right moment. At last he took his baton and gently tapped on the music stand in front of him. Immediately the din subsided, the musicians came to attention. A hush enveloped the hall. The concert was about to begin.
If you’ve ever attended a symphony concert, you may have asked yourself, "How can musicians, in the midst of such discordant confusion of sounds, hear the quiet tapping of one thin stick?" Easily. They are listening for it!
How God Speaks to Us
In the same quiet way, God speaks to you. Forget the movie version where God's will is made known in a beautiful, booming, basso profundo, English-accented, echo-chambered voice. Truthfully, God's will for you comes more as a never-changing murmur that laps gently upon your consciousness like ripples on peaceful lake. God speaks to you in a still, small voice like the tapping of the conductor's baton. It is a gentle tapping, a sweet nudging in the direction of your good.
You will never know God's will by intellectualizing and conjecturing what that will is. God doesn't speak in words. God speaks to you in feelings, in dreams, in intuitive perceptions, through the words of others, through the love of others, in an inspiring story, in a beautiful scene, in the gaze of a loved one, in the face of a child, and in dozens of other gentle ways. You cannot know God’s will intellectually. Only by becoming aware of life, of living—only by being awake—can you hear it.
God’s will for you is absolute good. How can it be otherwise? If you believe that God is pure and perfect Good and that creation is the “offspring” of God, then how could God envision anything “bad” for any of those offspring? Jesus said, “What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? ... How much more will your Father ... give good things to those who ask him! (Mt. 7:9, 11) You want such wonderful things for your children, don't you? Then how could God want less for you?
It seems clear that God's will for you is absolute good. That fact must be woven into the very fabric of your thoughts and your feelings. It must be the basis of all decisions concerning you and everyone in your life.
The divinity within you is within everyone. It is there regardless of whether you are aware of it. To fully let this divinity have its way with you is what God's will is all about, for when you let God's will be done, all things in your life become good. No, much more than that, they become wonderful beyond your fondest dreams.
Okay, But … What Do I Do Now?
The more pressing question for most of us is not what God's overall or long-term will is for us. (Even those whose concept of God is that of a stern and wrathful Deity believe that the Creator ultimately wants good for everyone. It is just that, to many people, it is a conditional good, based on their completing a fear-filled walk along a very narrow path. Any slip forebodes eternal damnation.) The more pressing question regarding God's will is for more specific instructions: What should I do now?
I'm having so much trouble taking care of my sick mother, but I feel guilty about putting her in a nursing home. What is God's will?
I have an offer for a much better job, but it requires relocating and my children don't want to go. What is God’s will?
I’ve been in this relationship for two years, and I want to get married, but she doesn’t. What is God’s will?
My son just got a divorce and is begging to move back home with me, and I’m not sure I want him. What is God’s will?
These are our daily challenging questions, the decisions that face us every day and that beg to be addressed. It seems when we reach our wit’s end, when our thinking and reasoning can’t take us any further, then we want to know God’s will. “And, God please don’t give me vague generalities. Tell me what to do! And tell me in a loud voice, so I can hear it.”
But, ask yourself seriously, even if God did tell you in a loud voice what to do, would you listen? Would you always follow instructions? “God, what can I do? My neighbor is driving me crazy every day.” What would you do if God boomed out the answer in stereo-phonic sound: “Love your neighbor as yourself?”
So often we look for outside answers to inside problems. Remember, there is a divinity within you. No matter what your problem appears to be, the real problem is seldom the problem you see.
It is human nature to see the problem as something “out there” that is interfering with your happiness, with your desire to be rich or not to be poor, to be respected or not to be scorned, to be loved or not to be hated, to be ... or not to be.
You find yourself asking your friends, your neighbors, and your loved ones for answers. You may even seek professional counseling if your pain is severe enough. “What do you think I should do?” You can end up getting all kinds of advice but still not answering the question, “Is this the best thing for me?” Without God's being involved in the decision, you are taking a chance, a big chance.
It may seem scary at first, but in the long run, it is infinitely easier to turn your life over to Spirit, to allow God to make all of the decisions, because when God shapes your life, the changes are appropriate and automatic. We must always be aware that there is a higher, broader plan of perfect divine order. We cannot fully understand this plan, but it is enough to know it exists and that all life—no matter what the appearance—seeks to establish divine order.
Does It Have to Be Our Way?
This all sounds very nice, very pat, doesn't it? “Turn our lives over to Spirit ... allow God to make the decisions.” Trouble is, we sometimes talk a good game but when it comes down to actually letting God take over, that's a different story. We want what God wants for us, as long as God wants what we want!
It often turns out, however, that God's idea of what is good for us is not at all what we had in mind. Yet we humans do love to think we know what's good for us and find it very difficult to let go and let God. It can be frightening; it's venturing into that terra incognita again.
Once you try living this way, you'll look back and see how right it was, how it brought you to a higher place faster and more easily than you could have done yourself, even if you could have figured it all out. God’s will is always for your highest good.
In the Best of Company
You are not alone in wanting things to work out your way. Did you read the quotation from Jesus at the opening of this teaching? (If not, go back and look at it now.) It was uttered, agonizingly, in the garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest and was recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Picture the scene: Jesus, even at that late date in His life, was torn between His will and God’s will He sensed what lay ahead for Him. It must have been extremely tempting to run away and live a “normal” life. “Let this cup pass from me.” (I don’t want to do this .. why me, Lord?)
But then he remembered: He remembered what He was to show us. Most of all, He remembered that when let God’s will be done, it always works out to be the very best—the highest and finest it can be—if only we trust enough to let that happen. So Jesus remembered, and He trusted. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (I’m okay again, God. I’m back on trail. I lost it there for a bit, but everything’s all right now.)
Because He let God be God in Him, Jesus went through the resurrection process. Had the human will prevailed on that dark night in Gethsemane, the world would never have heard of Jesus Christ or His transformative teachings.
The Question You’ve Been Wanting to Ask
How can you know if something is God's will? No one can tell you absolutely for sure because it requires an inner knowing on your part, but here are some guidelines which can help you:
If it results in a winning situation for everyone involved, chances are it's God's will.
If things are going effortlessly, without force or manipulation, chances are it's God's will.
As long as there's a green light or an open door, proceed ahead. Go through it. Chances are it's God's will.
Life is an ongoing adventure. There is always another door to go through, another phase of the journey just ahead.
God is always speaking to us-always-but when do we listen? Like the musicians in the orchestra, we are constantly plucking and bowing our strings, banging our drums, and blowing our horns, waiting to find out what tune to play. But unlike the musicians, we may not really listen for the Conductor, who wants to lead us in a symphony of absolute good.
If you really want to know God's will for you, listen for it. Expect it. And when you hear it, let it unfold your life. Go with it, wherever it leads, because God's will for you is absolute good.