rick at new life emerging has a question post about determining god's will. the comment i was leaving got so long i just decided to make a post out of it here:
i think that having 'happy' as a goal for our lives will always leave us searching.
i find that real joy and contentment are far more satisfying in the long run.
we have made many major life changes and our first indication of a need to change circumstances is our mental and spiritual health.
we find that as we get more healthy, especially in ministry, that we no longer tolerate situations we used to agree to. when that happens and we have no influence to change things we begin to investigate our options. knowing all of your options is the best place to start with decision making.
then we begin to pray for open doors. we seek counsel from people we love and who love us and continue to investigate each option to it's full potential. if we feel any hesitation with the information we find (like cost of living or school situations for our kids, etc) we assume that is a closed door. we proceed until doors close. when they close we take that as an indication that we aren't supposed to head in that direction.
my theology used to be so specific in this area - that there was some magic combination needed to make god happy and that i had to figure out - so that i didn't step "out of his will" and end up a smudge on the highway. i now believe that there are lots of good options and it's up to me to continue to choose life instead of death in the decisions i make. could we have been happier/whole-er/more fulfilled in ontario instead of the maritimes? maybe? but the doors to move here didn't close and we are making the healthiest, most life giving choices we can each and every day.
we are content, have much joy and know that god is giving us the desires of our heart. we have found the community we have always longed for and while it's not all sunshine and roses we know that the choices we have made have consequences that we can live with as we seek to expand the kingdom of god here in our community.
i am so glad to be free from the 'magic path theology' of yesteryear. it is a confusing trap that i think doesn't come from god at all. i used to joke that paul's verse 'whatsoever state i find myself, therewith to be content' meant even iowa! :) (where i went to bible college and met my husband).
i think there is truth there that folds into this. contentment is a far more tangible goal than happiness. god never promises us a happy life. it's an unfulfillable goal - and it actually creates a void of happiness because it remains so fleeting - so it backfires instead of bringing life. joy allows for richness even when situations are difficult, even when i am not happy. i can be grieving and still be full of joy - i cannot grieve and be happy. joy allows me to be present to all of my emotions, not just the ones that fulfill my goal of 'happiness'.
it makes for a much richer, reality based life, instead of having the temptation to stuff away bad emotions and pretend. i have seen far too many christians (especially) need to sugar coat everything so that god doesn't get a bum rap - like they are his PR person putting a spin on it all. it's so sad to see, especially when they have to admit that bad things do happen to good people.
i know that this was way more than rick was looking for - but once i got going i just couldn't stop. making small, continual, positive choices for life. i think that is what god's will for his people truly is.