“I lost the baby”, Kris said, eyes red-rimmed and shame filled. “I feel so horrible and so relieved at the same time.” We were cross-legged in a peeling red vinyl booth in my small Arkansas town’s fish house. I was ill-equipped for this kind of situation, but then so was she. Kris was 17 and suffering from a lifetime’s worth of poor choices—some made by her, some of them made by others that affected her.
Talking to Kris was like having someone peel open my eyelids with pliers—I could see, but it was painful. One day we were having a tough talk about some of her choices. “What do you think God wants for your life?” I asked. “I dunno, not this,” she replied. “I don’t even know why I’m here.”
I left the restaurant that day with a take-out box full of thoughts about smart young people, terrible choices and how important it is to know why we’re here—how knowing your purpose changes everything and how knowing where you want to end up makes tough decisions along the way a lot easier.
The question of purpose plagues more than just troubled youth, too. Last November, I had just finished lunch with Lina, a sweet senior enrolled in a private Christian high school in Tennessee, when her plans after graduation were brought up. “I’m considering becoming a dental hygienist or maybe something else”, she said. “I don’t know! I just want to do God’s will, but I don’t know why I’m here.” Maybe you’ve heard this frustration expressed recently, or maybe you’ve even been frustrated yourself over the seemingly impossible task of discerning your purpose.
Why am I here? Or, as phrased by a recent Barna Group poll, (Barna Group, 2014) "What does God want me to do with my life?" It’s a question so big and hairy that 1000 BIC razors could barely shave it down, and it crosses the minds of most thinking folks—especially each May as high school seniors are finalizing college choices and college grads are grappling with job offers, or no job offers as the case often is. According to that Barna Group study released in February 2014, only 40% of practicing Christians say they have a clear sense of God's calling on their lives.
I think that’s a problem.
Why? Because we’re Christians, and if we’re supposed to be living as Christ did—with nothing done outside the Father’s will, we’re staking our futures on the premise that God’s will is accessible. It seems like a big deal, then, that the majority of Christian young people are living without that guiding knowledge. I believe this is why so many of our youth are confused at best, and at worst are having to fight against what the world wants for them, without the assurance of what story God has already penned for them. Not knowing God’s will for your life means that all you can really hope for is uncomfortable trial and error until you find a good fit, as Kris and Lina are discovering.
What if it’s easier than we make it out to be? I think sometimes in our religious talk we have so mystified the concept of following God’s will that young people see discerning it as this weird ritual that we go through before college, career and life partner decisions. Because many of us see God’s will as only attainable through special revelation or through a series of fleecy, Gideonesque tests, we save seeking it for special occasions—and then are sometimes disappointed by the lack of “signs” from God. It seems that our misunderstanding of how to find God’s will has robbed us of the courage to move forward confidently. But that’s not how it should be!
Mental intermission. My two cents on the matter is really overly simplified, but I think you’ll like it. To me, figuring out God’s will goes like this: One, figure out what God wants of all His people, and two, figure out what skills and passions God gave you that will help you to accomplish number one. That’s it!
Now back to the regularly scheduled program. When it comes to seeking God’s will, our young people don’t need any more advice. There are scads of articles on seeking God’s will that google will happily pull up for anyone who needs another viewpoint on the subject, shoot—I even have a section on this in my own upcoming success course, but this is not about increased information. Information alone rarely results in action. No, what our young people need are those who are LIVING on the side of the 40%, those who can give evidence that God’s will is attainable, attractive and able to give them fulfillment. What they need are mentors willing to get messy and engage in a process of discovery with them, to encourage and hold them accountable. But that actually takes work and commitment, two words that are more easily spelled backwards with a numb tongue than done. (Yes, I just made that up but you can use it.)
About two months ago we had a young man visit our collegiate-focused Bible study program. He had some habits that alienated him from the general church crowd—like smoking, poor hygiene and social awkwardness, but he was asking to have someone study the Bible with him and to seek God’s will for his life. Being close to his age, female and having already been singled out by him—I tried to arrange for a regular study time for him with a male member of our church, but everyone I contacted was busy. This guy was desperate for spiritual mentorship, asking openly for it and we couldn’t provide. How many of our young people are seeking real spiritual mentorship and connection, only to be met with a congregation that’s too busy for their needs? We have got to be more involved if we’re going to support our young people in their process of discovering God’s will for their lives.
To all who are actively seeking God’s will, and especially the recent graduates: this week, I’m praying for you! I’m praying for less mysticism and more revelation as you study God’s word. I’m praying for spiritual leaders in your life who spend less time tossing around rad sounding advice and more time helping you find and put to use your spiritual gifts—even though that’s a process. I’m praying for you to cross over into the percentage of those who are affirmed in their purpose and moving forward confidently. Lastly, I’m praying that you’ll pass that discovery on to another young person in the future.
Amie Regester is the President of Greater Than Rubies, a project dedicated to providing resources and experiences that empower young women to live their best lives possible for Christ. Her first online course “Rock Your Life" is an interactive program guaranteed to assist our young women in discovering their identity, life purpose, quick start success tips, Godly relationships and how to serve their community—all with a Biblical foundation. For more information, visit greaterthanrubies.org.