God's Will vs Our Will vs Action
Notes: As this was such a difficult topic, I didn't end up using the notes I made because it just wasn't working for me. I have included them here still for anyone who likes to read. The notes are not open to the public but you are welcome to share them with your friends.
God’s will vs our will vs action
God’s will vs our will vs action is a very tough topic. And why is it tough? Because who in the world really knows what is God’s will?
For those who don’t know, there are very holy people that God sometimes enlighten on His will. These people are very rare. Geronda Ephraim of Arizona is probably one of the most famous. Also Saint Paisios and Porphyrios. But the are not always enlightened.
Once a man went to Saint Paisios and asked advice about something and Saint Paisios told him what to do. And the man followed the instructions and everything went wrong. The man went back to Saint Paisios and told him that the advice he gave was terrible. And Saint Paisios told him that he hadn’t prayed about it and it was just his own personal advice. This is important. We shouldn’t think that if we have a holy elder that everything they say is perfect. They are human too.
I’m going address this topic from a spiritual and personal view. I’m not going to go into Theology because that is not my expertise.
When I was wanting to become a nun, I travelled around Greece and visited many monasteries. I was with a lady and everywhere we went the lady would tell the monasteries I wanted to be a nun. Which I didn’t like because I wanted to see the monasteries without pressure. Anyway, everywhere I went, the monastics would always say to pray for God’s will to enlighten me. And I did pray. I prayed for so many years about it but I never received an answer. Not even an inkling. Some people would give me advice but it was always conflicting.
At this stage, I didn’t know if it was God’s will and I didn’t know what to do. One day I visited a monastery in Greece. 5 of the 10 nuns were from Australia like me and I loved them instantly and they loved me. I had a miracle with the miracle working icon in the monastery and I was decided that I would join this monastery even though God had not made his will known.
When you join a monastery, you have a 3 year trial. In this time, especially at the beginning, you don’t get rid of your worldly life completely. So if you have personal things, you are able to keep them until you are tonsured. For me, I had a business when I entered the monastery. I had someone managing it but it wasn’t a permanent solution. After only being in the monastery a few weeks, I received an email from someone asking to buy my business. I wasn’t sure if it was spam but I followed up and it was a genuine buyer and I ended up selling the business. I hadn’t even put it up for sale! After this, literally every responsibility that I had in Australia just solved itself. And so it was obviously God’s will. But why didn’t He let me know before? Why did I have to put my will into action first and then God confirmed it?
The reason is God respect our freedom. As you all know, He respects it to the point that He even allows us to sin as we will. And of course to love Him as we will. The way I have experience God’s will is not by divine revelation but by making a choice, listening to advice, and just doing it or not doing it. And you will know if God blesses it or not.
I remember when I was in my early 20s I worked for a large pizza chain and I was one of the most successful managers in the company. I was the 5th highest paid manager in the company in Australia and we were paid on performance so you could say I was the 5th best manager in the country. Wherever the company moved me, my store would make money. Any store I touched turned to gold. Eventually I thought it would be good for my future to franchise and I did. And after so much success, not matter what I did, I could not get my own store to make money. Eventually I had to sell and had debt from the loss. It took me many years to understand what happened and what I believe is that it was not God’s will for me to stay in that business. The reality is I loved it so much at the time that I would never have left it to become a nun. And now that I am a nun, and I know all the blessings that come with it, I would trade it for anything or anyone in the world. So this is an example, of using the freedom God gave you to make decisions and God will either bless it or not, and for us to accept God’s direction.
After entering the monastery and realising that God will bless something if it’s His will, from then on, I get a blessing to do something, I do it and if it works out or not, I don’t worry. It’s all an experience that we learn from. If I hadn’t tried the pizza business, I would not have developed the skills to start a translation ministry. It was definitely worth the fail.
Many monastics gave me terrible advice when deciding on becoming a nun or not. But there were some really holy people who all gave me the same advice. And that was God wants what we want. If we want to get married, He will bless it. If we want to be a monastic, He will bless it. The only time He won’t is when it is damaging to our salvation.
I’ll give you an obvious example. Lets look at someone who steals money. People who steal money never stop. They keep stealing because they always have a need. It’s never enough. And this is because it’s not God’s will and it is damaging to their soul. I know people who have stolen large sums and it always runs out quick because it’s not blessed. Whereas you meet people who work hard, and even though they earn an income lower than the poverty line, they some how survive. And that’s because God blesses it. It’s the same with everyone.
Where God’s will meets our will, there is happiness and joy!
This is a spiritual way to look at God’s will. There are many exceptions and other ways but this is what I’ve found in my life.
I know someone who wants to be a monastic. He started on the road a year after I did and he wouldn’t commit to the monastery even though inside he wanted to. And God didn’t bless this. This poor guy is not in a monastery, doesn’t really belong to a church and he’s now in a kind of limbo. We can’t wait for God to do everything. We also have to take action. God’s way of doing things sometimes is by giving us the tools. Like standing there with a shovel like the meme I posted and expecting God to dig the hole for you.
This is what the abbess and I call arm chair faith. Sitting a chair praying all the time but not acting. God can do anything with prayer, but the reality is, we don’t sit there all day and pray. We play with our phones our things or whatever. If we really did spend the whole day in the chair and were genuinely praying then miracles would happen. But we don’t and that means with the time we have we have to act. Just to clarify, I’m not saying we quit our jobs to act. Acting means in our whole daily lives.
For example, if we see an injustice like someone being bullied unfairly. We should pray BUT we must also try and stop the injustice where possible. For example Christ always prayed but He acted too. The good Samaritan didn’t see the wounded man and go home and pray. He stopped, cared for the injured mans wounds and organised him shelter.
It’s really tricky to find a balance between it all but with a clean heart and conscience and right intention, God will take care of it.
The other thing to keep in mind is the advice of your spiritual guide. I would say spiritual father but I as a nun have a spiritual mother. The guides in the church have seen and heard everything which makes them VERY experienced. They also receive a blessing from God at their ordination or tonsure and they tend to understand things that would not be revealed to them without this blessing. So in keeping the balance between God’s will, our will and action, I highly recommend talking to them first. Not about silly things like what car should you buy. But on spiritual things and perhaps life changing events like marriage, monasticism, baptisms etc.
Brothers and sisters, that’s the end of my talk. Please feel free to ask a question in the comments, or if it’s personal, you can email me.