Published on July 26th, 2012 | by TLV News0
The Christian Agnostic: “The Anxiety Of Belief” (by Brandon M. Williams, from TLV #161)
Once the individual gets past the intellectual difficulties that come with believing in a God who cares immensely for each person on the planet, it seems the next step is wondering what the supernatural plan is for that individual. “God’s will,” as many call it; sometimes working more as a form of manipulation than a clear understanding of purpose. We live in a country preoccupied with noise and endless talk, not only keeping us uncomfortable with silence but placing several voices in our head, manipulating us to play certain roles like that of the “consumer,” the “busy person,” or the “religious elite” in order to help feed our ego and give us importance in this world.
Then, among all this, the church tells us to listen for God’s voice so that we may discern “His will for our life.” But we become anxious when we hear so many conflicting voices, foolishly assigning one of them to God Almighty, leading us to act out choices and decisions with divine endorsement.
This inevitably brings us to the most frustrating question for the believer (who has just spent time and money fulfilling a passion that has blown up in their faces under the misconceived idea of God’s will): “Lord, wasn’t this your will for my life?”
In the wake of this storm we’re left with quietly wondering what we did wrong. The problem is, God’s will is clear to us from the start but it’s too simple to be believed. It’s part of our genetic makeup, a burning moral compass within us. To be sure, within each of us are also our individualities, certain things that come easier to us than others. For some it’s math, some it’s music, for some storytelling and so on and so forth. The church would call these things “gifts” sometimes in order to manipulate the individual to perform some task that is beneficial for the church. But these abilities are difficult to name because they change over time and, with practice, anyone can become gift-worthy. Our real gifts are what set us apart from everything else in the world: the fact that we are image bearers; the image of God, as the Bible puts it.
This isn’t necessarily something which defines our specialty or uniqueness but what the well-known Anglican Bishop and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright defines as “angled mirrors.” God can reflect his love, care, and stewardship of the world through humans while we receive these gifts with the understanding that they come not from us but from the Creator, so that we can, through humans, give praise back to the Originator.
So, our gifts aren’t these individualities but really what we share together: our moral tendency to treat others as we would like to be treated and to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God,” (as Micah 6:8 points out) in order to serve and give praise back to God.
God’s will isn’t that we would find a certain job, buy that house we’ve had our eye on, or fall in love with that special person. It’s that we would love Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and love others as we love ourselves.
With all this in mind, we don’t need to be weighed down by the psychological tendency to want approval for our decisions. As long as we align ourselves with some moral creed (along the lines of Micah 6:8), then we shouldn›t be afraid to take risks, try new things, challenge ourselves. If it works, it works. If it doesn›t, it doesn›t; we just can’t get caught up on the guilt of possessing some kind of supernatural knowledge.
This life is unique and we each only get one shot at it so we have to go out there and make the best of it, freeing ourselves from the manipulations that hit us from every angle. This is the freedom and liberation that God desires for our lives, found in Christ’s revolutionary message of love and freedom. Now, may each of us truly learn to find the peace, love, and joy that is available for all through the benevolence of God, shining through angled mirrors, culminating in love of one another…for that is indeed God’s will.
Brandon is a musician who enjoys community, listening to vinyl records, and reading religious/spiritual books. He lives in Oxford with his wife, Samantha, and works at Grisham Law Library of The University of Mississippi.
Mr. Williams accepts all questions and comments.
Feel free to contact him at
or visit his blog at www.brandonmichaelwilliams.net