Free Will vs. God’s Will

I have often struggled with an apparent paradox involving the free will of a believer:

  1. God has given us free will.
  2. God asks us to submit our wills to His will.

Essentially, my question was “Why would God give us free will, only to require that deny ourselves and give it away to him?”  This question often comes up when I am resisting the idea of giving control over to God.  This morning, for instance, I was praying in my car just before walking into the coffeehouse where I am now typing this.  My plan for this morning was to work on some game design for a new project I’m developing.  As often happens while I am praying in the morning, I had the thought that I should really submit my plan for the day to God, and be willing for him to lead me in another direction.  But I didn’t want to.  Most of this week was dominated by teaching my college courses.  Finally, on Friday morning, I have a chance to work on the game project…but if I give that to God, he might tell me to do something else!

I decided to share this struggle with God (always a good idea).  I essentially said something like:

God, I struggle with this concept of free will.  Why would you give us free will, only to ask that we surrender it to you?

Almost immediately, an answer formed in my mind.  It wasn’t in the form of words being spoken (which I have experienced).  Rather, it was the sudden coming together of several different things I’d read at various times.  In essence though, the answer was:

God asks us to submit our wills to His.  But this doesn’t always mean that He’ll ask us to surrender them.

Basically, we should always bring our will (what we’re planning) to God.  Oftentimes, he will allow us to continue to run our own lives as we see fit, provided it’s in-line with the Bible.  But we have to always be willing to let him say “No” and redirect us.

As I thought about it, I realized that this is consistent with how leaders or masters work in general.  A good leader does not micromanage those underneath him.  In this situation, the employee has a good amount of say over his or her particular area of work.  But when the leader does give a firm command, those under him must submit to that command.  I suppose failure to submit to a leader’s commands damages the relationship between leader and subordinate.

The idea of “always submitting, surrendering when asked” also goes with something Dallas Willard said (I believe it was in his book, Hearing God).  Willard said that sometimes the will of God is a point, and sometimes it is a circle.  In other words, sometimes God has a very specific thing in mind that he wants us to do.  Other times, there is a range of possible things that God approves of.  Willard gave the example of his children.  He noted that at that moment he was writing, his three children were at home with him.  One was playing outside.  Another was upstairs reading.  The third was in the living room watching TV.  All three of the children were within Willard’s will for them, however each had chosen a different activity.

I found this answer freeing.  I often worry about whether I am doing exactly what God wants me to do, but at the same time I resist turning my will over to him.  So God offers the best of both worlds: “Always be willing to let me redirect your will.  But if I don’t, then you are free to choose.”  God didn’t create us a robots, but rather as co-workers with him in creation.  He treasures our ability to think and work independently, however we must always be open to being overruled by our Leader.

Comments are closed.