A few days ago I re-read my previous entry, and this part about free will caught my attention:
“I had assumed that living according to God’s will means giving up my own free will. My interpretation now is that there’s a delicate balance between God’s will and our own free will, and harvesting the fruits of both requires a marriage between the two.”
I wrote this only 5 months ago, but in that time my understanding has not so much changed, but rather deepened through continued prayer, scripture reading, attending Mass, and meditation. Yes, as a human, I have my own free will and exercise it on a daily basis. What I’ve learned from further reading and reflection on the word of God is that if my decisions are made in the spirit of love, mercy, and obedience, I am doing God’s will.
Recognizing I need to fully trust in God is the first step, but actually putting that trust into practice takes major effort. There are lines in my journal where I say something like “I trust you, God, but I’m still hurting and scared. I will keep praying,” or “I’m mad at you, God, but I’ll keep praying.” It’s the weak human side of me. In challenging times I can’t help but doubt the direction my life is heading in, over-analyze, and let rash emotions take over. It’s only been through – not to keep repeating myself – going to Mass, reading the gospels, and prayer that I’ve been able to even scratch the surface of trusting in God’s will for my life.
Yesterday evening I went to Mass, and afterwards a group of us prayed the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. One of the most powerful lines we read – paraphrasing here – is that we are called to confidently adhere to God’s will because it is love and mercy in perfect form. It’s not easy to conceptualize that the random actions in our daily lives could amount to something so majestic-sounding as “love and mercy in perfect form,” but added together, the opportunities we have to act in the spirit of love are numerous.
Side note: Some of the most profound moments of peace I’ve experienced are praying quietly after Mass and reflecting only on the greatness of God. I make myself shut down all other thoughts, wants, prayers, and just meditate on God’s limitless love and wisdom.
A book I read each night is called The Journey. It contains the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. In the footnotes of many of its pages are explanations on key points from the gospels. The following is a deeper exploration into Matthew 26:39 – “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
26:39 Will of God
“The will of God is the expression of the love of God for you personally (Ps 31:11). Some things in the will of God apply to all believers; but there are other things that are planned for you in particular. You need never fear God’s will, because he wills for you what is best (Jer 29:11). Jesus compared God’s will to a cup that the Father has mixed for you. You discover God’s will through his Word (Ps 119:9, 105), worship and prayer (Isa 6:1-8; Ac 13:1-2), obedience to what you already know (Jn 7:17), and trusting in the Lord (Pss 25:4-5; 37:5-7). God expects you to use the mind he has given you, but you must not depend only on your experience and thinking (Pr 3:5-6). If your heart is sincere, God will guide you (Ps 25:9-10). If you err, he will overrule and direct you.”
Before if I wasn’t sure on the answer to a question, I would pray on that question specifically. As I’ve read more scripture, I’ve grown to think of God’s will in my life in terms of broad brush strokes rather than in the context of individual decisions that need to be made. If I continue making efforts to meditate on God’s word, pray, practice obedience, trust in the Lord, and live with a sincere heart, I can see the path more clearly, or if I still feel lost, at least follow Him more sure-footedly.
On the importance of the Word of God from Mark 4:14 – “The farmer sows the word.”
4:14 The Word
“The Word of God is pictured in Scripture not only as seed, but also as food (Mt 4:4), water (Jn 15:3, Eph 5:25-27), a sword (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12) light (Ps 119:105) and a mirror (Jas 1:22-25). Jesus compared it to seed because the Word has life in it (1Pe 1:23) and is able to produce fruit in your life when you understand it, receive it into your heart, and cultivate it by meditation and obedience.”
I had a long conversation with one of the priests at my church a few months ago, and we got onto the topic of what it means to live according to God’s will and how our own free will factors in. He emphasized the importance of God’s will in my life, but also explained that God wants the decisions I make to be a reflection of my “Ann-ness,” to preserve the things that make me an individual. So, I no longer think the thing to strive for is a “balance” between God’s will and my will, or worry about making the “right” decision in a specific instance. Instead, I think God’s will naturally comes through in my life by living the word of God.
I didn’t have this understanding of God’s will and how to incorporate it into my life five months ago. But it’s something I’ve actively prayed on, and my understanding has grown. It’s an example of faith as a continuous journey – an exciting one.