Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. ~Albert Camus
Question #93495 posted on 03/21/2021 10:30 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I don’t mind people telling me what to do. I work so hard to follow God’s plan for me. I know it’s the way to lasting joy. But what if you’ve sat with the outcomes of choosing God’s will in a certain area and you’re not thrilled? Do you just try really hard to be happy? Is God’s will for you supposed to bring you peace and joy every time? For example (and this isn’t me) but maybe you’ve felt inspired and marry someone but turns out they’re abusive in some way. Or you have a child or two but they seem to just bring stress and a loss of identity for you rather than the joy you’re “supposed” to feel. Do you just feel like you’re following the Holy Ghost or God’s will so much that it’s hard to relax? Is your life just learning to shrug off any bad that happens when you follow God’s will? I’m sure I could come up with numerous related questions. Can somebody give some advice on understanding God’s will and how we are to deal with various outcomes?

-Deep stuff

A:

Dear deep,

Is God’s will for you supposed to bring you peace and joy every time?

This question seems somewhat misconceived to me, in that the logical conclusion to your assumption seems to be that bad things wouldn't (or shouldn't) happen to good people. Sometimes God gives us experiences that are not always happy and uplifting, because they provide us with soul-making opportunity for growth. And some bad things, I would say, don't even rise to that level of meaning; God doesn't give them to us, they simply happen by nature of the world in which we live.

God's will is for us to ultimately return to Him having developed the kind of character He has. In the ultra-long-term, this promises us a lasting joy far surpassing anything we find in this life. But it doesn't mean we'll have that in the short term--if we did, we might as well be in heaven already. The only reason "heaven" as a concept has any meaning is because we live in an often unhappy, unpleasant, and unfair world which most definitely falls short of our sense of the ideal, and our negative experiences here, by design, should teach us to choose and value the good. As Calvin's dad so often says in "Calvin & Hobbes," these things build character. That's why we're here. The promises of the gospel are true, and peace can be with us when we live properly, but we can't be inured against every potential hardship.

Is your life just learning to shrug off any bad that happens when you follow God’s will?

God's will is rarely so transparent to us. Sometimes we're given direction without reasoning, and an experience we may have determined was inspired turns out to be the wrong decision, or the right decision for unexpected reasons. In my senior year of high school, there came a point where 2E and I discussed trying to date again, after our relationship had fallen apart the year before. I thought and considered and prayed about it, and I came away feeling like it was the right decision, but our second take at dating lasted maybe three weeks, and it was miserable. I still believe it was the right decision to make--not because we were going to have a successful relationship together as I thought then, but because it ultimately helped us make a clean break from the persistent romantic tension in our friendship and helped us both realize clearly what we did and did not want out of a romantic relationship. That wasn't at all the lesson I thought I was going to learn going into that experiment, and I was pretty miserable in the ensuing fallout, but in hindsight I think it really was a learning experience I needed to have.

It's also possible, of course, to be simply mistaken about the inspiration of a decision. I don't think that ought to be a paralyzing concession. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you'll get things wrong. For myself, I take solace in the promises of the gospel. No matter what unexpected challenges or hardships I face in the short term, I have serene confidence in the scriptural promises that all things work together for the good of them who love God, and that in the long term, I can be assured I'm on the right course.

I hope you can find some assurance in this answer. God wants the best for us, even if sometimes that best for us isn't exactly what we pictured it to be.

Genuinely,

Nines

A:

Dear friend,

I refuse to believe that "God's Will" means that there is some specific, day-by-day plan that God has laid out for me. I don't even think that God has picked out for me whether or not I'll go to grad school, and if I do, where I'll go. I don't necessarily think that God has a specific number of children planned for my family someday. And I don't think that God hand-picked Pebble to be my husband and I only married him because I 'listened' to God. That doesn't even make sense with the principles of agency. It's not free will if I "have" to pick that option to follow God's will. 

Will things work out according to God's will? Yes. Is there a plan? Yes. Do I have the free will to choose where my life will go? Yes. 

If you convince yourself that God's will is for you to marry one specific person, and that relationship doesn't work out, no wonder you're going to feel frustrated at yourself and at God. I just don't think that's how it works at all. God wants you to be happy, and They want you to experience things that help you learn, grow, and develop. 

This is not a judgment on you at all, but I think we are hardly as good at understanding God's will as we think we are, because we place rigid rules on what God wills for us. God comprehends SO much more than you do, and I believe that we are not capable of grasping the breadth and beauty of God's plan for us. We think that God's plan means we always have to make one choice over another, but really... I think God's ultimate will for us is that we become perfect like Them. You can get there in a lot of ways, so if you think you have really "figured out" God's will for you, you're probably thinking too narrow. 

The struggles you feel are part of the plan. If following God's will made you happy all the time you'd never make progress, and if you were already always following God's will, you wouldn't need to be here. God isn't lying to you or betraying you just because you don't always get the outcome YOU wanted. 

I also don't think that following God's will should make you exhausted or like it's hard to relax. Like I said, you're not going to be happy all the time. But following God's will shouldn't be the cause of your stress. It sounds to me like the stress and anxiety you feel are unfortunately self-inflicted. Now, anxiety is a natural thing, and I don't mean that you're the problem or that you should just 'let it go'. But if you feel like you're doing a good job following God's will, maybe the next thing you should work on is trusting God's plan, timing, and process. 

You are loved! 

Cheers, 

Guesthouse

A:

Dear Aziraphale,

I think that the outcome of following God's will is more tied up with spiritual growth/our personal effect on other people. There are lots of things that can supersede personal well-being. Like the people who died for sheltering Jews in WWII. Sometimes by following God's will, we sacrifice parts of ourselves that leave us broken. And then there's the fact that we don't necessarily interpret God's will correctly all the time. 

I don't think we should always try to shrug off the bad things that happen. Instead I think we should ask ourselves if what we are pursuing is worth going through those bad things.

~Anathema

posted on 03/22/2021 11:06 a.m.
The phrase "God's plan for me" is a phrase that has been bandied about in Primary lessons for awhile, with an ambiguous meaning, which leads to much of this sort of dismay.
This article (link below), published in the Ensign magazine in 2017 addresses the confusion and frustration that we feel when we misunderstand what that phrase means and discusses what "God's plan for me" does and does not mean:

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/inspiration/youre-not-messing-up-gods-plan-for-you?lang=eng

Highly recommended.

~Decades in the desert