I’ll be honest with you, I sometimes have a big struggle trying to discern the will of God for my life. Perhaps some of you reading this have the same problem. In this article, I will be sharing a few thoughts in relation to this matter, touching upon the subject of hermeneutics and also mental health.
God speaks to people in different ways. Scripture is of course one way, and the indwelling Holy Spirit — which all followers of Christ receive — speaks to us in other ways. Prayer is of course an important method by which we might hope to receive God’s direction. People see appearances of Jesus and messages from God in dreams and visions, which is another way in which God speaks to us.
Romans 1:20 describes human beings as ‘without excuse’ for not believing in God, as He arguably speaks to us so clearly by way of His creation. I’m not a fan (dare I say) of that Bible verse because I believe people will only ever believe in God through a direct act of God revealing Himself to them or stirring their faith in some way, regardless of how clearly the created universe might seem to point to God to believers.
As a side note, I spend a lot of time with my TV tuned to YouTube watching lengthy videos of underwater creatures swimming around, and I find it ceaselessly amusing. I sometimes laugh, and sometimes cry with joy at the different kinds of fish and other underwater life, which to me clearly demonstrate God’s creativity and sense of humour. But I acknowledge not everyone would see these scenes in that way.
I make no secret of the fact that I have experienced several episodes of what psychiatrists term ‘psychosis’, and having gone through these experiences, with subsequent treatment, I was given a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. It would take too much space for me to explain here my understanding of the spiritual aspects of psychosis, but I will just say that trying to discern God’s will when you are unsure whether your thoughts are from the Holy Spirit or related to your mental health condition can cause quite a lot of frustration and confusion.
It’s actually clear to me that all our thoughts must ultimately come from the same source — God. I believe in God’s sovereignty over all events, so from this perspective there is no need to distinguish between the cause of thoughts related to a mental health condition and thoughts related to faith. While I know some people reading this would try to argue certain thoughts are from Satan, while others are from God, I know that ultimately all thoughts come from God, because He is sovereignly in control of the unfolding of every aspect of our lives.¹
Someone might argue that the only source of knowledge we can truly trust when attempting to discern God’s will is the Bible — the Word of God. I have no doubt that God uses the Bible to reveal His will to people in a uniquely powerful way. But all Scripture is open to whatever kind of interpretation God brings to the mind of readers as they read and reflect. It is not as though lines and curly symbols on a page actually embody meaning. Imagine a book with no one to read it — there is no meaning being conveyed in that scenario; meaning is not somehow contained within books and symbols themselves. It is in the act of reading and interpreting words that meaning is conveyed, and what constitutes understanding is impressions in consciousness that God manifests in our minds as we read and reflect.
I suppose the overarching point that I want to make — my motivation for writing this post — is that for a person like me the only way to be certain of God’s will for my life is to observe what actually manifests in reality. There have been times when I’ve thought I’ve heard God speak to me clearly on a matter, but that subsequently the way I believed events would unfold has seemingly not come to pass. Because of this, I have learned to keep a very open mind. It may be the case that for people who have never experienced psychosis this is less of an issue, although perhaps all believers wrestle with this to some extent.
I do believe God makes promises and keeps promises, although I would point out that being all-powerful means God is never under any obligation to keep any promises that He makes. There is a scripture which seems to suggest that it’s impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18), but anyone who has any respect for God’s sovereignty will admit that it’s plainly obvious that a sovereign God can do whatever He pleases (there is a scripture that says this too: Psalm 135:6). One might argue that God wouldn’t lie (Titus 1:2), but I don’t believe it is at all logical to argue that God cannot lie.
This is the type of blog post for which I have felt inclined to close comments recently, because I know some of my statements might be stirring or provocative for some people. I fear that readers with no experience of mental health issues could be judgemental, but I hope I am incorrect. If you would like to comment, please share how you personally go about discerning God’s will for your life, taking into account the topics and arguments that I have discussed in this article. I think we could have some interesting discussions around these issues that would bless us all. Thank you for reading ❤️🙏🏻
¹ There is not space for me to develop this argument here, but please read my book God’s Grand Game for a clear and detailed explanation of why I believe all activity in existence — even Satan’s activity — is caused by God.