“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” — Tuli Kupferberg
Here’s something I hear quite often in my coaching sessions: “I’m just waiting on God to reveal His will to me. I’m willing to do whatever He wants; I just need Him to show me. I don’t understand why He’s waiting so long to tell me what He wants me to do. Maybe I’m just not listening hard enough? Or maybe there’s some lesson for me in His silence? Why isn’t God telling me what He wants?”
Now, let me say up front this kind of situation has some nuance to it. It’s certainly commendable that you want to know God’s will. It’s even more commendable that you are willing to surrender yourself to His direction—what Ruth Haley Barton calls the "Prayer of Indifference." So I’m not saying either of those dispositions of the heart are wrong or undesirable. Far from it! They are awesome.
But for many who pray this sort of “just tell me what to do” prayer, there is something false about it. Something escapist. Something that pretends holiness, but in truth just wants to avoid the responsibility of making a decision. It’s like the young man of 25 years who begs his parents to tell him what career he should choose. He’s not a child anymore. Such a decision is no longer his parents’ to make. Yet he wonders in exasperation why they won’t reveal to him their will for his life.
Somehow we’ve lost touch with this basic truth: the life of faith is inherently developmental. We grow and mature over time—at least we’re supposed to—and as we do, our relationship with God must grow and mature too. This is God’s will for everyone. His nature is developmental. He is always about the business of growing us up.
The developmental nature of our relationship with God is reflected in Scripture through the many metaphors it provides to describe the stages of growth in our relationship with God:
1. Creator and creation (Psalm 8:3-8)
2. Shepherd and sheep (Psalm 23)
3. Master and servant (Luke 17:7-10)
4. Parent and child (Romans 8:15-16)
5. Brother and friend (John 15:15)
6. Lover and beloved (Song of Songs 2:8-13)
It’s not hard to see these stages of relationship are developmental. Each one builds upon the last—meaning, for example, you never stop being a “sheep” with God as your Shepherd, but over time the relationship becomes so much more than that.
God is happy to love you as a Shepherd or a Good Master, but He wants more than that from you, and from your relationship. That’s why Jesus makes a point of telling his disciples:
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
So all that to say: It may be a positive thing that God is no longer telling you specifically what He wants you to do. It may be a way He’s trying to let you know it’s no longer appropriate for Him to engage you merely as a child, or a servant, or a sheep. You’ve grown up, and your relationship is different now. He wants to engage you as a friend, and as His beloved.
He wants more than obedience. He wants partnership.
So while you’re asking Him, “What do You want?”, He may in fact be asking you the same question: What do YOU want? Because that’s what true partnership looks like. In any mature relationship, both voices matter.
If God isn’t telling you what He wants, maybe it’s because He’s waiting for you to stop behaving like a child, and step up and tell Him what you actually want and tell Him what you’re willing to do about it. He’s still God. He can still say no. But at least you’re giving Him something to work with. Now He can engage you as a man does his friend.