By Norris Burkes
Posted Mar 27, 2017

In the years I served as a pastor, military chaplain and hospital chaplain, I was often asked how to find God’s will for one’s personal life.

Most questions came from young people wanting to know things like, should they marry a certain someone or become a missionary.

However, as my gray hair began to imply wisdom, other folks hit me with more advanced questions.

A military sniper sought my counsel wondering whether God approved of him killing enemy combatants. Unhappy couples questioned whether God was OK with divorce. The aging sought God’s will on disconnecting life-support machines. And in my present role as hospice chaplain, patients seek wisdom related to life-ending medications.

From the lovelorn to the life-torn, they all wanted to discern whether something was God’s will. Some were truly seeking God’s will, while others seemed to be willing God to do as they wanted.

To distinguish the difference, I counseled them with the following questions:

• How does my faith inform me?

By this I mean principles — not just a single text proving your point. Recently I wrote about getting a tattoo and a reader chided me with a single Bible verse he thought forbade tattoos.

“Doesn’t work that way” I told him. “The Bible isn’t a rulebook; it’s a handbook.”

• If the first question doesn’t illuminate your choices, then ask yourself, “What do I want you to want to do?”

I ask that because, if you’re honestly seeking God’s will, then I don’t think God will require you to do what you don’t want to do. “What about Jonah?” you say. “I know God sent a whale to get his attention.” Well, for the most part, God wasn’t the enemy Jonah had to surrender to, Jonah was.

• What do your friends say?

I know Job’s friends misled him. Friends don’t always help you with God’s will, but on the other hand, all my friends affirm that God didn’t call me to dance.

However, when several high school classmates were impressed with my speaking ability, I declared a religion major. By the way, my wife says that God made me a minister because I can’t sit stil in a pew.

• What role are my addictions or desires playing in the issue?

Are you considering moving to Las Vegas? Don’t do it if you’re addicted to money, power or sex.

That’s not to say God can’t tame addictions. A friend of mine served as a chaplain on the Vegas strip and spent his time talking to bare chested women backstage. He had no issues with it, but that wasn’t God’s calling for me. My wife said so.

• How will this help others? God’s will isn’t about us. It’s about helping people. If a divorce helps children out of an abusive home, then it might be God’s will. If divorce is about finding a more attractive mate, then it’s NOT.

At the end of the day, there are some things I don’t ask God about. I wanted an RV, so I bought one. Last week I sold it. Materialism doesn’t interest God. God is more concerned with what owns us, not what we own. He’s concerned about our unhealthy attachment to things and our unhealthy detachment from those we love.

Finally, my father-in-law, a serious Bible student and pastor for 50 years, has always said that the most certain way you will know God’s will is when you know the misery from being out of it.

I suppose that’s what Phil Vischer, the creator of “Veggie Tales” and voice of Bob the Tomato meant when he said, “There is no happier place than the intersection of God’s will and your giftedness.”

— Read Norris’ past columns at Write him at or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759. Twitter @chaplain or call 843-608-9715.