Listenings: The Will of God

The third question Underhill responds to is this: How are we to know, or find out what the will of God is?”

Once she has asserted that we discover the will of God in relation to the great truths and demands of Christianity (p. 126), Underhill moves on to say that we tend to discover these things in relation to “the choice, cause, or action that is least tainted by self-interest, and which makes for the increase of happiness–health–beauty–peace–[the cause or action] that cleanses and harmonizes life” (p. 127)

That works most of the time, but breaks down when we come upon two apparent goods.  What then?  Underhill takes her cue from St. Vincent de Paul, who counseled people to wait in quietness for what will eventually be “a subtle yet insistent pressure in favor of the path which they should take” (p. 128)

But even then, we do not always get guidance we’re confident to act upon, and in such moments, we must turn to common sense and do what we believe to be the most loving thing.

All this must be done in relation to Scripture and tradition, and in the context of community.  And still, there will be times when we will not get it right.  That’s where confession and setting out of a new path come in.

Over time, Underhill believed, that if we exercise our souls in these ways, they will grow stronger.  Our ability to hear and respond to God will improve.  And we will live with a greater sense of congruence between God’s will and our actions.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Listenings: The Will of God

  1. Dr. Steve thank you for allowing God to use you. I want you to come and speak sometime?

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