What is God’s will for my life? God, just tell me what to do and I will do it! Why did God let this happen? Why won’t God just tell me? I don’t understand why God doesn’t fix this! God, I simply want to hear Your voice. Are You really there? Why do You feel so hidden? Please reveal Yourself to me…
If you are anything like me, questions like these often find their way into your heart. Uncertainty grows, desperation begins to form, and eventually these questions feel almost overwhelming. I like to know things. I like assurance. Many times, I find myself asking God for just the smallest inkling of understanding. I merely want to hear the tiniest, little something from Him.
Well, I have great news for you and for me! He actually has spoken to us. He has not kept the mystery of Himself or His will from us. God has provided a lens through which we can get some answers and take our next steps toward Him.
Throughout time, many religions and belief systems have had ideas surrounding the spiritual world. One common theme is that God is a mystery to us. Christians encounter this enigma in our own faith journey. We can see the perplexities that accompany searching for God in Scripture: picture the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, David crying out for God to answer him in the Psalms, Jesus Himself praying for deliverance in the garden before being betrayed.
Steven Charleston, an ordained Christian minister and a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, provides a great example of how God and the spiritual world have been considered a mystery through the ages, by calling upon an important parallel from his Native American heritage.
Charleston writes in his book The Four Vision Quests of Jesus, “One of the most common names for God among the traditional Native American societies is the Great Mystery.” He goes on to describe how Native Americans traditionally engage in vision quests (or spiritual journeys) to more fully embrace the spiritual world and (for those that are Christians) to grow closer to God. The vision quests are often frightening and dangerous. There are many unknowns and uncertainties. Similarly, the questions we ask of ourselves and of God can make us feel afraid and anxious.
However, those who undertake these vision quests do not do so to gain insight into the Great Mystery, but rather to further embrace God as unknowable, indescribable, and divine. By bringing Christian application to his Native American background, Charleston explains that the Great Mystery can actually begin to be accurately understood only through the person of Jesus. Interestingly enough, Paul expresses the same idea in the book of Ephesians.
Paul uses the word “mystery” (Gk. mystērion) six different times in Ephesians, which is more than in any other of Paul’s letters (Eph 1:9; 3:3-4,9; 5:32; 6:19). The word “mystery” is used in four of the six chapters in Ephesians. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reveals the answer to knowing God and understanding the mystery of God right away in Ephesians 1:7-10:
“In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, [God] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”
What is God’s will? What does God want us to do? How can I see Him or hear Him?
Paul answers those questions right away. We must look to Christ, because through Christ God reveals His desires for you and for me. Paul declares that God is no longer a mystery. God has indeed revealed Himself. This is great news! How has he revealed Himself? God has made Himself known to the world through Christ. God’s desire for all of us has been made clear. God wants us to “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth” and He has paved the way through Jesus.
Paul gives a few beautiful examples of what this looks like throughout the rest of his letter. In chapter 3 of Ephesians, he talks about how the Great Mystery is revealed through Christ’s death and resurrection and is not just for Jews, but also for Gentiles. It is not just for the insiders but also for the outsiders and the marginalized. God has reconciled all peoples to Himself through Jesus.
In chapter 5, Paul talks about how the Great Mystery has been revealed through the marriage of man and woman. Jesus’ death and resurrection for His church, made up of both outsiders and insiders, is made known by the institution of marriage.
Lastly in chapter 6, Paul explains that the Great Mystery is revealed through how we pray, how we live our lives, and how we proclaim the gospel. Jesus is the manifestation of the Great Mystery. The gospel is the way in which the Great Mystery is made known. The death and resurrection of Jesus for you and for me makes things that were once hidden now revealed. God’s deepest desire for you is to be reconciled to Him.
Can you now see? The answer to who God is or what He wants is found in what He has so graciously done for us. God wants you. God wants me. God wants unity among His people. The Great Mystery is revealed through the gospel.
After explaining the idea of the Great Mystery, Steven Charleston concludes with a statement about what God wants us to be: “We are servants of the mystery, keepers of the hidden balance.”
God’s Word is very clear that Christians are supposed to be servants of the gospel. Christians are supposed to keep the balance and unity here on earth, so it can be on earth as it is in heaven. We must steward the story of Jesus well. We must steward the stories of others well.
Instead of asking God, “What do you want for me?” perhaps we should ask:
How can I become more of a servant of the gospel through word and deed?
How can I become a better steward of Christ’s story?
How can I promote unity within my community? My church? My family?
How do I need to grow to have more Christ-centered balance in my life?