Written by: Rachael Keefe

Willing or Not

This is my second blog post this week (here’s the first if you’re interested) and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am in over my head. Theologians have been …

Willing or Not

This is my second blog post this week (here’s the first if you’re interested) and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am in over my head. Theologians have been discussing and defining “God’s Will” since the dawn of time. Honestly, it is not a concept I spend much time thinking about in the abstract. I do try to discern what God wants for me, particularly when faced with potentially life-changing decisions. I also try to discern what God wants for the church I now serve. These things mean something to me, yet describing and defining them is slippery.


In spite of my Calvinist seminary education, I am not a believer in predestination other than in the broadest sense. I do believe, as the Prophet Jeremiah told the people of Israel, that God plans only good for us, futures filled with hope. However, I know that we often choose things that God would rather we not. And then what happens to God’s plans?

If the reading from 1Samuel is any indication, then God revises God’s plan. The people of Israel were determined to have a king, no matter what Samuel told them of what God wanted for them. They chose a king and that choice eventually led to Jesus. It’s not that all the awful things that God warned them about didn’t happen because they did. In spite of those things, God still brought them to a future filled with hope.

When I was in the process of searching for a call to a church, there were several times when I was, essentially, the second choice candidate. People intending to comfort me said things like, “That must not have been God’s will.” I do think a couple of those places could have been in God’s plan for me. However, when they didn’t work out, other opportunities opened and I do believe that God called me to the church I now serve.

What I’m trying to get at is that I don’t think God’s will is an inflexible, carved in the proverbial stone kind of thing. It’s more flexible, adaptable and loving. I keep going back to the Israelites when they chose to have a king to be like other nations rather than go with what God wanted for their leadership. God didn’t walk away. They were not condemned. It’s possible that their lives became much more challenging as a result of their choice. Even so, God remained with them and kept planning a future filled with hope.

So when I look around and see all the suffering, brokenness, violence, and destruction in the world, I am confident that none of it is God’s will for us. To the contrary, these things result from choosing something other than the loving, merciful way of God. Or at least they are an indication that the world is not yet fully what God intends it to be. At any rate, there is nothing that will convince me that God’s will for any person, community, or nation is anything other than goodness and hope.


To think about God’s will is to ponder the greater mystery of God. To seek God’s will in our lives is to be open to the human spirit being touched and transformed by the Holy Spirit. For those times when we choose other than what God would want for us, there is still the grace of God’s presence and God’s remarkable ability to come up with a new plan. In essence, there is always hope for healing and renewal even if it takes a very long time. Just ask those early Israelites…

RCL – Year B – Second Sunday after Pentecost – June 7, 2015
1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20 with Psalm 138
Genesis 3:8-15 with Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Photos from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

2 thoughts on “Willing or Not”

  1. I think your blog proves the value of Process Theology in understanding “God’s Will” as God’s “adjustments” for our good in spite of humans’ worse choices. I subscribe to Julian of Norwich’s: All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” I like your reflections . . they go a long way towards meeting the challenge of mainline faith communities to encourage the human family to see, understand, feel and discern a dynamic, ever-creating God within them and surrounding them. We live in a sea of Grace . . . we can’t help but get wet, I feel.

    • Thank you, Fred. I am also a big fan of Julian of Norwich. I do believe that “All shall be well.” And I very much appreciate your image of getting wet in the sea of Grace!


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