About the Author

Tsh Oxenreider is the author of Notes From a Blue Bike and the founder of The Art of Simple. She's host of The Simple Show, and her passion is to inspire people that 'living simply' means making room for more of the stuff that really matters, and that the right,...

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  1. Tsh,
    I definitely think you’re on to something here. If God tells us that we must become “as little children” to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, chances are He won’t hide his will for our lives in some complex algebraic equation. Chances are, it will be rather straightforward and simple. We are the ones who over-complicate it. I appreciate reading God’s revelations to others…thanks so much for sharing!
    Blessings,
    Bev

  2. I think you’re 100% right, Tsh. I have been thinking about this more and more lately and have come to similar conclusions. The Lord gives both- our passions and our burdens. I’ve really been enjoying figuring out how tandem both are!

  3. Over the past few years my focus has really shifted from my own myopic view of my life to the hurts and injustices taking place in this world. I have become so passionate about the injustices being done to girls and women worldwide. My heart aches when I think of all the pain they are experiencing. And yet I am also burdened for the many women close to me who are hurting from the pain of betrayal in their marriages or close relationships. Because I have walked that road, I feel compelled to action, to fight for families and marriages among our own Christian background. The statistics for failing families within the church are staggering, and with each number added to the percentile comes such heartache and pain.
    He has chosen to use my gifts in teaching and writing as ways for me to give voice to my burdens and passions. I may not be able to solve every situation, and the ache inside for these women never really goes away, but I constantly remind myself that my God can move mountains. And He does.

    • It’s true! He can use every word you type for something, big or small. And I’ve been reminded today from Jen Fulwiler that Mother Teresa didn’t worry about the work she could never get to, and neither should we, because “God is not asking you to do what He does not give you the time (or health, or resources) to do.”

      So I know what you mean about seeing huge, vast problems sweeping our culture—and yet, be encouraged that God is only calling you to do what He’s given you the time, health, and resources to do.

  4. For me every day surrender is key. Because sometimes His will for me has led me into places that i would have never considered because of my skills and passions. Sometimes He has called me to do something that is so radically different than anything I would have ever dreamed He would call me to do. It’s a stretch. It’s not necessarily my “sweet spot.” But He has used me in some small way and was glorified.

    In Him we really do live, move and exist…wherever He leads!

    Blessings,
    Dori

    • It’s true… He calls us to risk, to think outside the box. And yet, I think that’s what we should do about our gifts and passions, too—to not just look at the surface, but to be so close to Him that we hear His voice sometimes reminding us that He has equipped us for something that seems crazy.

  5. I love this post! I don’t know why but for some reason, for the longest time I thought “doing God’s will” meant doing something I didn’t like or wasn’t good at – like if I was miserable doing God’s will that made it more spiritual or something. I’m not sure where I got that idea, really. I was just chatting with someone the other day and I encouraged her that God WANTED her to find His will. He wasn’t hiding it or playing mind games with her. I’m not sure where we get this idea that God is waiting up in heaven to say, “Ah ha! I gotcha!” But I’m just as guilty of this mindset as anyone. I guess it isn’t surprising though – after all, satan got to Eve by convincing her that God wasn’t good and was holding out the good stuff from her. 🙂

    • I know what you mean—I think for some of us it might be part of our Christian subculture (or, at the least the one we were raised in), where we somehow got the idea that “God’s will” is a giant puzzle for us to solve.

      • while my dad countered this idea as I was growing up. but I was greately impacted by the youth retreats, rallys where we were called upon to “stand up if you are willing to follow God Anywhere, no matter what…….” I always wanted to follow Jesus. Yes, the subculture we were raised in gave that message. you know, missionaries who showed us scarey pics of snakes, talked about bugs and mosquitos and getting malaria. I am sure they talked about changed lives, but snakes and bugs is what I remember.

  6. The body of Christ is just so beatiful when we’re walking circumspectly. All of us working together-yet differently to accomplish God’s will on Earth. I used to feel guilty for not doing this or that…insert random Christian service…but then realized I am most fulfilled and more importantly, God is most glorified when I serve him as he made me to serve him. Good word, this chilly am. Thank you!

  7. I almost instantly shared this article with out taking any time to really ponder the idea. I think she is on to something, yet.. In my own experience this has been true to a degree but what about the times in our live where God seems to play hide and seek. I know that this is also part of His plan in order to draw us out of our comfort zones and seek Him in a deeper way. He has made us all very unique with our own sets of passions, skills, and, things that are heavy in our hearts. Ultimately God does lead us one step at a time, down a windy narrow un-trodden path that scripture describes. This is where we learn to trust Him, to Lean on Him in the desert where there seems to be no way. The goal is not some great conquest, some great act of nobility, or lasting contribution, or is it? I think the answer IS simpler than we suppose. We were made to Love and be Loved by Him. All of these other things simply point us to this end.

    • Yes. I don’t mean to say that what we should do, where we should go, etc. is always plainly obvious. Many, many times, God doesn’t make it clear, for whatever reasons. But He isn’t a God who gives us burdens or skills for no reason. He can often use those to point rather simply to a calling on our lives.

  8. A wonderful missionary to the middle east spoke to my Bible Fellowship class once and made clear that GOD has a will for our life. He made it clear that the answer to our age old question of “What is God’s will for my life?” has already been answered. HIS WILL FOR all, plainly written in black and white, living and breathing words that cut to the marrow of the bone! Right there in 1Thessalonians 5:18 “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of GOD in CHRIST JESUS concerning you.(capitalization emphasis, mine).

    i really like this post. Whether we are in the midst of trying to figure out what is next or making a decision based on what we know and trusting the Almighty through that decision, we are to give thanks because THAT is HIS Will in CHRIST JESUS. Giving thanks during, what is bothering us,recognizing our gifts and using them, frustrations, things that make us excited, hard difficult life decisions, and difficult circumstances that arise in life, is HIS Will for us in CHRIST JESUS. Maybe, even just recognizing that “giving thanks” in all things is seeing CHRIST making something new out of every decision we make, even the dreaded ugly ones. Give me GRACE to trust HIM more and give HIM thanks in all things!

  9. I do believe this, but for so long I thought it could only look a certain way. And then I realized that the one thing God has been calling me to since high school very much uses the gifts and passions that He has given me. We need to be open to the possibility that what we think is our calling may only be a shadow of what He actually has planned for us.

    • That is true—we’ve all been gifted and burdened with something, but that doesn’t mean the answer is right underneath the surface. Sometimes God wants us to go deeper with those things He’s given us, to go on an exploration of sorts. But all along, He’s right there with us, looking under rocks and asking good questions. He delights in our knowing.

  10. You have certainly found your niche Tsh. This article is like an epiphany for me. I have agonized with this my whole life. I am not one with natural born skills, I am not ‘great’ at any particular thing, and I have always heard our calling lies where our skills are. So, that makes it hard for me. I am 45, I have always been a stay home mom, and am just going back to college.
    My burdens are for the broken, and battered women who’ve lost all hope and confidence. What makes me excited is when I can plan things, and bring them together. My passion is studying, and teaching the Living Word to people who have not a clue and are stuck in traditions and religious cages. Following your article, I’d say my purpose that God planned before I was born, lies somewhere within those 3 things.
    I do believe we are here to spread the word, to love, and be loved. To, ‘give thanks’ in all things, and to worship the Almighty God everyday. But, it doesn’t stop there. There is much more than just that, as no one in the Bible just laid back and did those things every day to let the world take care of itself. Everyone has a place in the kingdom, to be an arm, a leg, a voice, even an eye. There is a lost and dying world out there, “For He knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future.” “His eyes saw my unformed substance; in His book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
    Thank you for the ‘guideline.’

    • Rebe – I had to smile because no sooner did you say “I am not one with natural born skills” than you list that you can plan things and bring them together. My friend, that IS a skill. You may not think it “great” or super useful, but trust me, as someone who casts the vision for the outreach ministry at my church, were it not for those on my team who could organize and plan, everything we’ve been able, through God, to bring to fruition would have remained a dream. When my feet are put to the fire, I can work through details, but it is not my strong suit. I see the big picture, I am the cheerleader who helps others see the possibilities, not the invaluable person on my team who loves spreadsheets, and sign ups and numbers – and I thank God for her every day!! As you said, everyone has a place in the kingdom!

      • Thank you Toni, it is a pivotal moment when the light comes on! I am praying for God to position me where there is opportunity to step out and be instrumental in furthering His work on this earth in these last days and times. I dont know where that is as of this day, but this willing vessel is now planning to plan, and SMILING!

  11. Just yesterday I prayed yet again…asking God to please make it obvious what His will is for my life… I heard… ” I am trying.” I began pondering that answer…my gifts, talents and difficult health issues…. I realized, God has been leading me on a path….to natural health and wellness for many, many years…(30+) perhaps preparing me for this moment. An “opportunity” has recently been presented for me learn even more…not only helping myself but also helping others… I have been afraid I might not be able handle it…. Scared and lacking confidence in myself and my abilities… As of yesterday, I now believe this is “the passion” God is calling me to pursue… Do I feel weak and unprepared? Absolutely YES! However, I truly believe God equips those He calls… Think of all the ordinary people Jesus called to help share His Word… I will trust my way through this process… staying close in prayer…and seeking His guidance each step of the way. As I read this message it felt like one more perfect connection with His message… Thank you!

  12. Wow!
    God is soooo good and gracious to gift me what i need just when i need it….thanks for the link to Emilys question and the youtube link in her post…..He is our Life, breath, & He is not worried about what we r becoming!

  13. Hmm, i think injustice, it gets my goat..nothing else really matters. Education im passionate about and altho not as much worship and the arts

  14. Everyone can do “something”; most are passionate about at least one thing; when the two merge, WATCH OUT and see what God does with you. Great post.

  15. Ah yes…

    We have been discussing this at our house A LOT over the past year.

    A husband who is reluctantly climbing the corporate ladder, preaching on the side, ministering through it all….yes, we are in the thick of this.

    Sitting at the intersection of passions and skills – and at the same time praying for direction – I think we will come up with something 🙂

    Good, good word.

    Thanks Tsh!

    Blessings,
    Kate 🙂

  16. It’s taken me a very, very long time to come to this same conclusion, Tsh. As I move into the things I believe God’s called me to do, I find I also become more and more myself.

    • “As I move into the things I believe God’s called me to do, I find I also become more and more myself.” <– Oh yes, this is so true. A good word, Kimberly.

  17. So well-said, and so sweetly simple. One thing I’ve found along the way, too, is that it’s sometimes easier for me to identify what is NOT my passion or burden. That has helped me to move closer and closer to pinpointing those things that really strum my heartstrings. Thank you for this great blog post, Tsh.

  18. This has been a struggle for me for several years now. I continue to strive and do my work as though I am doing it for Him and do it well, but the passion is almost non-existent. I keep waiting for a brick to fall on my head with a note attached that says “Go here. Do this. You’ll love it!”

    It’s not that I’m lazy. I truly strive to know God’s will. I know that my gifts aren’t being utilized to the fullest and it makes my heart ache. Daily.

    But I suppose I am one step closer. 5 years ago I’m not sure I could even admit to my insecure self that I knew what those gifts were….

    Today has been a most especially rough day for me, so this post is welcome. I know the answer is there. I need to meet Him at the intersection and just take that leap.

    Thank you for meeting Him at YOUR intersection and blessing us with your talent. 🙂

  19. Thank you, Tsh. I wish someone had told me these things in high school, college, just after college when I thought surely enough tears and journaling would lead me to the happy end of that labyrinth. So much joy and freedom found in this place.

  20. I appreciate your interpretation of what God’s will means to you, but still seems a bit out of grasp for me to find this definition. What if I don’t know or have yet to discover my skills, passions, and burdens? In a much simpler version, I believe God’s will for me is to love God and love others. On a practical daily level, it’s being faithful with whatever He’s entrusted to me. God bless.

  21. It is my favorite thing to do–my passion–to plunge into this beautiful invitation, considering the unique way each of us are made and how this speaks to our adventure with God! Thank you so much, Tsh, for this message and encouragement.

  22. It’s taken me awhile to grasp this simple, wonderful truth. It seems like if the answer is easier than I expect it to be, it can’t be the answer. Or I use that as my excuse to procrastinate as I wait for Him to reveal His will to me. 🙂

    Thanks for this article, Tsh!

  23. Yes-so good. We make it so much harder than it should be and then we can sometimes paralyze ourselves into doing nothing, out of fear that we might be doing something wrong. I like to think of God’s will as wide, green pasture. In that pasture there’s plenty of room for a little sheep like me to roam around. I can eat grass on the north side and then wander to the south side the next day. As long as I stay within the boundaries of the pasture I am right where the good shepherd wants me. When I step beyond those boundaries then he will use his rod and his staff to get me back into the right place. Thinking about God’s will this way has freed me up in many ways to fully live out my life, trusting that God will direct me as I need it.

  24. Tsh,

    Thank you for simplifying a tough question–“God’s will for our life is wherever our skills meet our passions and burdens.” My passion is helping people in any area of life that I can. It may be driving you to appointments, cooking meals, even doing prison ministry weekends. I find my heart swells and I feel good about myself.

    Some day I pray I can work part-time and be able to have more time for those short term local mission trips and cooking for my own family!

    Blessings 🙂

  25. LOL… I am smiling like a beaming fool because you are so right! Here I am not necessarily asking that question, but rather, who am I? The answer seems so blatantly obvious now. I had always used a “well i am not…. ” method to sort of narrow it down but really? My passion is my family and of course Christ, I love to read and write. I love my alone time because I can think and reflect and just “be”. When I put it like that it seems so simple to be who God purposed me to be. Thank you!

  26. As I look through some of these responses, I am struck by something, and Tsh, you can tell me if I’m wrong. A number are saying, but “I don’t know what my passion or skills are. Is it really that simple?” I think it is simple – once it all comes together. So that doesn’t mean we are born knowing what those things are or that we step into our Christian walk knowing up front what they are, and perhaps that’s part of the frustration. We think we should know…right now. Perhaps Diane was on the right track when she said “In a much simpler version, I believe God’s will for me is to love God and love others. On a practical daily level, it’s being faithful with whatever He’s entrusted to me.” For me anyway, discovering my purpose in life didn’t happen until I was in my late 40s. But when I finally “got it”, I looked back and saw all the things God had woven together to that point – experiences, people, places – and I realized that He had been at work all along, putting everything in place so I could accomplish this current purpose. I didn’t stop being a Christian or experiencing life because I hadn’t yet understood my purpose. I did with each moment what God asked of me in that moment. And it brought me to where I am now. That said, I don’t think I’ve “arrived”…I think as long as we are willing to surrender our lives to God, His purpose for us will grow and change as we mature in our faith and walk, and as we enter new seasons of life.

  27. Dear Tsh,
    I thank you for bringing this topic into discussion, because I think you’re right that there are many people within the church who struggle with the concept of God’s will. I was one of them for most of my life, too, and I didn’t even understand how utterly lost and confused I was until God recently found me and softened my heart to hear His true purpose for me. He has since been teaching me what it really means to walk in His ways, and while I am still learning a great deal, I’d like to humbly share what God has been revealing to me.

    You suggested two possible reasons for why we don’t see God’s plan: that we think God’s holding above our heads some complicated code that we just can’t figure out no matter how long or hard we try; or that we fear our humanity will get in the way of God’s plan so we just don’t bother making an effort. Those ideas may be true for some people indeed, but I’d like to suggest a third reason that was more true for myself: that we fear giving up control of our own lives, and therefore strive to find a balance between living our dreams and living a godly life. We are unwilling to surrender all of our own dreams and comfort because we don’t allow ourselves to grasp the depths of our depravity in ourselves, and therefore don’t give God our everything as He deserves. Let’s be honest: even if we confess with our lips that we want to follow Jesus, if we don’t actually die to our own inner passions (however noble and strong they may be) and take up Jesus’ cross and follow His commands with gladness, we are still going our own way. If we have a comfortable life, or a seemingly great opportunity presents itself to us, we are often quick to assume that God is blessing our path. It’s not such an easy message to hear, but it is our own pride and ungratefulness that prevent us from even desiring God’s will be done in the first place. And if our hearts’ first desire is anything but to see Him glorified in His kingdom through our work, we aren’t ready to learn His will for our lives, because God knows we’re not ready to actually follow Him. When we humble ourselves low and seek above all to give God the glory, His will for us is not only made known, it becomes the most desirable path you could ever imagine.

    While I say that God’s will is made known, however, I don’t think He intends for us to know our whole life’s course. We can’t always see what’s coming, a year, a month, or even just a moment ahead of us. How exactly God is using us for His kingdom work is a huge mystery, as His plan is intricate beyond imagination, although He graces us now and then with awesome glimpses of His divine plan. He does promise that one day He will reveal the mystery of His entire plan, when we see Him face to face. But not yet. This is faith: the inability to see ahead, but to step out anyway knowing that your feet are going to land on solid ground. Faith doesn’t look forward and plan. It looks up and trusts. But God also gives His followers the hope of eternal life spent with Him to look forward to, so that we can keep on moving in His ways, with the joy of the final, glorious destination fixed in our minds.

    In the meantime, even though we probably can’t see our life’s path and might not necessarily know the specific vocation(s) or cause(s) God calls us to right now, we can still be sure of God’s will for us in every single moment, exactly where we are, and that He gives us strength to carry it out, because He revealed His commands for us in His Living Word and provided us with the power of His Holy Spirit. We know that Jesus gave us the command to love. Love God above all else, and love each other by becoming a servant to all, since He first loved us and became a servant to us. When we simply love with God’s love, we are already doing His kingdom work, because sacrificial love is what wins hearts for Christ. God works in us through the small things – like showing patience with our children, and being honest at your current job when no one else is – to make the bigger picture come together. He shapes and grows us bit by bit as we allow Him to lead us by His Word and Spirit. And He is bringing His flock to Himself as we shine His light in each small faithful thing we do.

    Maybe you are on the right track in following God’s purpose for your life, and I pray that you are. Do be very careful, though, that when you encourage others in the faith, please don’t ask them to look within themselves for answers, because we are all so lost in our human ways and limited abilities to act and see. Always point them to God, because all truth and life is found in Him, and is always revealed to us through His Living Word and His Holy Spirit, which we must go to every moment of every day.

    Blessings to you,
    Erica

    • “Faith doesn’t look forward and plan. It looks up and trusts.” So true, Erica. And if we let go of the fear and control faith allows us to do just that. I love your words and Tsh’s too. I was going to write a comment about being faithful in the small things. If I’m unsure of God’s will then I stay faithful with the small stuff He’s entrusted to me. I’m not a person who has to do big and huge things, I just want people to know him. If I get to do that on a daily basis, I’m happy.

      But I am a control freak, who can be immobilized by fear. So thank you for your words of wisdom. Something to think about.

      • Lisa, thanks for replying with your thoughts! I sound a bit like you, I would describe myself as an overachiever who accomplishes very little due to paralyzing fear of failure! And it really does take a ton of courage to simply rest in Jesus’ strength and admit we can do absolutely nothing without Him. Yet the most freeing thing we could ever do is let Someone perfect do all the work through us, so we can’t screw up and we’ll always be good enough – what grace we have in Jesus! Remembering that Jesus is the vine and that we are the branches helps me to remember that I can only produce fruit (be productive) when I remain in Him.

        I went to your page and just loved “On Why I Write.” Firstly because I feel your heart for Jesus in your words and am so thankful that God is using them in such beautiful ways. Secondly because your story sounds a lot like mine and it encourages me, as I’ve always rather enjoyed writing and think I’m decent with a pen, but had never before had a passion I felt worth really writing for. It’s only since God opened my eyes that I’ve been feeling the Spirit urging me to start a journal about all the wisdom God reveals to me, and to share some of my thoughts online where I feel the nudge (and I’m also SO afraid of having my name out there!!!). I know He’s asking me to wait before I further pursue a calling to write professionally or blog, and I think perhaps it’s because He wants me to first learn more of Him and develop my skills. Or maybe because He’s also using me to change hearts in my secular workplace, whether I know about it or not. And right now I know He’s also asking me to focus on my family’s immediate need for love, more than on any aspirations I have to do great things in the world. I agree with you that it’s so important that we find true joy in just being a candle in any dark place we are led, giving thanks to God for every opportunity He gives us to share His love with others.

        • Obviously I am not a person of few words!! Maybe God wants me to work on being concise? Please don’t mind the long reads! 🙂

  28. I am beginning late in age to see God’s will and plan…now to quiet the naysayers on my mind!

    Thank you for your words of reinforcement.

  29. Terri Savelle Foy
    You may be crying out for wisdom, a plan, direction, or change while God is saying to you, “Stir up the gift I have given you.” In other words, discover it and develop it. 1 Corinthians 7:7 says, “…each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”

  30. I have asked myself that question for so many years…What is God’s purpose for me? Sometimes I believed my purpose was to be a good mother, a good wife, a good grandmother. Other times I believed my purpose was to just be happy and I thought that was so swallow. Not sure what my gift is, but I have not given up hope that I will discover my gift. I will stay faithful to my believe that God loves me to matter what.

  31. I have always struggled with this. Just when I think I have it clinched as to what I think God wants me to do all of this unsettling comes over me and I freeze up. Things that bother me are the homeless, the hungry, the abused, those that feel unloved and are prone to think about ending their lives. I want to wrap them up in a God-sized blanket and let them feel His immense love. I will keep praying for direction, and guidance…. I am thankful God loves me right where I am – even in the midst of uncertainty.

  32. {Melinda} I love the simplicity of this. You are right on target. I’ve also heard that our ministry is often fueled by our deepest pain or struggle. I know for me that is 100% true.

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