This past year was very challenging personally, as I moved from Toronto with my husband and settled into our new home in Winnipeg. Our road trip took us five days, driving in the treacherous weather around the mountains, passing through a long stretch near the border. One might ask why we made such a big move, leaving the family and friends. Certainly it was a test for both of us to follow God’s will and understand His purpose in our life together.
I do not have a clear answer. Digging deep into the course of my life, however, I have no doubt that our hard times can lead us towards God closely. Rolling back 17 years, I emigrated from South Korea with one suitcase, having no idea where God was leading me. Charmed by The Little House on the Prairie, and following my heart to the prairies, I landed in Winnipeg by myself. It was my innocent mistake, believing that all prairies were like the ones on TV, yet God had a mysterious plan for this feeble human creature to venture into a deeper faith. My adventure continued, flying from Winnipeg to Toronto, finding my soulmate in Toronto, and finishing my further studies in education and divinity there. I lived there for 12 years until I returned to my Canadian hometown, Winnipeg.
To a Christian, the question is not why we migrate, but how we discern God’s will as we move and enter into a new chapter of life. There are events that have led all of us up to this point, but it is difficult to explain why those events happened in those specific moments in the past, and it is obscure what will unfold tomorrow as we are conditioned by time and space, finite in one sense and infinite in another. Thus Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven….” Blaise Pascal, however, reminds us that “the heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.” Therefore, we might need to engage the heart and the mind to apprehend the mystic past and construct a revelatory future. The one thing I can say is that, in our lives, there is no part that is meaningless, whether remembered or unremembered. Surrounded by the unintelligible joys and sorrows in this inescapable world, we must trust that God’s invisible hands shape us for His purpose, as the Potter reworks the pot from the clay.
Nevertheless, in our post-Christendom era, blown by narcissism, our human willpower is more frequently discussed than Jeremiah’s vision of the Potter. Now, let’s listen to the author of Hebrews: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son…” (1:1–2). Christ has made God known to restore our relationship with Him, and we can discern God’s will through the Scriptures, the Logos, the incarnate of God, which is God’s revelation to humanity. Hence, John 1 starts: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
God’s mercy and love are unveiled everywhere in the Bible. Even when God is revealed as the Judge, we must not oversimplify such a prophetic message as the punishment. Rather, it is a reminder of the divine justice by the One who desires to have a covenant relationship with God’s people. Looking into the Gospels, particularly, we gain a new perspective of our present history through the resurrected Christ. During his earthly ministry, Jesus talked about many parables to illustrate God’s will. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), the father portrays an unconditional love and a complete restoration of sonship. Like this forgiving father, God wills to forgive and receive us who often travel far away from God, and we, just as the prodigal son, are saved by the grace of the Lord, not by our human works. Using the language of love, Jesus also tells us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbours as ourselves. If we pour out on God our whole power of love, possessing nothing at all for ourselves, except wanting to belong to God, and if we care for those in need, we will experience God.
Knowing God’s will is a spiritual discipline that aims towards a mystical union with God, which requires us to follow Christ, who commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This commandment is not easy to follow, and it involves a hard decision. Our faith requires not merely knowing God’s will, but doing God’s will. Saint Augustine viewed that our contemplative life should yield action. In the Parable of Two Sons (Matthew 21:28–32), it is obvious who did his father’s will: the one who said no, but changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard as his father told him to. Aligning his will with his Father’s will, Jesus exemplified himself as the atoning sacrifice for all human sins to show God’s divine love for humankind.
God wills our salvation to restore the broken human relationship with the Creator. Behind moments when we cannot sense the divine presence is God, who searches for the lost sheep. And, God knows each of us by name, just as Jesus knew Nathanael when this disciple was still under the fig tree (John 1:47–48). Even during the period of our wandering, like the Israelites in exile, we must obey the Lord and remember that God has a salvific plan for us. Thus, we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”
Diane Lee-Olenic is a St. John’s College alumnus with an M.Ed. from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and an M.Div. from Wycliffe College. Currently, she is doing her diocesan placement at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Winnipeg.