I was wrestling with a major decision this last year that would have major impact on my life as well as my family, wondering “what does God want me to do?”

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation where you trying to make a major decision, deciding between a career, and you feel lost, confused, or even stressed as to what to do. I’m guessing you are asking the question, “how do I know What does God want me to do?”

To answer the question of “How Do I know what God wants me to do?”, I recommend a few things: First, recognize the doors open before you. Second, filter through the biblical smell check. Third, recognize and name your desires. Fourth, bring those desires before God for discernment. Fourth, seek the counsel of godly people. Fifth, make the decision and don’t look back.

I know that’s a lot.

But let’s break it down so you can understand the answer to “How do I know what God wants me to do?”

Here are some powerful and practical steps to really helping you answer that question faithfully and well.

Steps to Understand “How Do I know what God wants me to do?”

1. Recognize and Name the Doors Before You

I’m guessing you are reading this because there are opportunities before you. In layman’s term, that is what we call an “open door”.

It is a door of opportunity. It’s language that Jesus himself uses:

“Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”

Revelation 3:8

The imagery is perfect. Sometimes you are just walking through the journey of life, and a door is opened before you.

The first step is to name and recognize the doors.

What I mean is to write it down, give it a name. Understand the choices set before you.

Naming is powerful is it allows your mind and heart to begin understanding it. For example:

If it’s a job, “this is the dental office door”.
If it’s a place of living, “this is the Washington street door.”
If it’s a relationship, “this is the [type of relationship] door.

Now you can use it in conversation, your mind can begin forming language around it.

Even though there is an open door before you, I’m sure you already recognize that not all doors are from God.

And just because a door is good doesn’t mean the door is from God.

What we want to do in the subsequent steps is discern whether the door is from God or not.

The first step to answering, “How do I know what God wants me to do”–name the open doors.

2. Filter through the biblical smell check

The first thing that we should do is let the opportunity pass through our biblical smell check.

Ephesians 4 imagines the maturity in the life of the believer:

until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 

Ephesians 4:13-14

It is believing for and assuming that we as believers can be wise and and mature and be able to make life decisions that reflect our spiritual maturity.

Spiritual maturity, here, is having developed a mental and spiritual framework to judge through the choices.

Surely as you read the Bible, and grow in your faith, your internal vocabulary and sense of “what is right” and “what is wrong” is growing over time. There are things that you already do and don’t do based on this that don’t require special discernment from the Lord.

The first filter you should do is let the opportunity be passed through the filter of biblical smell check.

What that means is, according to your understanding of the Bible and faith, is this an outrightly righteous opportunity or an outrightly unrighteous opportunity?

A lot of choices can be already filtered down because there is, within your heart, a sense from the Holy Spirit that something isn’t right about the opportunity.

Perhaps the opportunity assumes a level of immorality.
Perhaps it includes becoming partners or in romantic relationship with a non-Christian.
Perhaps the opportunity is driven primarily by greed and wickedness.

Such opportunities that don’t pass the biblical smell check should be passed.

Based on the premise that God would never lead you to do wicked things, one can already dismiss opportunities that lead you down that road as not from God. You can safely decline and move on with your life from here.

However, I recognize some opportunities are not black and white.

Some opportunities are a bit mixed. And that’s okay. In my experience, these are opportunities that God intentionally presents before us because he wants us to see something about ourselves. want to present a few more steps to dig down deeper.

Second step to answering “How do I know what God wants me to do?”: filter through the biblical smell check

3. Recognize and Name Your Desires and Feelings About the Open Doors

If you’ve arrived at this point, then I’m guessing the opportunity has passed the biblical smell check. What you need is further guidance on how to proceed.

The next step addresses the hardest part about life discernment and the hardest part of answering, “How do I know what God wants me to do?”

The hardest part of knowing is our desires.

The hardest part is differentiating between what you want and what God wants. People struggle with life discernment and knowing how do I know what God wants me to do because they cannot tell their desires apart from God.

It’s okay that your desires are confusing and conflicting. But let’s dive into so that we can hold them with greater clarity.

I would highlight recommend journaling and writing down all your thoughts and feelings regarding the open doors.

In my book Journaling for Spiritual Transformation, I guide you on how and why journaling is so important. In case you don’t pick that up, here are some ideas I would recommend you to journal around:

Write down and name what emotions you feel about the door.

Are you anxious?
Are you excited?
Are you fearful?

Write down why you feel those emotions.

Are you anxious because it would cost money?
Are you excited because it’s a great step in the right direction?
Are you fearful because it requires you to be someone you’re not sure of?

If you can, write down what you think your desires are and what God’s desires are

As I talk about in my book, one of the skills that are really important is journaling and listening with one ear towards heaven and one ear towards your own heart. Part of that exercise allows us to begin seeing from heaven’s perspective.

It is important to exhaustively understand what your feelings are so that you can start to make a delineation between your feelings and God’s feelings.

The most important aspect of this step is to be brutally honest before God.

You don’t serve anyone by hiding around the bush of what you’re truly feeling. Lay it all out there. God is wanting your honesty in the next step.

Third step in answer, “How do I know what God wants me to do?”: Write and name your feelings

Now that you understand your feelings are, let’s bring them before God.

4. Bring Your Desires and Feelings Before God and then Listen

The next step is to prayerfully bring your desires and feelings before God.

The more brutally honest before God you have been, the more powerful and efficacious this part will be. God doesn’t like dealing with half our hearts; he loves the nitty gritty aspects of it.

Bring your raw desires and feelings about the opportunity before God to seek his counsel.

I find that when I do this prayerfully, God will begin to immediately speak about what to do.

This process takes time but the more honest you are, the Holy Spirit will begin taking the open opportunity of an open heart to begin depositing thoughts to your hearts.

Listen for words, ideas, pictures, feelings from the Holy Spirit regarding the opportunity.

5. Seek Counsel of Godly people

Oftentimes, hearing from God about important decisions is not just a personal decision that. God will often speak through the counsel of his church.

Take your process, and seek the counsel of a godly person who you know walks closely with the Lord.

I believe when we gather together, the time is always prophetic. Jesus promised that when two or three are gathered in his name, he is there among us (Matthew 18:20).

You will find that the intersection of what God wants to say to you will often collide with the counsel that godly people will make.

6. Make the Decision and Don’t Look Back

Lastly, is to make the decision and don’t look back.

I know for many, this seems like an ironic recommendation given how carefully I’ve laid out the process to hear from God.

But part of what I believe is awesome about following God is how much grace there is in the journey.

Even though you follow this process precisely, there are times you get it correct, and there times you got it wrong. And it’s okay.

God has so much grace for the journey even when we hear wrong. As long as our hearts are tender and humble before him, we can make moves in confidence knowing that even if we fall, he’ll catch us.

So make the decision, don’t look back, and prayerfully walk forward with the grace of God behind and before you!

Further Resources

Understanding how do I know what God wants me to do can be a stressful and confusing experience. I hope that this process helps you to understand yourself better, hear from God better, and feel a sense of confidence as you walk the journey of life.

A lot of the angle of spirituality I’ve mentioned has been taken from one of my favorite spiritual teachers Henri Nouwen.

This is Henri Nouwen’s book Spiritual Direction Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith: on Amazon if you really want to develop the spiritual habits to hear from God more clearly.

Also, hearing God’s voice amidst chaos is really important. My book Rhythms of Resilience will have tons of great tools and faith concepts to help.

I hope this was helpful to you.

What are your thoughts or questions on “how do I know what God wants me to do?”

Tell me in the comments below!