Maybe this is one of the questions that comes up over and over in recovery. Newcomers ask their sponsors: How can I know God’s will? We raise surrender as a topic. We talk in meetings about turning our will over to God and then taking it back. Over time we know that total surrender is impossible so we suffer less over the “taking it back” part but just remind ourselves and each other, “Um, maybe Step Three on that and turn it over.”
There is a lot of wisdom around the rooms on God’s will and surrender. My favorite slogan or bumper sticker is “I didn’t quit, I surrendered.” That’s the biggest difference in the world. I finally came to understand that difference with food. It also happens that some people stop quitting and really surrender before they come into a 12-step program. Many times it’s the giving up quitting and finally surrendering that gets someone to AA. We hear those stories.
Our founders had a lot to say about this. We are most familiar with things Bill Wilson had to say, but being the quieter guy we sometimes miss what Doctor Bob’s contributions were.
Here is Doctor Bob’s guidance on learning to determine God’s will. It comes from a pamphlet he wrote for the Oxford Group—remember his first step into recovery wasn’t to AA (it didn’t exist) but to the Oxford Group. His advice goes like this:
Get a pen and paper and think about the situation you are struggling with. Quiet down and meditate for a few minutes, and pray. Silently ask God’s will on the situation. For example, “What should I do about my son, my job, my debt?”
Then write down EVERY answer that comes to you. Write down every single thought that comes to your mind. Ask the question again and see if any other thoughts come. Write them down.
Some of those ideas may be good and some may be crazy. Some may be God’s will and some (likely) are not. So next, you must subject every item on your list to these questions:
Is it honest? Is it pure? Is it loving? Is it unselfish?
If the answer to all four questions is yes then likely it is God’s will.