Skip to content

How Not to Discover God’s Will For Your Life

I came across some bullshit today.

And by “bullshit”, I mean a few pages from the “Wisdom Booklets” that were the core part of Bill Gothard’s  homeschooling curriculum. I had three thoughts when I read this bullshit:

“I remember this. Exactly. I remember reading this. I remember believing this.”

and then

“Oh. No wonder I am in therapy. This right here in black-and-white is the stuff we’re working so hard to deprogram every week.”

followed by

“I’m going to write a profanity-laced blog post about this.”


A little over a year ago I wrote:

I’ve spent a lot of my life waiting for permission. Waiting for somebody else to read the Bible and tell me what it meant. Waiting for somebody else to be the voice of the Spirit to me.

So when you ask me if I am a man with the Spirit of God, I don’t know know what to say. Am I? Is there a grownup who can tell me one way or the other?

I don’t know.

I know I’m ready to believe the truth. I’m tired of waiting for permission.

But it turns out that unbrainwashing my fixation on permission has been harder than I guessed it would be.

Just a few months ago I sat in my therapist’s office and said, “I feel like I need your permission for the decisions I’m trying to make.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Because you’re more of an adult than I am,” I told her.

She just cocked her head sideways like she didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

How was this grown-ass man on her couch still trying to find an adult to give him permission for every last thing in his life?


Let’s take a look at a few bits from from Gothard’s “Wisdom Booklet” 33. (Sorry, I can’t bring myself to type “Wisdom Booklet” without sarcastiquotes. )

These are from a section called “Insights Through Investigation”, a portion of the “Wisdom Booklets” dedicated to parsing Greek words in order to come up with never-before-seen interpretations and applications of Bible verses. Presumably, they’re about how to discern God’s will for our lives.

Here are a few highlights:


“The fact is that there are no ‘little decisions’. Every ‘little decision’ has the potential for major consequences.”


The “Wisdom Booklet” suggests that we need to discern God’s will for what color toothbrush we should buy, because once there was a college dorm where there was a hepatitis outbreak traced to toothbrushes. Presumably, if everybody had followed God’s will and bought the toothbrush ordained for them before the foundations of the world, nobody would have gotten hepatitis.

So don’t trust your own wisdom when you go to buy a toothbrush. Make sure you discern God’s will in every infinitely basic choice or else HEPATITIS, SUCKERS!

This advice will lead to paralyzing self-doubt, endless obsession over every decision you try to make, and a maddening fixation on permission. But at least you don’t have hepatitis.

However, this is complicated by the fact that…


“…it is amazing to see the number of ways and the variety of methods God uses in showing His will.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 2.11.12 PM

The “Wisdom Booklet” lists five “methods” through which we might discern God’s will. They are, in order: Somebody else tells you. Somebody else tells you. Circumstances. Somebody else tells you. Superstition.

I’d like to make a few points about this:

1. How the fuck is it that everybody is supposed to know God’s will for your life but you? If God can tell prophets/parents/wives His will for you, couldn’t He just tell you? Does He tell those people His will for their own lives, or do they need a middleman as well? This whole ass-backward system seems fairly inefficient.

2. Regarding Item 3, how are you supposed to know if “hindrances” are God’s will or the Devil’s opposition? Within your framework, both seem to be an active force. So, seems like that one’s a real crapshoot. I’m pretty sure that trying to guess that will leave you with debilitating confusion about every last toothbrush you buy, not to mention the really important shit in life. Ya know, the stuff with consequences bigger than even HEPATITIS.

3. Regarding Item 1, has it occurred to you that putting the delivery and interpretation of God’s Word into the hands of “inspired” religious leaders could lead to potential abuses? I mean, I’m not saying it would ever happen. I’m not saying that self-appointed religious leaders would write millions of pages of bullshit in the name of God and use it to control thousands and thousands of scared parents and impressionable kids, or use those kids for free labor in cult centers, or use their position as the arbiter of God’s Will to lure vulnerable young women into emotional damaging situations for decades. I’m not saying that would happen. But has it occurred to you that it COULD?

4. On Item 5… if we’re supposed to follow the example of Gideon and involve the skin of a dead sheep in every decision we make (including which goddamn toothbrush to buy), every decision we make will take days and days and we’ll never actually get anything done. Also, our grocery story aisles will be covered in dismembered sheeps brought in by poor souls just trying to buy the toothbrush God ordained for them before the foundations of the world so they wouldn’t get HEPATITIS. You thought about that too, right?

5. What if these “methods” return conflicting answers? Is this like a cosmic game of Rock Paper Scissors? Do “circumstances” beat “prophets”? Does a “fleece” trump “a wife”? How are we even supposed to know? Please give us more insights, for clarification.

But really it doesn’t even matter because…


“…Christians might want to inquire about God’s will, when deep in their hearts they do not plan to follow it.”


So you think you want to know God’s will. NOPE. You don’t plan to follow it anyways. In addition to second-guessing the color of your toothbrush (because HEPATITIS), you’d better also second guess your deep heart. It’s probably evil.

This fits nicely in with the overarching theme of this entire parade of bullshit: Don’t trust your heart. Don’t trust your heart. Don’t trust your heart.

Also, don’t trust your heart.


I wrote this for me. Because I want to put words on the screen and remind myself that the bullshit I was taught for the first two decades of my life isn’t true. Because I’m learning to not need permission anymore.

But I also wrote this for you. Because maybe you were taught this bullshit too. And I want you to know that you can be free.

And I wrote it for them, the people who don’t get it. Who don’t understand why Bill Gothard was such a big deal. Who don’t understand why a bunch of grown adults are still irritated about being brainwashed in a homeschool cult. Maybe they’ll read this and understand that it wasn’t just strict rules and stupid clothes. It was mind control. It was mental abuse.

This sort of bullshit fucks up your spirituality and creates very real mental health issues.

If that hasn’t been your experience, have patience for those of us going through it, ok? Find somebody who is going through it and give them a hug. And also maybe $100 to cover a therapy session. That shit ain’t cheap, yo.

If that’s been your experience, keep going. Don’t give up on your healing. You’re worth it. And you’re not alone.

[ image: Alex ]

published August 6, 2015

subscribe to updates:

(it's pretty much the only way to stay in touch with me these days)