Someone once said to me that if God exists and wants them to believe in Him, then fate will see to it that sooner or later they will come to believe in God. Many people think along similar lines: why commit to any religion voluntarily? If God's there, He's already planned whether you're going to believe in Him or not.
Although a hard determinist may agree to this, I don't reckon God pre-plans every little detail and decides who's gonna worship Him and who isn't (otherwise why's the father so happy at his son's return in the parable of the Prodigal Son?) I think God has plans for us, but He allows us to decide whether we want to go along with His plans or make our own way. Difference is, God's plans never fail. Ultimately, the point I'm making is that whether we believe in God or not is a choice that is down to us as individuals. It won't happen because it's destined to! God gave you free will just as He gave Adam and Eve free will (which they abused). And free will means that life is not a straight road, or, as some people view it, an escalator which all you have to do is stand on and it'll take you to a specified destination without any effort on your part. Life would be utterly pointless if God had just set us all on escalators like this!
No, I am happy to accept that God has given us autonomy and freedom to act how we so desire. If we aren't responsible for our own actions because they've all been preplanned, God shouldn't punish those who do wrong because they can't help it; it's destiny. Anyway, I digress. The point I'm making here is not so much whether we have free will or not; it's about the way we view life. Like I said earlier, I don't believe life is a straight road. It may seem pretty straightforward to some but to others it can appear to be tortuous and even misleading. Life has so much more to it than just one path - we're faced with decisions all the time though we may not really recognise them for what they are. If someone were to ask another to name a decision they have had to make, might they not say something like "Whether to move home" or "What career to pursue"? These are most certainly decisions, but our lives are littered with far more mundane decisions: what to have for breakfast, what to wear or even what direction to look in. Decisions form the fabric of your life - if just one of your decisions had varied in the past, you could be living a completely different life now.
Imagine for a minute a guy in a restaurant sitting alone at his table. He hears a loud conversation at the table next to his; a group of people chatting casually about their social lives. He decides to look across at their table to see how many people are causing such a loud noise and on looking up, catches the eye of a woman who would have otherwise not noticed him. The woman comes over to find out why the man's alone; they share each other's company, fall in love and eventually have four children. Life is a chain of decisions like this. If he had never looked up, he may never have had children. It's almost scary to think how completely different our lives could be now if we had just varied one thing in our past.
The decisions we encounter suggest to me that life is less of a straight path and more of a gigantic maze. We all start our lives at the entrance and we continue through this maze until we die. Some wander the maze idly, roaming up and down familiar passages until they just cease to be. Others go through the maze of life looking for a purpose... a goal... a meaning to life. You're stuck in this maze and whenever you reach a junction, a decision is there to be made.
OK, so we're in this maze, but the question is where did this huge, complex design come from? This maze, or rather the surroundings in our lives have been planned and thought out - this ain't just a bunch of obstructing twigs! This is an intricate pattern of well-thought out design. Designs come from a designer (believe me, I am one!) and who else could have designed life if not God? Just think about that for a second. It all makes pretty good sense when you think about it - God goes and designs then constructs a maze and the bushes which make up the shape are our laws of physics which prevent certain actions such as people trying to take shortcuts. God then creates people to attempt the maze and puts them at the entrance.
Some people get frustrated and can't cope with this maze anymore cos they don't know what they're doing there. They impale themselves upon a particularly sharp branch of one of the surrounding hedges and give up - they commit suicide. They don't find the purpose of the maze that way though. Others enter the maze from birth and wander round looking for something - an exit, a goal, a trophie perhaps but they have no idea where to find such a thing, don't know exactly what they're looking for anyway and eventually just die remaining curious and not particularly committed to finding anything. They haven't made the most out of their time in the maze.
But if God did design the maze of life, He's got the blueprints and knows the right paths. He also knows that what we're all looking for is something we can only find and understand if we seek it with Him in mind. Yet God won't interfere if we don't want Him to, but cos He knows more about the maze than we do, we should trust in the Designer and follow his directions towards the goal of success and a cool life away from the dead ends and frustrating passages of the maze. There's so much more for us to see outside the maze, yet some people are stubborn and cling to the maze saying they are happy to be in it and try to achieve their full potential within the constraints of a maze they can't understand.
You, me... we're all in this same maze but we've all taken different routes. Each path is different and has its share of obstacles but no one said this maze would be easy. How are you going to tackle this challenge though? Are you just gonna give in, stubbornly refuse the help required to find the goal or are you gonna tackle this maze with a little help from its Designer so that you actually know what you're doing in the maze and where you need to go to be rid of it entirely, and out doing what you really want to do with no restrictions!
That's heaven, my friend, and you'll only find it through God.