Discerning God’s Will
“What do you want me to do, Lord?”
We all know someone wrestling with this question. It could be a child, spouse, coworker, or friend. If they see us as holy or knowledgeable and we are close or in authority over them, they may ask us, “What do you think I should do?” We want to be able to seize that moment. This can be a difficult question to answer, and there are many different ways to do it, but I recommend these three steps.
- ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
To answer the big question of what is God’s Will, we first have to answer a series of smaller questions. Try praying with the following:
- Will this help me pursue holiness?
- Does it give God glory?
- Will this help me fulfill the duties of my state in life?
- What does my state in life allow?
- Does it make sense based on my skills and talents?
- What are the pros and cons of each option?
- What does my conscience tell me about the morality of each option?
These questions help filter out life’s noise and dig down to the heart of what God wants for us.
- BEGIN LIVING DIFFERENTLY
After a couple is married several years, they don’t need to ask each other what they desire in a given situation. They just know. They’ve shared their lives enough to intuit the other’s will.
We can have that same intuitive relationship with God, once we begin living differently. Just improving our prayer lives, receiving the sacraments regularly, and looking for the fruits of the Spirit fosters a relationship with God that makes it easier to discern His Will.
A few minutes a day: Prayer is key. It’s how we get to know God and grow to love Him better. The more we know and love God, the better we discern His Will. Even a few minutes a day can make all the difference. Choose a time, a place, and a method of praying and you are well on your way.
Grace for the keeping: Sin darkens the intellect and weakens the will – diminishing God’s two gifts for discerning His Will. The remedy is grace, which we receive through the Mass and the Sacraments. Try going to Confession at least once a month – it’s easy if you schedule it! Also, look for a nearby parish offering a Mass you can attend during your lunch break.
Flesh and fruit: In Galatians 5:19-23, Paul lists the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit (look them up!). If we make decisions drawing from the works of the flesh, we will almost always choose wrongly. But, if we make decisions based on the fruits of the Spirit, or if we see these fruits born by the Spirit in ourselves or others after we make a decision, we can be sure we have chosen rightly.
3. FOLLOW YOUR HEART
It’s true, our hearts are not infallible. As Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart may not be the only guide we use to discern God’s Will, but it can be one of them. After all, God created the “heart,” the inner-life where the soul, will, and desires are located. He planted desires there to draw us to Him. If our hearts leap at the thought of an action, there’s something to that.
So, it’s worth hearing what the heart has to say – and if we love God and are filled with His love, then our hearts will be worth following. As Augustine said, “Love God, and then do what you will.” That’s probably the best advice anyone could give.
Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization, an archdiocesan initiative that empowers parishes and schools to equip the laity for missionary discipleship. [email protected]
This article appeared in the November edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.