Vocations, finding one’s place … Being fulfilled … Understanding the deeper meaning … Having a peaceful heart … These are all a part of good discernment in life. Are these things you long for?
Discernment is not just about deciding what to do in life. It really is much more about the “who” of life, the total person. In essence, discernment is about making decisions and choosing a path in life that God calls us to.
As Catholics, we believe that God calls us all to live our lives in a special way. It is in discovering God’s plan for our lives and living it out that we ultimately find true happiness and lasting fulfillment. Responding to God’s call and saying “yes” to his will opens life up to the possibility of so much more. Priesthood and Religious Life is not about those things one cannot do, rather it is about all those other areas that now become accessible. While there is sacrifice in a religious vocation, there are so many other things that are part of this way of life that would not be possible were it lived in another way.
Answering Those Questions
There are many questions that we ask about life, especially when we think about the future, like “Where am I going?” “How do I get there?” “Will I be happy?” or “What is God calling me to do with my life? Unfortunately, at times our society pressures us to make decisions based solely on external criteria, such as, “Will this be good for my career?” or “Will this allow me to make lots of money?” Instead of asking the question, “Is this right for me?,” we settle for questions like “What can I do to fit in?”
Where To Find The Answers
As you ponder your future, you must move beyond the mere external and ask the deeper questions. Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are not found in career books, magazine ads, college brochures, or even in the advice of guidance counselors. Answering these more profound questions begins with the realization that this is an internal exercise of the heart and an exercise of prayer more than anything else. Although every person may reflect and discern in their own way, I would promote a few basic steps.
First, pray for direction. Spend regular time in a quiet place whether that be in a church, in a place of natural beauty, or even in your own room. Ask God for his help and guidance. God will answer these prayers. Sometimes it might be answered in a direct experience of prayer. Other times, it might be answered through other circumstances or by people around you. But if you pray, it opens your heart to recognize the signs that God gives to you.
Secondly, talk with others. Consider your gifts. Seek direction from people that you already know and trust, who already have a relationship with the Lord. Perhaps that will be a priest, a religious sister or brother, or a parent.
Thirdly, be aware of your feelings. What is it that truly brings you satisfaction, peace, and joy? Know your fears and know that God calls you past those fears.
Lastly, trust God. Know and believe that God loves you and wants what is best for you. God has made you a unique person. Your gifts, the gift of your life, your background and circumstances, come together to form a wonderful mosaic. It is that priceless work that is you that God calls forth. Remember that ultimately, true happiness does not come in imitating what others do, or living up to the expectations of peers or family members. True, lasting, and profound happiness is found solely in embracing the will of God.
“Fear Is Useless, What Is Needed Is Trust.”
Our fears tend to hold us back and keep us from acting. Fear is not a sign of God’s presence. Those who would have us not follow God often play upon our fears. Sometimes people think that they must wait until they are 100% sure. If you’re waiting for that it’s probably never going to happen. The great people in the Scriptures all moved past their fears and anxieties and allowed God to work through them – people like Abraham, Moses, Mary, and the Apostles! Jesus reminds us not to put off to tomorrow what can be done today. Sometimes, our fears get the best of us and we keep putting God off. No doubt there is risk, there is uncertainty, there is doubt. But by placing our hands in God and trusting in him we cannot go wrong. There is probably no perfect time. Why wait until tomorrow? Don’t put off the good that God wants and needs you to do for him today! It is virtually impossible to answer all these questions alone. That is why there are Seminaries (places of preparation and ongoing discernment), Spiritual Directors, Vocation Directors, etc. All these are there not to try to convince you to do something against your will, but rather to assist you to know and accept the will of God in your life!