Expert Answer Forum
Discerning God's will QUESTION from Raelene Miller October 28, 2000 How does one discern God's holy will in regards to making discisions(such as jobs, using your talents, etc.) and know that you are not trying to force your own will, through wishful thinking or something like that? I think I know what is wanted of me, but at the same time, I don't want to let my ego get in the road of what God wants. I've wasted so much time being head-strong, and wanting my way. So how am I to really be sure it's God directing me and not my own ideas? If you need to know exactly the kinds of discisions, and the circumstances surrounding them, I'll be glad to tell you. They aren't immoral or illegal or anything like that. I was just trying to keep my question brief, and it still seems I've failed! I do appreciate any help you can give. Sincerely, Raelene Miller
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on December 17, 2000 Dear Mrs. Miller:
Thank you for your question. This is a very common question. The answer to the question is one that people tend to make harder than it needs to be.
Knowing God's will for your life, for a particular decision, etc. is actually not a hard thing. We just make it hard and miss the trees for the forest.
First, we need to get rid of the notion that God will speak to us directly in a burning bush. Although God may speak to us in a direct manner about His will for us, that is VERY rare.
The answer is found in the book of 1 Kings 19:11-18
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, What are you doing here, Elijah? 14 He said, I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. 15 And the LORD said to him, Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria... Elijah did not find the voice of God in the wind to tell him the Will of God. Elijah did not find the voice of God in the earthquake or any great natural phenomena or in the fire. It was in the still small voice that Elijah heard the will of God.
The closer we are to God in prayer the easier it is to discern His will.
To know God's will, get close to Him. This is even true among humans. We are more likely to know the will and opinion and preferences of a person if we are close to that person than if we are a stranger to that person. The same it is with God. Get close to Him and you will know His will.
How do we get close to Him? By frequent participation in the Sacraments (Mass, daily if possible, and confession) and by devotion before the Blessed Sacrament (Adoration) and other devotions such as the Rosary. Also by living the good Catholic life, by studying the Bible (God's love letter to us). St. Jerome said, Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. We get close to God by living the Christ-life to the best of our ability.
As we get close to Him and grow in spirit, we will be able to discern His will with greater ease.
In addition to this general rule, we can also have clues to God's will through circumstances. We might experience doors opening or shutting. Sometimes a series of coincidences take place that tend to lead us into a certain direction. Those coincidences may be the voice of God speaking to you. Other people may consistently suggest to you that you should do this or that. God may be speaking to you through those other people.
None of these things by themselves tell us anything, but when we take all of these things in combination -- circumstances, open or closed doors, coincidences, other people's perspective, our own desires, and the still small voice in prayer -- we have a real clue to God's will.
Then with this information ACT.
Most people hesitate to act for fear of making a mistake or misinterpreting God's will.
DO NOT BE AFRAID to make a mistake or to misinterpret. God cannot guide us through the wilderness if we don't walk down the path. If we take a wrong path, God can guide us to the right path. But He cannot guide us if we are not moving our feet.
When we finally make a decision and DO SOMETHING based on the things I said above and then certain things start happening -- circumstances, coincidences, etc. that imply that we made a mistake -- then perhaps a mid-course correction is warranted.
Bottom line is to take a look at the evidence around you, pray about it, and then ACT ON IT.
If you misinterpreted, so what? Look at the evidence again, pray about it and ACT ON THE NEW INFORMATION.
In this way God leads us, even if through detours, to where He wants us.
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