As we continue on our Lenten journey, I would like to share some of my thoughts on the subject of discernment.
How do we know when God is working with us, directing us, subtly communicating with us to choose a certain direction in our life or to make a good decision, when things seem to be confusing at best?
There are a number of different ways and assumptions that I am working with that help me. I hope they are helpful to you, as well.
The very first assumption I am working with in my relationship with God is that He will communicate with me in a way that I will understand. If a person is not aware of His presence ever, I suspect that they are not praying (maybe not consistently or from the heart). If we quiet ourselves down in silence and solitude, with an open and humble heart, consistently and with sincerity, then I believe that God will fill all of our needs.
We have to start with a good disposition that is not demanding nor full of expectations. We need to be open to the way God wants to work with us. We have to learn to be docile to His subtle movements.
It cannot be the way I want it, how I want it, why I want it. This makes it all about me, when truly it needs to be about God… the way God wants it, how He wants it, and why He wants it.
Another assumption that I hold is that God hears all of my prayers and answers them perfectly every time. They may not be answered in the way that I want them answered (for God sees the big picture). Rather, He will answer them in the way that best helps me to grow in the spiritual life, to come closer to Him.
When we are in the middle of a God experience, by ourselves or with others, another helpful skill is to look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Is there a peace and joy, gentleness, kindness, generosity and mildness, a willingness to suffer well, chastity and self-control? St. Paul speaks of these fruits as a way for us to understand God’s presence in our lives. But let us not be fooled. Sometimes, these so-called fruits can be deceiving for a time.
Another wonderful tool of discernment is that of the unselfish embracing of the Cross. We always know that we are following our Lord if we are unselfishly saying yes to picking up our crosses daily to follow Him. Humility is saying yes to God and what He asks of us, even when it might be painful or unpopular. We have to be careful also here, because many things can masquerade as humility that may be false.
I believe that if we are bound and determined to follow God no matter what to be open and honest, with a sincere heart eventually, we will come to know His will for us in our life. We have to be unconditionally committed to an open and honest heart to go wherever He leads, especially when it leads to the places we absolutely don’t want to go.
There is nothing more difficult then to really learn how to put God first in our life, and nothing more rewarding. Some people think praying and trying to develop a relationship with God is uncool or boring. But for me, it’s more like when we truly desire to make God first in everything, acting on it and truly living it out in our daily life hang on to your hat, because you are in for a ride.
There is nothing more exciting than doing it God’s way. He will challenge us to the core and, in doing so, make us more authentic. Why not give it a try?