Two days until the new year! As we look to the months ahead many of us are making plans and asking the Holy Spirit for guidance. It IS possible to have clarity and peace when discerning God’s will. He has amazing plans for you and will lead you to them. Plans that will bring you a future full of hope. Don’t be afraid of discernment; God is with you. Read our new blog, and uncover the 5 Keys to Making God-Centred Decisions. P.S. BONUS included – The Discernment Worksheet Journaling Guide
There is a moment in Frozen II when Anna feels alone and completely lost. Her sister Elsa has ventured into the most dangerous part of the Ahtohallan river and is frozen, making Olaf disappear as well. This leaves Anna in the pits of despair. “I’ve seen dark before but not like this,” Anna reflects. “This is cold, this is empty, this is numb. The life I knew is over, the lights are out. Hello, darkness. I’m ready to succumb”.
Anna expresses her inner darkness but continues: “A tiny voice whispers in my mind: you are lost, hope is gone, but you must go on. And do the next right thing.”
The Scriptures share something similar in Isaiah 30:2: “And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
We all experience similar frustrations. We can at times feel alone and confused. Many of us have messed up royally, and struggle to find that interior peace.
But what we have learned through the NET community, and missionary program has helped us make confident choices, learn how to listen to God’s voice, and set us up for following His plan for our life. You can also experience what we have experienced. You can experience the peace of knowing you have taken the time to listen and chosen the right steps.
Becoming fully alive doesn’t happen by accident. We need to be intentional about following God’s plan for our lives so that:
How do we accomplish this?
This discernment guide is here to help bring clarity to the process of making godly decisions as well as giving you a step-by-step plan to navigate through it.
It IS possible to have clarity and peace when discerning God’s will. He has amazing plans for you and will lead you to them. Plans that will bring you a future full of hope. Don’t be afraid of discernment; God is with you.
The Scriptures and the wisdom of the Church have much to teach us on this subject. Here are five keys you may find helpful to get the clarity and peace you long for as you strive to make God-centered decisions.
1. Pray the dangerous prayer.
Pray the dangerous prayer of Fr. Bob Bedard (founder of the Companions of the Cross). “Lord, I will do whatever you want me to do, no matter what it is, before I even know what it is.” It is dangerous because it will require letting go. But it is powerful because it will lead you to your life’s mission, what will bring you the most fulfillment, and to God’s will which will make you a saint.
Attend Mass often. Go to adoration (if possible); stare upon the Flesh of the Lamb of God who died to take away the sin of the world. Ask him: “What do you want? Open my mind and my heart to it”. Pray the rosary – we might not always hear Jesus, but Mary does. Pray the Scriptures, especially the Gospels. For example, Matthew 4:18-22, when Jesus calls the first disciples. They had to let go of what they were holding onto in order to follow him. Try a novena which takes nine days to accomplish. Look up a novena to your favorite saint. Also do an online search of the “Novena of Surrender” which prays daily: “O Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything.”
2. Consult the right people.
Discernment doesn’t have to be scary. Speak to those who have walked this narrow path before and learned the ins and outs of discerning God’s will. You will want to speak to those who are wiser and holier than you. Consult those who care about you, are objective, and will be more or less unaffected by the choice you make. The more objective they are to the outcome, the more they can speak without bias to what will be best for you and give God the most glory. It may be a spiritual director (priest, religious sister), or a lay person you trust – someone you respect. You are not alone.
3. Examine your desires.
Desire often gets a bad reputation. Sometimes Catholics think we shouldn’t listen to our desires. While it’s true, there may be lowly “passions” (feelings, emotions) that we can’t always trust, the Scriptures tell us if we seek God with all our heart he will guide the desires of our heart.
When you consider the options before you, is there a desire to serve the Lord in this way? Desire is different from excitement. We get excited about a lot of things. This desire of discernment we are talking about needs to stick. It should deepen as it grows.
Have you let yourself feel and acknowledge the desires of your heart? Have you listed them in your journal?
We also need to allow God to form the desires of our heart. That means prioritizing faith and human formation. Participating in Bible studies, reading good Catholic books, signing up for formation courses, and joining Catholic movements like NET are great ways to let your heart be formed so that your desires line up more with the One who knows and loves you best.
4. Make a move.
“Since discernment became fashionable, nobody’s made a decision since!” said Fr. Bob Bedard. Take a step. Try it on. “Test everything; hold fast to what is good,” St. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
Discernment is not a black and white science. Remember, if you are discerning something, it is between two or more good options. You don’t “discern” whether or not you should commit a sin. You just choose not to. Discernment is more mysterious and adventurous. When I lose my keys, I say a prayer, and then I start looking. I retrace my steps. I turn over couch cushions and turn out pant pockets. It’s the same with discernment. There is no simple formula. Pray, consult people you respect, examine your desires, then start trying things! Move! Act! Try it on. Just like an article of clothing at the store, see if it fits. Go to a Come & See. Go on a date. Book an appointment with someone to ask questions.
For bigger decisions like what to do next year (or for the next 60 years), try it on in your mind for three days. Let’s say you can’t decide whether or not to date the guy or go to the convent. Spend three days thinking as if you are dating the guy. Pretend you made up your mind and you knew without a doubt that this was God’s will. How does it feel? The next three days, do the same but with the convent. Journal how this one fits. Pay attention. Let God surprise you. If you persevere, he will make it clear.
5. Trust in your good Father
God is all powerful, all knowing and all loving. He transcends everything we can know and imagine, and yet he is immanent: close, near, intimate. God is patient with you as a father who delights to see his baby learn how to crawl and awkwardly walk. And when you trip over yourself he will pick you up and brush you off.
We need to learn to listen to God’s voice. We need to learn to be intentional with life so that we become the best version of ourselves and help others to do the same. Imagine if every Catholic took the time to truly listen and follow God’s calling – how much pain we could avoid, and how much meaningful and purposeful fruit we could bear.
6. Use the Discernment Worksheet
To some readers, God will speak like he did to St. Paul and knock you off your horse. For others, God will make you work a little harder for it, dig for it, do pros and cons lists, and be patient. Learn the way he speaks to you most often. This is a skill and a habit that may take years to develop. The Discernment Worksheet provided below may help you develop this skill and find out what God has for you next.
There will be times when you feel lost and confused. The future will seem foggy and dark. In those times especially, you may want to take a leaf out of Princess Anna’s book and ask God: What is the next right thing?
DISCERNMENT WORKSHEET JOURNALING GUIDE
PROS & CONS
I line up the pros and cons of the situations. Two columns on why I would not do such and such activity — the good side (pro), and the not-so-good side (con).
Then I do the same with the reverse: the pros and cons of doing the activity.
I pray over the list and see which reasons are most moving, most serious and which affect my relationships with other people.
One expert suggests: Be on your deathbed and ask which choice you would be glad you made.
Bring the decision and kneel under the Cross of Christ. How does it make sense there? Will this decision bring me closer to Jesus Christ in my living the Gospel? *courtesy anunslife.org