How to Help Others Discern God's Will
“What do you want me to do, Lord?” We all know someone who is wrestling with this question. It could be a child, a spouse, a coworker, or a friend. If they see us as holy or knowledgeable, if we are close with them 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. Here are three steps that I would recommend.
Ask the Right Questions
In order to answer the big question of what God’s Will is, we have to answer a series of smaller questions first. Try praying with the following:
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 will help us filter out the noise of life and dig down to the heart of what God wants for us.
Begin Living Differently
After a couple has been married several years, they don’t have to ask each other what they desire in a given situation. They just know. They’ve shared enough of their lives together to intuit the will of the other. We can have that same intuitive relationship with God, once we begin living differently. Just by improving our prayer lives, receiving the sacraments regularly, and looking for the fruits of the Spirit, we can foster the kind of 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 can 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 will be well on your way. Grace for the keeping: Sin darkens the intellect and weakens the will – the two things God gave us to discern 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, see if there’s a parish nearby that offers a quick 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 out of the works of the flesh, we will almost always choose wrongly. But, if we make decisions out of the fruits of the Spirit, or if we see the Spirit bear these fruits after we make a decision, we can be sure we have chosen rightly.
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 when discerning 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 as a way 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.