Whether it is a big life decision regarding your vocation, your family, your job, or a smaller decision like what to give up for Lent this year, we should always strive to make decisions in accordance with God’s will. But discerning God’s will can be a difficult task. Typically a voice doesn’t come down from heaven telling us what to do, so how can we determine what God is calling us to, and whether we are making a good decision?
Bishop Bill Wack, of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, stopped by The Inner Life™ recently to share about discernment, and what principles we can use when trying to seek the will of God in our lives.
Bishop Wack began with the basics, which is acknowledging that God does indeed care about you and have a plan for you. “We have this sense, of course, that we are built for something greater, for we were made for eternal life,” he said. “We know that’s what God ultimately wants, our joy and happiness forever in heaven. But also, I think it’s good to think God has a plan for us here on earth. Not just for our happiness but for our true joy and the joy of those around us.”
If you have never taken the steps to discern God’s will in your life, you may not know where to start. Bishop Wack shared what discernment looks like, and the tools that will help you in the process.
“It is listening to God,” he explained. “It is being attentive to God, the Holy Spirit, speaking or acting within us, to lead us to do something or to participate in some action of our faith. That’s really what discernment is, and so that requires listening, it requires being quiet, prayer, adoration, and talking to trusted people like a spiritual director, a confessor priest, a religious or someone who works in the parish who can advise on spiritual matters. Or a trusted friend, not necessarily just a friend who will tell you what you want to hear but someone who may challenge you as well.”
Once you’ve begun this process, your next question might be: how do I know when I have the answer? Bishop Wack suggested asking yourself three questions to help you know if you’re on the right track:
- Am I good at it? Do I have the ability and the skills to do it, if I’m thinking about discerning a vocation, or a job, or something like that?
- Do other people whom I trust think that I should do it? If I put it out there and people say, ‘Boy, that sounds totally crazy. That is not you. I can’t see that.’ If you keep hearing that, maybe you’re on the wrong track.
- Do I want to do it? That’s the one that surprises people the most. Because we think if I’m doing God’s will, I’m not going to be happy. I’m probably going to have to sacrifice because He’s going to call me to do something that won’t make me happy. I think God really doesn’t want us to be dreading doing His will. He doesn’t want us to be unhappy doing His will.
“Certainly this is not a fail-safe formula, but one good way to know if you’re on the right track is if you can answer yes to these three questions,” Bishop Wack said. “If I can say, ‘Yes, I think I have the skills, or I need to gain more of those skills. Other people think I should be doing this. And I don’t know yet if I totally want to do it, if it totally makes me happy. But when I think about it, when I discern it, it gives me peace.’ Then I’m going to do it.”
Listen to the full conversation below: