We’ve all asked the question at least once: “What do you want, God?”. Here’s a handy guide to discernment for Catholic women, printable and in step by step form.
God has a fondness for whispers, and for a long time I didn’t have the slightest clue why. I guess you could say I’ve harbored a lot of resentment for Old Testament figures like Moses.
He got a burning bush in the desert. Why can’t I get a neon sign?
Throw me a bone here, God!
You’re probably familiar with that feeling, when your quest for answers stalls out. You praise, you ask, you listen; you hear nothing when there should be a response. You are standing at the edge of a crossroad, no direction or inclination in mind. And when a well-meaning friend asks, “What do you think God wants?”, it feels like a stake through the heart.
Isn’t it clear you would do just that, if only you knew what the answer was?
There’s a problem, though, with this line of thinking: our tendency to hold God to very human standards. We’ve witnessed miracles. We’ve read the scriptures. We’ve received the Sacraments and been to Mass. We know what God is capable of doing, and as such, we expect that same response in our lives.
He could give us a burning bush or a vision from Heaven, but instead, He wants us to seek Him of our own free will.
Finding God’s Will in Our Lives
My father loved the book of Isaiah, particularly Isaiah 55.
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near…
Dad was a wise man, and he grew more so the closer he came to his death. In the last weeks of his life, my father made it clear to all of us that his impending death was not a cause for sadness, but a celebration of the will of God.
“Our thoughts are not His thoughts,” my father would remind me, as I sat by his bedside and cried. I wanted God to save my father, but what God wanted was something else entirely.
Days passed. I knew my dad was dying, and I railed against the extinction of his light. What I didn’t recognize was God’s hand in the midst of my suffering: as my father’s time drew ever closer, God was drawing all of us – dad included – to Him.
My father taught me that God is always near us. In fact, He desires an intimate communion with our hearts. But that sort of intimacy doesn’t occur across a crowded room. The whisper of His voice is more likely to bring us to Him. Remember that verse from Scripture? As you seek, so shall you find?
Yes – God’s a big fan of whispers, and now we’ve figured out why. But the next question is, how do we learn to hear Him amidst the static? How do we discern God’s will in our decisions, when it seems impossible to quiet the storm?
Fortunately, we have access to the wisdom of two devout Catholic men: Fr. Michael Scanlon, TOR, and Catholic philosopher Dr. Peter Kreeft. I’ve adapted their advice to bring you a Catholic Woman’s Guide to Discernment, an answer to the question “What does God want?”
What Does God Want? A Guide to Discernment for Catholic Women
First, begin with your decision
What are you facing? What options and possibilities do you have? Jot down everything you can think of regarding the decision before you, including emotions and facts.
Next, apply the 5 C’s
These are a litmus test of sorts offered in Fr. Scanlon’s book What Does God Want?
- Conformity – In what way does my decision conform to God’s laws? Does it fit within Church teaching? Or will I be outside the guidelines of the faith?
- Conversion – How will this decision help me grow in holiness? How will it help others grow in holiness as well?
- Consistency – How is this decision consistent with other good decisions I have made? In what way does it fit within the path God has set so far in my life?
- Confirmation – Do I have confirmation about this decision? What have trusted confidantes said? Have I sought the advice of my pastor, my spouse, or my friends? Those who know and want what’s best for me?
- Conviction – Do I have peace about this decision? Am I taking steps forward, or do I feel something holding me back?
If the answer to any of these questions points you in the wrong direction, it’s a good bet you’re not headed for God’s will.
If, on the other hand, you have confirmation, you can apply Dr. Kreeft’s “trigonometry” of design: seven signs that will dovetail nicely if we have correctly discerned what God wants.
- Scripture – what does scripture reveal regarding the decision I am about to make?
- Church teaching – does my decision line up with the teachings of the faith?
- Human reason – am I reasoning correctly, with God’s will in mind? (In other words, am I approaching this rationally, or am I swayed by intense emotions?)
- Circumstances – is this the right time in my life?
- Conscience – my conscience is formed by God – do I have a sense of peace?
- Personal desire – why do I want this? Is it in line with what God would want in a general sense?
- Prayer – what signs or answers have I received in prayer? Have I asked the Holy Spirit for guidance, and sought it in the right places (scripture, the sacraments, the Mass, etc.)?
At the heart of Fr. Scanlon and Dr. Kreeft’s suggestions lies the truth of our relationship with God.
God wants us to be happy, in this life and the next. He created each and every one of us for something beautiful, something He will reveal to us in time. Our job is to be patient, to lean in and long for God.
He will come to you in the silence.
Trust me. You don’t need a neon sign.
Could you use a little help in discerning God’s will for your life? Download my printable Guide to Discernment for Catholic Women, and you’ll receive Fr. Scanlon’s questions, Dr. Kreeft’s signs, and a bonus prayer for discernment in beautiful worksheet form.
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