Avoid paralysis by multimedia analysis in determining Holy Spirit’s plan
By Claire Collins
What is God’s will for my life?” seems to be the eternal and sometimes seemingly unanswerable question that resides in the mind of the Christian.
In a sea of endless potential answers, it can be hard to determine next steps in our Christian walk, vocational journey, and general discernment, especially when we feel like we don’t even know where to begin.
A good first place to start is asking, do I know what the Church teaches, what the commandments are, and have a general sense of what is morally good? “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15).
God’s will can often be made abundantly clear when we consider what the Church teaches about what is right and wrong, what is and is not in alignment with the natural and moral order. If it goes against Church teaching or natural law, it is not God’s will for your life.
While that sounds like an easy and simple solution, the practicality of living this out is oftentimes difficult, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful. Yet we can have God’s peace knowing that it is not our personal experience, but what is true, that determines how we are to follow God’s will.
But what about the more nuanced decisions we are faced with when it comes to God’s will? The ones where we are choosing between two goods or between a set of circumstances not specifically outlined in Church teaching?
A good question to ask ourselves is, do I have a regular prayer life where I come before God constantly and ask Him to reveal His will to me? God’s will becomes more clear the more we open ourselves up to Him, learn to listen to His voice, and learn how He speaks particularly to us. This is something that takes time, energy, effort, and work. But anyone who has ever been in a relationship with another knows that this is true—that getting to know another person takes much intentionality and willingness to learn.
Something that thwarts the progress of pursuing God’s will, especially in young people, is the availability of so many different paths and possibilities and the endless supply of information that backs them. Sometimes called decision “fatigue” or “paralysis,” the repeated belief that you truly can “do anything you set your mind to” has often left us feeling there is some perfect plan “out there” and that God is just waiting for us to figure it out, like finding a needle in a haystack.
Before my husband and I started dating, a priest shared with him a sort of method of dating discernment that I found to be very wise and helpful in trying to figure out who God might be calling him to marry.
Instead of believing his perfect future spouse was somewhere “out there” and that God had him on a great hunt to find her, he instead chose to believe that a loving God would most likely be speaking to him through what was already “right here”—who was present in his life, who was already around, who had God chosen for him to be surrounded by?
Most likely a loving God would not hide his future spouse from him but would ask him instead to discern if he could see himself marrying any of the women who were already in his life. He knew not any of them would be “perfect,” because no one is, but that he was being asked to wonder who, with all their strengths and flaws, he could see himself pursuing heaven with.
This method is for more than just dating discernment. It might be how we are being asked to serve generously with our time or money, how we are being called to grow spiritually, or how we are being called to raise our families.
Instead of thinking some perfect solution is out there in the universe, we should look at what’s right in front of us—where we live, our parish community, the people God has placed in our life, our present trials and circumstances—and begin to discern God’s will using what we do have instead of what could be.
Father Walter Ciszek’s life is a great example of what trust in the Lord looks like even when it seems like God has not answered our prayers about His will for us.
A faithful and loving priest, Father Ciszek dreamed of evangelizing and serving the Russian people as a parish pastor. Shortly after secretly making his way to Russia to fulfill what he thought was God’s plan for his life, he was accused of being a Vatican spy, arrested, and spent years in work camps and solitary confinement.
He was eventually released after fulfilling his work obligations and was then forced to spend years in a Gulag city until he was released back to the United States in a government-sanctioned prisoner exchange.
Though God’s plan looked different than his expectation, Father Ciszek was still able to serve the people of Russia through, not a parish setting, but in the work camp and city surrounding it. He was able to experience how faithfulness to God and trust in His will were less about some dream “out there” waiting to be found, but much more about accepting what is “right here”—our present circumstances—and fulfilling our duties with the utmost faith and confidence in God’s plan.
He abandoned himself fully to divine providence and trusted God through his actions and faithfulness to Him. And it was through this that he was able to find peace with God’s will for his life.
The bottom line when it comes to pursuing God’s will is that there is no “one way” that God is asking us to follow Him. He is instead asking us to walk with Him, keep Him in mind as we make decisions, trust Him along the way, and be willing to see where He is and how He is working no matter what our present circumstances may be.
He loves us and wants our goodness and happiness. He does not hide His will and wait for us to go on a great mysterious treasure hunt to find it, but instead asks that we receive what He is offering like Mary received the Lord into her womb at the Annunciation.
Claire Collins is a freelance writer whose columns appear in Radiant Magazine. Claire and her husband, Andrew, live in Chattanooga with their sons, Joe and Frank.