Imagine you signed up to run a marathon. The marathon is one year from today. From the moment you submit your registration form till the race, you have done nothing to ready yourself. You just walk up to the starting line, say, “I got this” and go for it.
Needless to say, you know the outcome.
So much of our anxiety with discerning God’s will comes from thinking we need to “sign ourselves up” for our vocation and rush into it. What I’ve realized is God doesn’t want us to make a decision—God wants to prepare us for it.
Big decisions are scary when we’re not ready to make them—just like marathons should be scary if we’re not ready to run them.
God wants you to be a saint–end of story. Sainthood blossoms when a person strives for holiness in everything they do. In our striving, the “big decisions” come as a result.
Give God all that you have (our desires, fears, longings, hopes, worries, doubts) and find opportunities for growth in grace, virtue, and holiness.
St. Ignatius warns us that “It is certain that Satan will try to upset you if you’ve made a choice that is pleasing to God.” That said, he tells us to never make or change decision(s) in an experience of desolation, and our response to any doubts or second thoughts should be “Lord, if you want me to change this decision, I will—but not now; I’ll do so only when I feel completely at peace in Your presence.” Ignatius tells us if we are humble and honest, we can be sure that God is pleased with us and the results will always lead to growth in holiness.
I’ve found these practices to be pivotal in ridding the anxiety of discerning God’s will:
Put God first everyday.
You can’t do God’s will if He’s not your first priority. You’ll learn something new every day you spend time with Him. He’s not going to tell you exactly what to do– For sometimes He just wants to see your faith. But simply see what good things He puts in your life, and how ask Him how He wants you to work with them.
Lay all your desires and worries at God’s feet and ask Him to reveal which ones He wants you to focus on. Ask Him to close doors that need to be closed and open the doors that need to be opened. Don’t be afraid when he has a tall order in place for you—it’s proof you’re being set up for something amazing.
Stay of the path to holiness.
Receive the sacraments frequently, stay pure in heart–free from sins of the flesh and impurity, and invite the Holy Spirit to guide your every move.
Remember; God knows what you long for.
The best “discerning God’s will” advice I’ve read yet is Bishop Barron’s. He said, “In the end, all discernment boils down to one ultimate goal: finding the path of greatest love.”
God made your heart. He knows the call to holiness that will best mold you into a saint and help you experience His great love. He won’t make you lose your desires or passions, instead He’ll fulfill them, if you let Him.
When I asked God my vocation, He didn’t really tell me. He just reminded me to work on my holiness. As a result, questions like, What does a good mother do? What virtues does she emulate? What habits does she need to have for her husband and children one day? started surfacing my brain and I just worked on that. Along with surrender, frequent participation in the sacraments, daily mass, and bettering my vices, I really started to hear God’s call for me more profoundly through people I kept meeting, homilies I heard, and new job opportunities.
Remember the fruits of the spirit are joy and peace, not anxiety and fear (Gal 5). Any saint that every lived possessed one thing in their path to holiness; joy. Our Lord carried His cross with joy. Wherever God brings you wholesome, unshakable, and peaceful joy is where God is going to best shape and relate to you.
Why don’t we just look to the present moment, look to see where God is speaking to us most (in a person, a job, a friend, desire, or our nudge to rid sin) and work with that. And enjoy that. That is the only “big decision” you have to make right now because it’s prepping you for the next one (and the next one, etc).
Don’t take on the burdens of the next one before you conquered this one… When one neglects to use every chapter of their life to prepare them and instead chooses to rush into the future, it’s the same as running the marathon without any practice..
So basically, prepping yourself to be awful at our vocation, yikes.
And all this serves to remain truthful for the time you actually made a decision on your vocation. That isn’t a “reward” and doesn’t mean you stop being holy. You haven’t “finished the race.” In fact, when you do make the decision, an even taller order of holiness is needed.