By Sr. Cheryl Galema, Novice
If you are in the process of making an important decision in your life, rest assured that I am praying for you. The past few years have helped me realize that discernment is not an easy task. It takes practice. Daily practice.
Maybe you have been presented with an opportunity: a possible promotion or you've noticed a house closer to where you work is on the market. Maybe you have two excellent opportunities to choose from. Whatever it is you are discerning, it could alter your life maybe for a short period of time or some years or maybe forever. And if we're talking about forever, then you want to choose the best option, right?
When we were young most of us relied on our parents to make the bigger decisions in life. I know I did. As I got older, I still considered what my parents would approve of even though the choice was mine to make. And God, they taught me, has a plan for my life. Which school should I go to? Should I move to another country? Who do I want to spend the rest of my life with? Is it time to move out? Which of my dreams do I really want to pursue?
Ok, so I list down the pros and cons and do a comparison, consult my family and some trusted friends, and pray about it. How hard can that be? Actually, it can be really difficult especially when the people I consult are telling me different things. And it can be very discouraging when they don't support the choice I wish to make. And God? Sometimes God is silent for so long. How do I find clarity? Where do I begin?
Here are 4 questions to ponder that I found have been helpful in the process of discernment.
Where am I now? - What is my current situation and why is this option in my life, right now, in the first place?
Where am I headed? - Why does this option look really good to me? What do I expect to change when I make this move?
Who is with me? - Who will be affected? How will my family or the people I live with be affected? Communicating with them will help me understand how they see the situation. Do I feel that God might be presenting this option to me? Bringing this to prayer is really important. Spending time with God in prayer is key to discernment. Even when God seems silent, he is always trying to communicate with us. We can trust that God knows us well and speaks our own personal lingo, plus, the Lord sees the big picture as well as all the minute details. He is God after all.
Where have we been? - We can recall the times that we have experienced God's guidance in the past. Reflecting on our past experiences can help us see today with more clarity. Sometimes the Lord presents something that seems totally out of our horizon. At other times we discover that God has been dropping hints in a certain direction for many years. Our personal history is full of patterns, clues that God has been and is always working in our lives. And when we feel lost, God is eager to show us the way.
And when God shows us the way, we need to be ready for change, whether it leads us to a change that requires following a different path or a change of heart along the same road.
We also need not be alone in the process of discernment. Finding a spiritual director is a good place to start. On the right, you’ll also find some books that have helped many people in their discernment journey.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11