Personally I have had to discern God’s will many times over the years. At first I had to make the big decision of what to do after high school. In the last two years before I graduated, I had a deep conversion and sincerely wanted to do God’s will. At first I thought I was called to enter college and then get married. While praying, I didn’t have a lot of peace about the situation, but I really liked this girl that I was dating. I didn’t want to give it all up, so I persisted and applied to a local university.
Then circumstances changed during the last semester of my senior year and we had to end the relationship. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, but I had a sneaking suspicion that I needed to enter seminary to study to become a priest. So, I returned to prayer and spent most of my free time in front of the tabernacle at a local church. At the time I had been developing an affection for Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and decided to pray her famous “Rose Novena.” Lo and behold, on the ninth day I entered the local church and there was a single red rose at the foot of the altar. It was not in a vase and was simply propped up against the altar….a very strange place for a single rose! I took it as a sign that I needed to apply to seminary.
I entered seminary that year and spent the next three years growing in my faith. I treasure those three years and am eternally thankful for them. However, in my third year I felt a calling to explore the religious life. I took it to prayer and visited a few religious monasteries. I felt a lot of peace at one in particular and decided to apply to enter. I was accepted and then discontinued my seminary studies. Shortly after that decision, I felt great agony and unrest, yet I persisted and ignored my feelings. In that same summer before I was to enter this particular religious monastery, there were a series of events that led me to return to prayer and discern a call to married life.
I felt at peace with the decision and returned to college to finish my senior year instead of entering the monastery. I then got married the summer after graduating from college and soon after had to discern where to live and what job to take. As of our wedding day, I was unemployed and my wife had a low-paying job at a local Catholic high school. However, I remained optimistic and placed my trust in God. Soon after we were married, my pastor stopped me after Mass one day and offered me a job. I took it and have been working there for the past 6 years.
Since then, we have moved twice and have had four children. For each decision we were united in prayer and felt at peace, knowing that we were doing God’s will. It may not have been an easy decision and sometimes great suffering accompanied it, but we always had an interior peace that confirmed we were following the will of God.
I learned along the way that peace is a hallmark of God’s activity and that following God’s will means abiding in His peace. Satan, on the other hand, seeks to divide and conquer and in the process he creates great confusion in our life. His mission is to disturb us and to create disorder. Father Jacques Philippe in his short book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart, highlights this reality when he writes,
“In effect, one of the most common strategies of the devil in his efforts to distance us from God and to slow our spiritual progress is to attempt to cause the loss of our interior peace. Here is what Dom Lorenzo Scupoli…who was highly esteemed by Saint Francis de Sales, said: ‘The devil does his utmost to banish peace from one’s heart, because he knows that God abides in peace and it is in peace that He accomplishes great things.’”
The key here is to always test the decision and to see if it creates peace or anxiety in our hearts. This is a vital part of discerning God’s will every day, especially when it comes to discerning our vocation in life. Our God is a God of peace.
To learn more about the keys to successful discernment, check out my short eBook “Serviam! A Practical Guide to Discerning God’s Will.”