We shape our existence by the many decisions we make each day, most of them so minor that we make them without much thought at all.
The question of how to discern God’s will in our lives tends to come into focus for the big stuff, when we realize that a decision could affect the rest of our lives and the lives of others. It’s natural to break out of our usual habits at times like these to pursue, and sometimes agonize over, knowing and doing God’s will.
It is normal to be challenged by big decisions, normal to wonder how the path of our lives is fulfilling God’s purpose. Yet the challenge and wondering can be alleviated if we ask: what is my approach to knowing and doing God’s will? Relief, and peace, can be found in taking an approach that recognizes the will of God is revealed, and better understood, through a process—a way of life rather than an emergency support system. That process is informed by simple, if very meaningful, practices: meditating on scripture, seeking wise counsel, examination of conscience, leaning on Jesus, and prayer.
Spending time with God through both the New and Old Testament is a key way for us to get to know God even better. The more we glean from the sacred text, the more we will have to work with as a foundation in our minds and hearts as we seek to know God. Daily Catholic Mass readings can make approaching the Bible less daunting, giving us an easier way in to exploring scripture.
Seek wise counsel, both when confronted with big decisions and in simple conversation about the world, relationships, and faith. There is great strength to be found in conferring with trusted people whose wisdom, whose knowing, we respect and admire. Others may very well see us and situations we’re in more clearly, more detached, then we can see ourselves. They can help us find our way. And God’s way.
Discern attachments, insecurities, and addictions that may influence decisions. If we can step back from ourselves enough on a daily basis to understand our private motivations and areas for growth, we set ourselves up to honor God better—which is to “do His will”— in the small and big decisions we make. This examination of conscience, which takes time, patience, and forgiveness, is part of the journey of discovering God’s purpose for us.
Lean on Jesus. And trust in Him. Nothing we do is more of a lifelong process than learning, over and over again, to trust in God and in Jesus. This is at the heart of faith. All of the practices that help us discern God’s will also build up trust in God. As we cultivate and work at that trust, inner peace grows. As inner peace grows, the more clarity can be found in discerning what God wants for us.
The wisdom in the message we hear so often in scripture, to “pray without ceasing,” supports our process in coming to know God’s will for our lives—for today, tomorrow, and the long view. The equation is simple: The more we pray, the more in tune with God we become.