How do I know if I’m discerning God’s will or my own desires?
We often imagine that there is some vast divide between our desires and God’s desires. The phrase “God’s will” sounds heavy and onerous, as if God’s will must certainly be terrible and burdensome to fulfill. When we think about responding to God’s will for us, we certainly do not expect to fulfill our own desires in the process.
But in fact our deepest and most authentic desires are God-given. They reflect the unique gifts, talents and interests that God imprinted in us at our creation. Our best desires are given to us by God, so it’s important to pay attention to them. Now, having said that, it’s also true that not all of our desires are good – or good for us. Some desires are selfish and even destructive. Some of our desires are not reliable indicators of God’s will for us.
Here are some things to consider as you try to determine if a desire comes from God or from your own selfish motives. Ask yourself:
· Will this choice I am making be of service or benefit to others?
· Is this choice reflective of my true self, the person I know myself to be or the person that I want to become?
· Will this choice I’m about to make bring glory to God?
· What are my motives in choosing this option over others?
· What other ‘voices’ are weighing in as I consider this choice (e.g. the voices of my parents? my friends? popular culture?)? ”
These kinds of questions help clarify our motives and help us to imagine what effect a choice might have on us and on others. You can probably think of some questions you would find helpful to ask yourself, perhaps even some questions you would find it hard to ask yourself. Ask yourself those questions and meditate on the answers. This is what discernment is all about.
Discernment is the process of sifting through our desires to discover which ones reflect our deepest and most authentic self. Our deepest and most authentic desires reflect who we are and who God wants us to be (or to become). When we locate our true desires, then we find ourselves coming alive! As Irenaeus said (in the 3rd century), “The glory of God is a human being fully alive!”
Next week we’ll talk more about how to hear the voice of God that speaks within us.
Workshop: Saturday, November 13, 2010
Join Br. David, for a day long workshop on Discernment in Prayer. The purpose of workshop is to explore the role of prayer in making life choices, great and small, and these choices make up the pattern of our lives.