Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about discerning God’s will. As a wife and mother, I’m always on the go and don’t seem to have much time for reading. How can we know God’s will for us? Could you help me out on this score?
—Trying to listen
We already know a great deal about God’s will in general. The Scriptures reveal God’s loving plan, or vision, for us. Since God is love, we know he will never do anything that would harm us. On the contrary, he does everything that can benefit us.
The Bible teaches us that God wants the salvation of all people (see Titus 2:11). “We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28). Consequently we should not experience fear in our hearts when speaking of God’s will. God is not a tyrannical power that wishes to punish us or is unconcerned about us. He is interested in every detail of our lives. Even the hairs on our head are counted. He “accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will” (Ephesians 1:11). “I am God . . . my counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9–10).
Out of love, God gives us some guidelines for living well. Knowing our weaknesses he offers us the Ten Commandments to show us how to live peacefully as individuals and as a society. Ignoring them brings about war, exploitation, violence, murder, sex slavery, drug traffic and addiction, and so many other tragedies that we read about in the daily newspapers or see on TV.
God has given us an even greater and more perfect sign of his love and will. He sent his son Jesus to be our way, our truth, and our life. Jesus does this by assuring us that he has come in loving obedience to his Father in heaven. He says and does only what the Father tells him to share (see John 8:28). In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed: “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Matthew 26: 42). A perfect harmony always exists between his words and actions.
He lovingly simplifies the rules that will bring us happiness and peace: Love God with all your being, and your neighbor as he has loved us. What could be simpler and yet more demanding?
Here, too, God’s will does not abandon us, because Jesus offers us the means to obey the Father. He gives us his teaching, his deeds and especially his continued presence in the sacraments. He entrusts the Church with the responsibility of making these always available to us. He doesn’t abandon us or leave us to our own means. He will always be there when we call upon him.
He also offers us models of discipleship. First and foremost is our Blessed Mother, Mary. She told the angel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). At the foot of the cross she also agreed to be our mother. There also are so many saints who embody different aspects of God’s divine will. Examine, for instance, how your favorite saint submitted to God’s will.
Where will you find God’s will in your busy life? St. John of the Cross tells us, “God’s language is the experiences that he writes in our lives.” In other words, whatever happens to you during the day, good or bad, God is present there. That is why St. Thérèse of Lisieux said: “Everything is grace.” God’s love can produce something good out of whatever happens to us. As Larry Crabb puts is: “Every event in life is God calling you to a closer walk with him.”
Any discernment process requires prayer, because it’s only through dialogue with God that we discern his will. God is always within us, not in outer space. Constant prayer makes us aware of this presence and allows us to align our will with his. It’s an ongoing process that can always be improved. The more we listen to God instead of just talking to him, the more will we discover what he wants of us.
I’d like to conclude with a quote from Blessed Mother Teresa, who spoke so beautifully about God. “In God we live and move and have our being. It is God who gives life to all, who gives power and being to all that exists. But for his sustaining presence, all things would cease to be and fall back into nothingness. Consider that you are in God, surrounded and encompassed by God, swimming in God.”
May we all have a good swim!