In this special live interview with Father Mike Schmitz, Father identifies the major barrier to discerning God’s will that he sees plague so many Catholics: the fear of making the wrong choice and disappointing God. This fear might keep someone from making a major vocational step of discernment, (e.g. entering the seminary or proposing), or it could keep someone from making other types of life decisions, (e.g. starting a Bible study or sending your kids to a new school). Father and I talk about this paralyzing tendency and share observations, insights, and practical steps to help you peacefully move forward in following God’s will for your life.
Today’s episode was recorded last week live at the FOCUS SLS Student Leadership Conference in Phoenix Arizona. Thank you for all your prayers during this incredible, life-giving week spent with so many amazing young people on fire for the Lord!
Snippet from the Show
Our emotions don’t necessarily reveal the truth about reality, but they do reveal the conditions of our heart.
“I just want to do what God wants me to do!”
Father Mike talks about the tendency to want God to intervene in our lives in explicit ways so that we don’t have to bear the responsibility of making decisions.
In a new book he helped co-author with the Angels, Pray, Decide, and Don’t Worry, Fr. Mike explains that a large part of discernment is actually making decisions, and trusting that even if we’re wrong, God will take care of us. And in almost all cases, this decision is simply the first decision in a series of decisions that will lead us to in our walk of faith.
We often hear the phrase “I don’t feel called” when opting not to do something, but how much of that is truth versus just not feeling like doing something. Dr. Sri explains that some things we are meant to be called, and that’s a beautiful thing, but other decisions are meant to be made with a little uneasiness. Think of Jesus in the Garden: was Jesus totally at peace and calm about his decision to die on the cross? No! He was terrified, stressed out, he was even sweating blood! But he did it anyway because it was what he needed to do, same with some of the situations we find ourselves in. Not everything we do in life is going to be pleasant, but even unpleasant and difficult can be led by God. However, when we do God’s will, we will experience a deeper peace that is stronger than fleeting emotional responses.
Early Jesuit Maxim “Your first emotional response usually is not a sign of God’s will, it’s a sign of your own disordered attachment to something.”
Fr. Mike’s Scuba Diving Analogy
When Father made the concrete decision that he was going to enter seminary, he knew he had a deep peace about the decision that could not be stirred. He relates this feeling to the experience of scuba diving. He explained that before jumping into the water, sitting on the edge of the boat, all you can see are these rough and rocky waves that you’re about to submerge into. The waves have no peace to them, and are even quite violent, but once you make the jump and submerge, you get a couple feet down and find that everything is still—so still that you can’t believe just a few feet above you such violent waves are forming.
Deciding to join seminary was not an easy decision for Father. He was jumping into a new realm of life, and saying goodbye to a girl he was ready to marry. But through that jump, though he experienced heartbreak and trials, he could feel the deep rooted peace within him that ensured his decision was one of God’s will.
Emotions and Discernment
We’ve been told to follow our passion and pursue them with everything we have, but Fr. Mike disagrees. He explained that our passions change and that what we should focus on are our passions paired with our God-given abilities and gifts. If we focus on what we can do, using the specific abilities God has given us, and cultivate them into a skill, then we will find passion in doing our jobs well, no matter what they are.
Fr. Mike’s 2 Key Steps for Discerning God’s Will
- Gather data: seeking advice, going online, getting more information… just learn!
- Move forward with the Lord: our steps become clearer the closer we get to our goal
If your intentions are true and good in your discernment, God will bless whatever you’re doing, even if it’s only for a short time