When I was a kid, we had no problem making choices. We went with our gut, and if someone disagreed, we “shot it out” with Rock, Paper, Scissors or tossed a coin, then threw ourselves into whatever it was.
Somewhere along the line, things got complicated. We read “Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood” and learned that a choice can define a life. Wanting to do God’s will, we began agonizing over those choices.
What is the will of God for my life, and how can I find it?
Sometimes I wonder if we’re meant to get as worked up about “life choices” as we do. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not unto men,” St. Paul told the Colossians in 3:23, clearly more interested in the how than the what.
The fact is, we already know what the will of God is:
- Your holiness: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3; “sanctification” refers to growth in holiness).
- Your right actions: “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
- Your thankful heart: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
- Your love of him and others: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind … [and] You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). This “expresses his entire will,” according to he the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2822.
Follow the signposts along the Way
Fulfilling what we do know to be God’s will for us ought to be our top priority. Beyond that, he has given you free will and he has told you his purpose for you:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16)
Each of us has God-given talents and abilities, a unique background and circumstances. We are to be responsible stewards of those gifts, so we can “go and bear fruit” in his love. And to help us do that, we have a conscience and the ability to reason.
And we have free will.
Part of being human is making choices, even when it’s hard. In doing so, we learn to follow God and hear his voice. We grow in faith. And although God shows us the goal and provides signposts along the way, long stretches of our path may lie in darkness.
That’s where the trust comes in.
5 Practical Steps in the Right Direction
Maybe you’ve heard it said, “God can’t steer a ship that’s not moving.” There’s truth to that. So, how do you start moving? Here are five ways to get started:
Finish what you’ve already been given to do. If you can’t see where to go next, you may not be done where you are.
Seek God and commit your way to him (see Psalm 37:5). Cultivate the attitude of Jesus — “Not my will, but thine be done.”
Consider the pros and cons before you, the situation, the likely outcomes. Where can you best use your gifts? If you feel God’s leading, are you paying attention? Seek counsel from trusted advisors.
Rule out those things that are against Scripture or Church teaching, that cause harm or require sin, that act against your chosen vocation.
Now make your best choice, staying attentive to his voice and moving where you have inner peace.
Perhaps St. Augustine said it best:
“Love God and [then] do what you will…. In all things, let the root of love be within, for of this root can nothing spring but what is good.”
This article was first published on the Ascension Blog’s former home, the Great Adventure Blog, on February 26, 2014.
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About Sarah Christmyer
Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of “Genesis Part I: God and His Creation” and “Genesis Part II: God and His Family,” published by Emmaus Road. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com.