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.
You May Also Like:
Listening to God’s Will (CFR video)
Becoming Flexible to Accept God’s Will (Fr. Mike Schmitz podcast)
Discovering God’s Will Within Us (Matt Fradd video)
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.
Thank-you Sarah, My son has been in one of those stretches of darkness for over two years. He has prayed. At one time he even said “God must hate me.”
Thank you Sarah for those 5 steps. Barbara my daughter has said something similar just recently after suffering from another bad migraine. She was in despair and said “what have I done to deserve this type of life” You can imagine how I felt as I am a long way from her right now, and all I could say was don’t forget to offer whatever you are feeling to God, just like you’re speaking to me – speak to him. He is closer than you think, just call on him. And I ended up by telling her that God hears her plight, but he is preparing/shaping her for great things.
My son has tried to make the right choises, But now he thinks his life “sucks” because he made the wrong choises although all were made prayerfully
If you prayed about it, leave it in the hands of God. Because he knows best. Your son might think he made the wrong choice, but in time he will realise that it was the right decision. It is not easy watching your children make wrong choices, and sometimes getting hurt in that process. All we can do is to let them know that we love them and that our love for them is unconditional and that means whatever they choose to do, whether they succeed or fail we will always love them.
It is even worse whatching them make the right choices and not being able to succeed.
Romans 8:28. For we know that ALL THINGS work together for the good of those who love God and are called to according to His purpose. If you do the moral things He will bless that. If you do the morally wrong thing, then repent He will STILL bless that.
Hi Barbara, I have graduated my masters 5 years and have been building a career since then, however 9 month ago I have quit my job in search of something else as I have not felt as I am in the right place throughout those years. I am now 27. I can relate to your son as I have thought that all my years of school and then work have all been wasted as I have not found my fulfillment, my calling in all of that. I know that I have not been trying to follow the will of God before, but now I am open to Him and want to find His will in my life as I realize that everything that is outside of the will of God – is dryness, despair and darkness.
Jacqueline, I too was a migraine sufferer. I went on a Gluten-free diet and my migraines disappeared. Your daughter may want to go gluten free (no breads, grains, flour, etc for 2 weeks) and see if there is a difference. If there is no difference, then Gluten is probably not the problem, If there is an improvement – her life will change drastically. Here is a website with excellent information on Gluten: http://www.glutenfreesociety.org
I enjoyed everyone’s posts, but as a prior migraine sufferer I had to speak out.
Thank you Luz for the information, I’m not sure whether she has tried the gluten-free diet but I will pass the link on to her.
Love and blessings
Sarah, I always love your posts. They are very well thought out, with pertinent Scriptures and practical solutions.
As someone who has spent a lot of time contemplating God’s will (and I still do), I pray (and quote) 1 Thess 5:16-18 often. And my daily prayer always includes “Jesus, I love you with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and all my strength”. Well, actually I usually say “BEYOND my strength”…
“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23,25)
“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Sarah thnx for this article. It’s been so relevant to me and what i am going through esp number 1.
In one article you have made it so much easier for me to make a very important decision! God bless…