It’s one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to discernment—How do I know that this thought or desire is from God and not just from me?
Is this actually God speaking, or this just my mind speaking, and I think it’s God? Is it me thinking that it’s God but it’s just my thoughts, while God is actually speaking through my thoughts?
Confused? You are in good company.
I spent most of my twenties wrestling with the question of God’s will and how to know if I was following his promptings well. I thought if I chose poorly I would be doomed to a life of misery. So I often spent time thinking and over-thinking as to where God wanted me and if I was following his voice or my own.
There’s no scientific method to test our thoughts to confirm with one hundred percent accuracy that this particular prompting is a word from the Lord. That’s part of the mystery of who God is and how he operates. Sometimes he will drop a loud word or give a clear sense of peace, and sometimes he wants us to make the decision and start walking ourselves.
There are three quick tips that I would like to share with you today that helped me out in my own journey. They may sound simplistic and indeed they are—the challenge is to actually set aside the time to put these into action.
1. Spend time in prayer.
In God we live, move, and have our being. (Acts 17:28). The more time we spend before the Blessed Sacrament or in quiet prayer, the better we start to realize the wandering nature of our own thoughts and will be able to distinguish God’s voice above ours. Be sure to listen and don’t do all the talking. Make time for pure silence. God also works through our thoughts and imaginations. Sometimes we get a holy idea for a work of service or we remember someone we haven’t spoken with for some time. That can absolutely be a prompting of the Holy Spirit to reach out to that friend or take action where you see that need. Follow that holy prompting!
2. Spend time in Scripture.
Paul tells the Colossians to “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Similar to the time spent in mental prayer, we must become familiar with God’s word, especially the Gospels, so we know the voice of our shepherd. “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” St. Jerome asserted. If we’re too busy to open up the Bible, we’re too busy.
3. Spend time with others.
God sometimes speaks through other people. Perhaps we’ve had moments where a friend or even a stranger said the exact thing we needed to hear for that moment. I think God humorously uses these moments to remind us that we need one another. No man is an island.
Friends and family and even co-workers can see what we often can’t. Sometimes we get so lost and locked in our thoughts that we start spinning and overthink our concerns to the point of paralysis. Other people can help us gain perspective of the situation. They can also reveal concerns that we don’t see (or want to see). Friends and family can call us to the carpet if we’re in a bad relationship or making a rash decision. They can also remind us that we’re losing out on joyfully living in the present moment.
Likewise, be that person for a friend who may also be in need of a loving gut check. I was blessed with several friends who did so for me when I needed to hear the truth—real friendship always brings the truth with love.
God wants the best for us.
These are just a few tips that might help you in achieving some clarity.
Our God is faithful! He knows you, loves you, and wills your greatness!
“Call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” – Jeremiah 29:12
Pre-order Pray, Decide, and Don’t Worry: 5 Steps to Discerning God’s Will, the new book by Jackie and Bobby Angel, in collaboration with Fr. Mike.