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Discernment : How Do We Know?

by Sister Anita Louise Lowe

Sister Anita Louise Lowe

How do we know to what vocation God is calling us? How do we find the right fit for our lives? If only we could ask for and receive a clear sign. Skywriting would be great! But rarely do we receive such overt signs from God.

So, how do we know? How do we make these difficult and challenging decisions? Important decisions require that we spend time in prayer — that we discern. We need to look at all the aspects: What’s good? What’s right? What’s best?

When we stop and think about it, we are in good company. Noah had to have wondered, “How will I know?” While John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was “the one.” John had been present when Jesus was baptized, yet he still wondered and wanted to know for sure. When Mary Magdalene looked in the empty tomb and then met the gardener (who turned out to be Jesus), she must have questioned how she would know for sure that Jesus had arisen.

God does give us signs to help us as we discern. Often, though, they’re more subtle than we would desire. These signs can be broken down into four areas:

  1. Availability and Openness: Am I open to whatever God is calling me?  Am I free to respond to that call?
  2. Desire: When I consider this choice, do I feel hope and joy?
  3. Motivation: What’s my motivation?  Is it to serve and love God and God’s people?  Would this choice bring me happiness and fulfillment?
  4. General Disposition: Do I have reasonably good health (physically, emotionally, spiritually) to follow through with this choice?

Often, a sense of not feeling worthy hinders our ability to hear and follow God’s call in life. Yet, God is the inviter. God chooses each one of us for a special purpose in life. By our baptism, we are each called God’s beloved daughter or son. That, in and of itself, makes us worthy of responding to whatever vocation God has called us to.

So, how do we know? We never have 100% surety. Look to the ordinary events of your life. Where do you find God? Where do you find joy? Where do you experience a sense of peace? Pay attention to these moments and what they tell you about yourself, your relationship with God, and your movement toward the future.

In the end, as you make a choice, look for a deep inner peace. This is God’s sign to you that you are moving in the right direction. That deep, inner peace (even if tinged with a bit of anxiety at the unknown future lying ahead of you) is the rainbow that God places in your heart, letting you know that you are not alone, and that you are following God’s plan for your life.