Giving everything to God involves both listening intently for God to speak and ongoing repentance for our sins. To grow spiritually, we must continue to deal with our ‘deafness,’ our denials and our deep feelings.
We also must ‘discern’ God’s will for us. I have to seek God’s will and not Crossin’s. This search can be simple or complicated.
We can at times see what God wants us to do quite lucidly. It is completely obvious even if we don’t want to do what God is asking of us. For example we know we should visit our friend who is dying but we are afraid that it will be so painful that we find almost any excuse not to go.
Other calls from God may not be so clear. Here we may wish there was a mathematical equation with a definitive answer. All God gives us are probabilities.
Here are some of the classic criteria for discernment passed on to us by the saints:
A. We need to gather the external data that is available. For example, if God is really calling me to this work, can I live on the income?
B. We might consult our spiritual friends for their wise advice.
C. We can look within to see if the call brings us inner peace and joy.
D. We can spend some significant time in prayer to the Holy Spirit seeking insight.
E. We can decide in the time available—not the time we would like to have.
Of course, many things in life are not our choice. St. Francis de Sales refers to the ‘will of God’s good pleasure.’ He is referring to the daily things that ‘just happen.’ We seek to deal with them in a gentle, humble and loving way.
Flexibility is central to spiritual growth. Even our discernment is subject to the ‘law of unintended consequences.’ We give them to God too!
Father John Crossin, OSFS is executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He tweets @crossinusccb.