5 steps to find out where God is leading you in life
A few months ago, I got lost while wandering in the woods. I was with my family, and had gone off from the pack to explore some old abandoned oil wells in the Pennsylvania hills. The forest was still, and the thought came to me: “Just listen!” When I did, I heard the voices of my nephews in the distance having a good time. I knew which way to go.
Our lives can be like that. We can feel lost in the forest of life. God knows this, and time and time again, gives us the direction we need. “Just listen.”
For most matters of direction, all we need is to let our hearts and minds be informed by God’s Word. In order to do what is right, we have to know what is right (cf Micah 6:8). That means we have to understand the teachings of our Lord Jesus that are expressed and articulated in His Body the Church. Once we understand the teachings, we will act accordingly with the grace of God.
I thought God might be calling me to the priesthood early on in my life. I dismissed such a thought as I got older, but it did not go away. I was headed in a completely different direction. Was I to turn around and start over? I had a hard time believing that to be true. But I began to pray.
Where is God leading you in life?
1 Prayer is the first and most important step in listening to God. We have to set aside time where we allow ourselves to be still. It takes practice. Jesus was often found in prayer before making big decisions in his life. (See Mark 1:35-38, Luke 6: 12-16) That is what needs to happen with us, so we can learn to hear God’s voice. Suppose you hear something in prayer. How do you know it is from God and not just your own self speaking? If it is something that calls you to greater love, service, obedience and repentance, most likely it is from God. There are many priests, religious, and lay people who are trained in spiritual direction. Seeking them out for spiritual direction can help you further discern the call of God.
2 Pray for a desire to do God’s will. In my case of discerning God’s call to the priesthood, I had to set aside my own negative feelings about the matter. St. Ignatius of Loyola would call this cultivating a sense of indifference – not indifference in the sense of “I don’t care” but a sense that I am willing to do whatever God calls me to, and I am indifferent to what it might be. The important thing is doing what God calls me to. Pride can get in the way. Those strong feelings cloud the real call from God.
3 Listen to what God is saying through His Body the Church. During the time in my life when I was praying each day for guidance and help in knowing my vocation and direction in life, God sent me much help through people. Family members encouraged me toward the priesthood, and friends continued to say, “You ought to think of priesthood.” Once, a priest approached me out of the blue in a church parking lot and abruptly blurted out, “Have you ever thought about being a priest? Come and see me about it.” God is not silent, although I think sometimes we can be a bit deaf. Prayer and a listening heart can open our spiritual ears so we can hear the voice of God within, and in His Church, and find our way through the forest to the place where God wants us to be to best serve His people.
4 Make a decision in faith. Choose the light rather than running from one’s own fears. Sometimes decisions are avoided because of our own feelings of fear. “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!,” says the Lord. God confirms the good decisions we make with inner consolations of peace and joy. They are signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence within us.
5 Once we have made a decision, we must listen again. Our journey is not over. Jesus goes before us on our road out of the forest into the promise land.