Today, the guest speaker at our church taught about how the LORD has a will for every believer. He said we all have a purpose, a reason we are on Earth and that they are all different. I began to think on this and wondered, what is my purpose? I thought on it for a while and could not, for the life of me, figure this out.
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What shall we do? We should not do anything wicked and we should not do anything absurd. Between these boundaries lie a vast number of possibilities. We face large decisions: schooling, career, work, state of life, relationships, weighty commitments. How do we make these choices? How do we weigh competing values? How do we discern the right path? What Do We Want? We have to be clear about the ends that we seek. Everything in this world is presented to us "so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily." Thus, "our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me." Our loving relationship with God is the goal and end of our life. All of our choices are means, steps toward reaching our goal. All of these important choices are means, not ends in themselves. It is easy to lose sight of this and treat choices as the ends. Our first choice or decision is simply to be a follower of Christ. Everything else—all our choices, big and small—follows from this. The Analytical Approach When we have our end clearly in sight, then we are able to tackle the complexities of decision making. In trying to choose between two goods, we might list pros and cons in two columns on a sheet of paper. If we are perplexed, we might also ask some friends what they think. Then we make a decision, offer our decision to God for his blessing, and pray for a consolation of peace as God’s gift to us. In this case, confirmation comes not from the reasoning intellect but through a discernment of the meaning of the different movements of the emotions and feelings. Sometimes the Choice Is Clear We know immediately what is right. Two examples of this choice in the New Testament: the conversion of the apostle Paul, and the call of the tax collector Matthew. Neither man had any doubt about what God wanted of him (at least in these situations). This kind of choice are not rare. We probably know people who never had any doubt about what they should do at major turning points in their lives. Some people are sure about their marriage spouse at a first meeting in this graced manner. You may have had this experience yourself, at least in some circumstances. When the Choice Isn’t So Clear There are situations where the preferred choice is not entirely clear. In these cases, we can discern the right choice by attending to the inner movements of our spirit. In particular, feelings of "consolation" and "desolation" will signal the correct course of action. Consolation is described as every increase in hope, faith, and charity. Spiritual desolation is just the opposite. It includes darkness of soul, disturbance, movement to things low and earthly, disquiet of different agitations and temptations. We need to pay close attention to our feelings. The feelings of spiritual consolation and spiritual desolation must be carefully assessed. Complacency and smugness about a decision can masquerade as consolation. At times, desolation can be a timely sense of restlessness pointing us in a new direction. Trusting Your Feelings It seems surprising (and somewhat risky) to trust our feelings to the degree, but this approach to discernment is entirely consistent with his vision of the Christian life. We live in a world that is permeated by God, a world God uses to keep in touch with us. We seek to follow Jesus. We come to know who Jesus is and strive to make him the center of our lives. We make our decisions within the context of this relationship of love. Our heart will tell us which decisions will bring us closer to Jesus and which will take us away from him. Contemplation of Jesus in the Gospels is the essential discipline that makes discernment possible. The practice of imaginative prayer teaches us who Jesus is and how he acts and how he decides. This kind of contemplation schools our hearts and guides us to the decisions that bring us closer to God. - David L. Fleming, SJ.
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