How specific do you think God’s will actually is? No one would disagree that God’s will is generally evident—he wants us to serve and to love, to remain faithful and to cooperate in healing the world.
But, beyond that, do you really think God has a stake in every decision we make? Does he really care when you wake up, or how much coffee you drink, or whether you accept that new job? Apart from the obvious considerations (Would sleeping in cultivate laziness on this one particular occasion? Have you already had six kidney stones removed? Is the new job as a drug dealer?), it seems silly to imagine that God has micro-managed your future.
Take these words from Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft on the topic:
Many diverse things are good; that good is plural. Even for the same person, there are often two or more choices that are both good. Good is kaleidoscopic. Many roads are right. The road to the beach is right and the road to the mountains is right, for God awaits us in both places. Goodness is multicolored.
Take a specific instance where different choices are both equally good. Take married sex. As long as you stay within God’s law—no adultery, no cruelty, no egotism, no unnatural acts—anything goes. Use your imagination. Is there one and only one way God wants you to make love to your spouse? What a silly question! Yet making love to your spouse is a great good, and God’s will. He wants you to decide to be tender or wild, moving or still, loud or quiet, so that your spouse knows it’s you, not anyone else, not some book who’s deciding.
I suggest we think of God’s will as the means by which we become the right kind of people, rather than the agonizing determination over which action we ought to take right this very second. As many others have said, God’s will is a process rather than a program. So, we’re meant to cultivate a healthy relationship with God rather than divining his whims, since our identity trumps our activity; or, said another way, who you are is more important than what you do.
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord; and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong; because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24).
God’s will is a way to be and a way to behave; however, I realize there are certain times when we want God to “weigh in” on a big decision to—at the very least—help us sort out our anxieties and to acknowledge that we’re doing everything we can think of to put him first. In those moments, I always advise people to pray, to talk the decision over with those that love them and love the Lord, and to soberly weigh the benefits of each option. Consider, especially, things like timing, desire, compensation, long-term sustainability, and future opportunity.
As you move forward in the process, don’t forget to pay attention to your feelings. Don’t be governed by them, but don’t ignore them either.
St. Ignatius said we can discern the right choice by attending to feelings of either “consolation” or “desolation.” For him, consolation was when the soul became inflamed with love for God. It includes every increase in hope, faith, and charity; and, basically, it’s the good feeling you get when you’re excited about what’s going to happen next.
Desolation, on the other hand, is just the opposite. Desolation involves feelings of darkness, depression, anxiety, and agitation. Simply, it’s the feeling of dread that envelops us when we’re miserable about all that’s coming down the pipe.
And please—for the love of all good and holy things—don’t think that a pleasurable option is somehow ungodly. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
God simply isn’t out to punish you for pleasing him.
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