Friday, March 16, 2012

discernment i.e. christian decision making

I just finished reading Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making by Timothy M. Gallagher OMV which was recommended to me by a friend. The ideas in the text are based in the methodology of Ignatius of Loyola and illustrated by various stories drawn from real life - from various people's efforts to make decisions guided by the will of God. 

It was definitely written for a Catholic audience, and some of the language and ideas weren't the most accessible to someone like me who is fairly unfamiliar with Catholicism. However, it was nonetheless a very moving book and I definitely felt the urge to make note of various concepts and suggestions. 

I want to turn my will to God -- to do His will faithfully and consistently but the process of learning to discern what His will IS and then resolutely making decisions isn't easy. It takes a lot of effort on our part and a strong desire to do God's will WHATEVER it may be. But it isn't all on us, Gallagher explains that discernment = human effort + God's grace. "Grace gives us courage to make our best effort to discern" and to hope w/a surety that God will guide that effort (134). 

Discernment can become "a way of living the choice" that emerges from the process -- the grace "isn't just the clarity of the past but a gift that shapes the entire living of the choice" (138).

Here are some of the profound suggestions Gallagher outlines to help us discern God's will:
  • Research well the options and gain the understanding necessary to consider the advantages/disadvantages - be sure to ask yourself if they are faith based reasons i.e. do you desire the end to which each choice is the means: to love God, promote his glory and progress towards him?
  • Pray for equilibrium and the gift of a mind that sees clearly with the will to follow - consider your choice in a tranquil time and make sure you are open to either option, whichever is God's will.
  • Consider sharing your efforts with a spiritual guide.
  • Ask yourself: What would I choose for someone I love and desire spiritual growth for? How would I counsel them in this situation?
  • Continually seek God's help in prayer and when you have made a choice, bring it to Him for confirmation. (pgs 108 & 119)

It is a hard process of yearning, searching, asking, and praying - and can take a long time - but this is all for a reason. Thru the process God helps us not only to do His will for us, which leads us to the greatest peace happiness, but to grow closer to him and to "finally know and believe" that he loves us (134). 

1 comment:

  1. Hannah Smith, in her book "the Christians secret to a happy life"' talks about this idea in a similar way as the author you've mentioned above. 

    For example, take the idea that "Grace gives us courage to make our best effort to discern and to hope w/a surety that God will guide that effort" this is something that Smith addresses in her chapter "difficulties concerning guidance" (for the entire chapter, go here:

    She talks about how we should make a decision based on the will of God and then gives 4 main criteria for determining  the will of God, namely 1) the scriptures, 2) providential circumstances, 3) convictions of our own higher judgement, and 4) inward impressions of the holy ghost. When we can make a decision that brings all four of these into harmony, we are on the right track. The trick from here is to simply make a decision and trust God. Have faith in him. You have asked him to guide you. He has promised that he will guide you. Now you simply need to believe that he does, in fact, guide you and believe that whatever comes next is God's guidance. God can't guide us if we don't believe he is actually doing it. 

    If things improve, believe it is god working in your life. If things don't improve, still believe that God is working in your life! The trick is to have the faith and hope that no matter what happens, god really is working in your life.