D’ Answer

On Discernment

“Seek and You Shall Find”

Can’t make up your mind on something?
Is there a question in your life that
you can’t find answer?

When faced with problems which do not present
clear solutions, what do you do?

Do you make your choice based on reason?
Or based on instinct and emotion?

Do you ever ask:
What is God’s your will for you in this crisis situation?
What does the Lord really want?

A certain inspiration moves you to
arrive at a certain decision.
do you know if the inspiration
comes from GOD
… or the enemy?

GOD knows what’s best for you and He wants to
guide you in your decisions. And He speaks to you
every minute, everyday.

Can’t hear GOD? There are many reasons for that like…
being drowned with worldly cares – job, family,
pursuit of wealth, leisure or… being
blinded by pride, vices and sin.

This page is dedicated to helping you discern
GOD’s will in your situation. Learn the Art of Discernment.

In simple situations, one way to obtain
GOD’s will for you is through His WORD.
Try the exercise below:

Close your eyes and visualize yourself talking with God.
Ask him your big question that you can’t decide on.
Then go to your bible, ask God to guide you where to open.
Then start reading.

Are the passages you are reading
on the affirmative? Or negative? Somehow, some words
you are reading will give you some insights which
bear semblance to your situation. New ideas may also
come to mind which will help you make the decision.

In complex life-changing situations, you may need to
take a step further and apply the Art of Discernment.

The Art of Discernment

Discernment is the art of finding God’s will in the concrete situations of our lives. It involves choice among alternative courses of action where it is not so clear what is really God’s will.

Sometimes, God’s will for us is clear. For example, that a parent should send his children to school is clear and discernment is automatic. But in some instances, His will is not so clear. There is ambiguity. For example, there’s a young couple whose marriage is beginning to distentegrate due to incompatibility. Yet they have young children to think of.

Pre-requisites for Successful Discernment

1) Humility. Pride and sin can hinder our ability to clearly hear God’s voice. A discerner must recognize his own weakness and sinfulness.
2) Trust. God is mysterious and works in ways we don’t expect.
Discernment involves faith.
3) Knowledge of GOD and a desire to please Him. Read your Bible and do spiritual readings to know what pleases or displeases God. You may also consult a spiritual leader – e.g. Priest or Pastor.
4) Openness to God’s spirit. Worldly cares can prevent us from floating freely in the “sea of God”. A discerner must learn to focus away from oneself, from his “wants” and “attachments”.The disciples of Jesus were not so open during Jesus public life. They were closed, blocked by self-love, e.g. ambitious sons of Zebedee; wealth in the case of rich young man; timidity as when Peter denied knowing Jesus. Attachments to honor, wealth, security, to life itself – confused their discernment of the person and mission of Jesus.

 Steps in Discerning GOD’s Will

STEP 1: Make a “tentative” choice using reason, i.e.,
weighing the pros and the cons of each alternative.
Don’t forget to ask the question: Will it glorify God? Will it
save your soul? What ever choice you make, it must achieve these goals.STEP 2: Submit your choice to God. Confirm it if it is His
will or not through the consolations and desolations that you experience.
(details below)
STEP 3: Discern if the consolation is from God or the Enemy.
Do not decide during times of desolation. Neither be guided
by an inspiration that comes during “false consolation” or the
“after glow” (details below). Also observe the circumstances surrounding your situation.
If after submitting to God there are blocks in every turn to
what you’ve thought as the solution…then maybe God is telling
you to abandon that track.

Consolations vs. Desolations

There are different movements produced within us called
spiritual consolation” and “spiritual desolation”.
We must be attentive to these movements within us
in order to come to the right decision.

Consolations are movements within us which inflame us with love of God and lead to increase of faith, hope and love. It is an interior joy that invites and attracts us to what is heavenly and to the salvation of our soul. It fills the person with peace and quiet in the creator and Lord. It may involve strong emotions like tears
of love and praise or it may be feeling of being quietly consoled. In short – there is inner peace in consolation.

Consolations from God can come with no sensible cause, without thoughts or images which trigger an experience of joy and peace. For example, a beautiful sunset made you wonder at the goodness of the creator. Or a recollection of someone you love filled you with gift of friendship.

Another example: there was a devout person who was misunderstood and criticized. She goes to the Lord in state of misery. There are sensible causes for her feelings, but these are apt to produce desolations. But as she kneels in pain, suddenly she seems to hear him saying interiorly: “you came to this life for me and not for these people. All that matters is what I think of you”. And she is very much at peace in the midst of pain. “The realization and peace of mind came out of the blue”. And the depth of peace may coexist with the surface pain she feels.

Consolations may also come from the senses which, through mediation of own acts of will and intellect, lead to consoling experience of God.
Examples: reading a scripture passage, loved hymn, praise of a superior can lead to spiritual consolation.

Desolations are the opposite of consolation. These may be described as darkness of the soul, discouragement, anxiety/turmoil of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, fear, restlessness arising from many disturbances which lead to lack of faith, hope and love. The soul is slothful, tepid, sad, separated from its creator. Thoughts that spring of desolation are the opposite of those that spring from desolation. In short, there is loss of peace in desolation.

How Do you Know if a Consolation is from GOD or only appears from Him?

1) Watch Out for the Tail of the Snake.

True consolations come from GOD. But the enemy is deceitful. It will trick you with false consolations. How do we know then if a consolation is true or false? Here’s what St. Ignatious has to say:

However wily and deceitful the evil spirit may be, he can never perfectly mimic the consolations of God. He can produce ecstasies and visions; and he can foster, for his own ends, the noblest of humanitarian projects and the most intense apostolic zeal, but the tail of the snake will always appear when the devil is in the picture.

What is St. Ignatiuos saying? Observe the whole course of thoughts. If the beginning , middle and end are wholly directed to what is entirely right, it is a sign that it is from God.

Examples of the “tail” appearing at the beginning:

An inspiration to pray comes when you are studying for an exam the next day. Or you are drawn to pray when the rest of the religious community you belong to are gathering for an important work. It is strange that God will take you away from the demands of obedience and obligations of your state in life or urge you to pray when others will have to shoulder your share of the burden of work. Ask the question: Are you at the right place at the right time?

Example of the “tail” appearing at the middle:

You are at the right place at the right time. If devotion is accompanied by vain or judgmental thoughts, then the tail of snake is manifest. Or you are at prayer and very close to the Lord, then someone taps you to say you are wanted and you are irate and filled with self-pity, (can’t they leave me alone for 20 minutes?). If God were at work, you would be surprised at your own serenity and sweetness in accepting the interruption.

Example of the “tail” appearing at the end:

The thought terminates in something evil, distracting or less good than you formerly proposed to do, then it is not from God or His angels. If the consolation end in weakness of the soul, in disquiet, destroying the peace and quiet you had before, then it is false consolation. True consolation gives peace, not disturbance to the soul. Evil will always reveal his presence by desolation. He cannot fully mask his presence, nor can he produce consolation that is genuine throughout. If the tail of the snake appears in any part, refuse to be guided by the inspirations which come at such time.

The devil enters as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). He can mimic God’s voice and appear under the guise of the good angel. If all the signs are good, we can trust the inspiration to act or decide as coming from the Spirit of God.

Even when there are apparently good fruits the “tail of the snake” will always give away the action of the evil spirit, at least for those who have matured in discerning love.

2) Discern Through the Fruits

Galatians 5:19-23 says:

” When self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things.what the Spirit brings is very different: love,joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, truthfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

And in 1 John 4:20; cf., 2:9; 3:10:

The inner marks of the Spirit of God must bear fruit in signs visible to all men. He who says he loves God and does not love his brother is a liar, “since a man who does not love the brother that he cannot see cannot love God, whom he has never seen”

Which of these fruits possess you? Make sure it is the Spirit of God that is at work in you. If not, do not be guided by the inspirations (decisions) you got at such times.

Be watchful of the “After Glow”

 During times of true consolation, the Spirit of God is strongly at work with us. But often a lingering peace and joy remain in the soul even after the Spirit has passed by. It is at these times that unrealistic promises and expectations are made by the person only to find oneself unable to fulfill them later. The soul is then frustrated and enters into another state of desolation.

Decisions should not be made during the “after glow”. The devil might do his trick and prompt you into unrealistic decisions.

Good Spirit vs. Evil Spirit

Characteristic of the Good Spirit

The good spirit (God and His angels) always speaks in peace. When it acts on the soul, it gives true happiness and spiritual joy, and banish all sadness and disturbances which are caused by the enemy. The good spirit gives courage and strength, consolations, tears, inspirations, and peace. This he does by making all easy, removing all obstacles so that the soul goes forward in doing good.

Characteristic of the Evil Spirit

It is the characteristic of the evil spirit to harass with anxiety, to afflict with sadness and to raise obstacles backed by false reasonings that disturb the soul. It is a deceitful bully who loves secrecy and works in the dark. Turmoil, anxiety and restlessness as the enemy’s voice. The enemy prevents the soul from advancing to what is good.

Why Does God Allow Desolation?

Again, desolations are never from God. But God may allow it to happen for the following reasons:

1) We may have been negligent in our exercise of peity so spiritual consolation was taken from us. So while the devil’s goal is to destroy the person, God allows it to shock the soul into the realization of their negligence and restore them to their earlier fervor. Here’s a prayer you may recite to return to God’s favor.

 “Lord, you know I want to please you. You are free to correct me in any way you wish. But I cannot see where I have grown negligent or tepid despite my sincere examination of conscience. So please make it clear to me if I am somehow failing you.”

2) God wishes to try us -to see how much we are worth, how much we will advance in his service and praise when we are left
without the generous rewards of consolation and signal favors. “To test steel is to subject it to intense heat”. Desolation is the purifying fire in which our love is made perfect. It burns
out of our love all impurities of selfishness and timidity, and it fuses the soul to the Sprit of Jesus. If our life were all consolation, we would be weak in our love. It is the fire which purifies our love of all self-seeking which is in each of us.

3) God wants us to have true knowledge of ourselves, so we’ll understand that it is not within our power to attain great devotion, intense love, tears or any other consolation-that all is gift and grace of God. It is meant to teach us that genuine consolation is pure gift- that we cannot manipulate its bestowal.

“For those who love God, all things work together for good.” Romans 8:28.

What Should We Do in Times of Desolation?

Desolation is never from God. It is never his voice nor caused by him. But when the soul is overtaken by sadness, normal reaction is to ask what God wants. Have I offended him? Here are things to do when you feel desolate.

1) Do the opposite of what the devil inspires. Time of prayer seems long and frustrating during desolations. So be strict with yourself. If you usually pray 30 minutes, pray 31 minutes.

2) Persevere. Desolation never lasts forever. Consolation will soon return. During desolation, man is left to his natural powers to resist the different agitations and temptations of the enemy. But God’s grace is always present to the soul, even though he may not feel it.

3) Bring your weakness to God for healing. The enemy attacks where we are weakest. So by bringing it to God, his advantage over us is lost.

4) Never make an important decision when you are desolate because your decision will be tinged with the enemy’s inspiration.

Final Note

Discernment is Gradual and Reformable

God reveals his will to us step by step. He does not give us a
total, long range blue-print of his will for us. Nor does he give us infallible advance certainty about his will for us. St. Ignatious advises: Where the choice was well and sincerely made (may not be the best choice), there is no reason to make it over. But let him perfect himself in the one he has made.

Be Courageous

There is a certain “certitude” concerning God’s will, it is a certitude of faith and not of reason. You just feel certain after prayer and openness to his direction, that you should feel this way and that such action is honest to do. You may not know reasons why. But there is also an uncertainty there-why the Lord wills this.

Source: Weeds Among the Wheat
by Thomas H. Green, S.J.

We are not at war with the enemy alone.
His real adversary is Jesus whom we belong.

God bless you.

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