Are You Faced With a Decision?

by Bill Ryan

Are you faced with a difficult decision? Do you feel trapped in a gray area with no black-and-white options? You need a path out of your quandary.

You need discernment.

It’s a Latin word: cern (to sift), and dis (among/between), a procedure used by sages and saints—John Eudes, Thomas Aquinas, and Ignatius Loyola—to name three classic Christian authors. Here are 25 steps to practical wisdom, winnowed from their works.

Be Prepared

First, you need to be:

1.Peaceful. Unless it’s an emergency, never make an important decision when you aren’t at peace.

2. Patient. Don’t demand instant answers. Be willing to live in mystery and let the plan unfold in its own good time.

3.Confident. Trust God; he is with you and within you.

4. Prayerful. Ask him for clarity of mind and courage of heart.

5. Honest. Look at your situation as candidly and as fully as possible.

Get Started

To give the Holy Spirit some elbow-room, more space inside you to do his job:

6. Cleanse your soul of sin and of other obstacles to God’s grace.

7. Seek to know God’s will rather than your own.

8. Choose to set aside your personal preferences if necessary in order to do his will.

9. Pray for the light to know and for the surrender and power to act.

10. Call upon the angels or saints for help.

Listen Up

Let God speak to you in:

11. Scripture, Church documents, and writings and lives of saints or wisdom figures.

12. Your personal life. Your mental, emotional, and physical make-up and your childhood and later experiences.

13. Daily happenings. The people, events and circumstances of every day.

14. Your conscious mind with its desires, dreams, feelings, and hopes.

15. Your deep heart, with its hidden mysterious yearnings and its sense of rightness about given situations.

Take a Risk

Make a preliminary choice:

16. Examine your motives. A mixed motive is not necessarily a bad one, but it will need to be purified later on.

17. Reason things out coolly and neutrally. Weigh the pros and cons without rationalizing.

18. Let intuition guide you. Listen to that “feeling of Rightness,” one that is accompanied by peace rather than by fear or anxiety.

19. Imagine other possibilities. If close to death, or before the judgment seat of God, would you modify the choice? If it were someone else’s problem, how would you counsel them?

20. Seek guidance. Reveal, as openly as you can, to someone you trust, enough information for him or her to make a trustworthy appraisal.

21. Ask God if he approves your choice. Does he want to fine-tune it?

22. Make Your Choice. Transform your preliminary decision into a fully-committed one.

Follow-up Steps:

23. Move discreetly. Major changes often require some delay. If it’s a vocational choice, ask those in a similar state of life what is the best tempo at which to progress.

24. Move decisively in the direction you’ve chosen. If your decision is to remain in your present situation rather than to change it, you may need to take steps to alter it, and/or to revitalize your commitment.

25. Be at peace. When God asks you to choose, he rarely intervenes as dramatically as he did with St. Paul or St. Matthew. He usually gives hints and suggestions and lets you sift (discern) the options for yourself.

If, after making a choice, you find yourself with some misgivings, peacefully ask God about it. Let him lead you as he wishes.

Adapted from Restoration, July-August 2002