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Ask Yourself One Simple Question
The key to following God's will, even in the smallest decisions, comes down to one simple question: "What direction will this lead me?"
Discerning the Little Things
Most of the focus in discernment teachings is on the bigger picture decisions in life, such as where to go to college, which job to take, what is my vocation, and should I get married. But as I discussed in the last post, What is Directional Faith?, discerning the little things matters as well.
But how can you discern the little things when they happen so quickly? There’s seemingly not enough time to make a thoughtful decision.
In my own life, I have simplified it down to asking myself one question:
What direction will this lead me?
Obviously, in a greater context, I am asking myself, which option will lead me closer to God? What direction in faith will this take me? By making this choice, will it affect my relationship with God in a positive or negative way? For simplicity’s sake though, I keep it to that simple phrase.
What Would Jesus Do?
For anyone around in the 1990s or early 2000s, you would have heard the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” It was often abbreviated as WWJD and emblazened on bracelets, t-shirts, necklaces, and bumper stickers.
I love the concept of that phrase, but it might have been missing one thing: an application to true discernment.
For many people, that phrase led to looking at each choice as a moralistic one. Am I doing the right thing? Am I following the 10 commandments and the rules set by God? It challenges us to follow in the footsteps of perfection - something that leaves us destined to fail.
I think a better version of that line is, “What would Jesus want me to do?”
By framing it differently, the focus shifts back to us and what we can do in our lives. It grounds us back in reality. Then, it becomes a little easier to follow.
Deciding Between Two Goods (Or Evils)
The simplicity of WWJD also leads us to believe that one choice is good, and the other is inherently evil. But what happens when they are both good or both evil?
For example, I can work an extra few minutes to catch up, which helps me provide for my family, or I can take that time to spend with my kids. Neither one is evil, but most would know how to make that choice.
So by asking ourselves, in that moment, “what direction will this lead me?”, we can better make a choice between two goods or two evils.
That very situation happened to me recently. The kids were home from school, but I was still working. I wanted to make the most of my time with them, but I had obligations at work. What to do?
NOTE: I never said discerning was easy!
Taking Your Time to Discern
Choices fill our everyday lives. From the moment we decide to get out of bed to the moment we go to bed for the night, there are choices to make. We make most of those choices on autopilot, with little thought to them. But taking a moment to discern God’s will in that choice can have a big impact in the long run.
We do not have enough time to go through the full discernment process for every small decision. In time, I will teach you how to discern those larger life choices, but for now, I wanted to start with something you could apply immediately.
It takes very little time to answer that simple question of “what direction will this lead me?” Generally, you just know in your heart what the right answer is (and we’ll talk about how that works in the future as well).
So start practicing that. When you face a choice during the day, just ask yourself that simple question. Make it a habit, and it won’t take long to see the results. Your faith will feel stronger and more in-tune with God’s will than you would have imagined.
And in case you were wondering what choice I made… we went out for ice cream and had the best afternoon together.