Decisions can be laced with anxiety. Do I take that job? Do I move forward in this relationship? What should I major in? Where should I go to school? Is this the right time to move? These are all major choices in our lives that can close one door, open another, and make us wonder if we’re on the right or wrong path.
If you grew up in a church where there was a lot of talk about “God’s will for your life”, you might be totally confused about how you’re supposed to make the right decisions in these big moments. The Catholic Church refers to the process of involving God in our big decisions as discernment, and I love how this process has helped me with getting and keeping God involved with the uncertainty that is so abundant in life.
Father Mike Schmitz breaks it down to what I like to call “the four doors of discernment” that can be very helpful with the big, tough decisions. Take these questions and apply it to what you’re considering. With the choice that you’re considering, ask yourself, in this order:
- Is it a good door?
- Is it an open door?
- Is it a wise door?
- Is it a door that I want?
These points seem so obvious at first glance, but it’s tougher when you actually take the steps and do it. When you’re done, it can take a a lot of weight off your shoulders and give you confidence that you’ve made the right choice.
The first point is the easiest – is it a good door? At first glance, we can usually tell if the Bible speaks for or against something. We know if a choice is to steal, cheat, or lie. Those are never good doors. But the big choices in life often have nothing to do with that. So it’s on to the next question: is it an open door? This is where things change. If every school you’ve applied to has turned you down, then it’s a closed door. If every school has sent you an acceptance letter, those are all open doors. That’s where choices start to be made, with the next step: is it a wise door?
Knowing if a choice is a wise one, this is where things get tricky. Is there any reason why something wouldn’t be a wise choice? Would it be wiser to stay or go at this season of your life? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your own character that you have that would make this the best decision? Is this a wise choice, or are you choosing it out of a desire for a short-term fix, rather than a long-term answer? What are all the consequences of your potential decision? Anything you haven’t considered that a wiser person might be able to give you insight on? Have you sought counsel from someone who seeks to live according to God’s values, someone like a mentor, parent, or friend? These are some questions we can ask ourselves.
The last discernment question Father Mike gives us is probably the most surprising: Is this a door that I want? Our Heavenly Father is so gracious to us that He wants us to have freedom in our lives. He wants us to have life. He wants us to love and be loved. We have choices, many choices, although these choices can be overwhelming at times. We get to choose, and choose often. It is with this freedom that we are given the promise of Isaiah 41:10, that tells us “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God.”
When we have considered the significant decisions in our lives, sought out wise counsel, and covered our decisions in prayer, the discernment process can help us make wise decisions. We can be confident, bold, brave, and fearless.