There are two ways of understanding what God wants – at least two ways that are presented today in our Scriptures. First, God can whisper across a great distance. It’s difficult to hear though, especially when you aren’t used to it. Second, God can just come down here and explain things. This, we believe as Christians, is what happened with Jesus.

In either case though, there is some learning to do! God takes us as he finds us, but he offers us a chance to be so much more. In the case of the young man, Samuel, and the early disciples who were helping John, they have already made a start. They’re already doing the sorts of things God might want, and they’re already listening. But there is still a need for a “bump,” a little boost and then a change in direction.

In our own time, discernment is not easy and it’s easy to envy the disciples, who had a very unique access to God’s plan! However, we have some guidelines too. There are two ways I check if a desire or a thought is from God.

  1. Is it the sort of thing He has done before? It seems obvious, but God doesn’t really change. If He’s calling you to be the sort of person that His Bible does, that’s pretty likely to be genuine. If you feel called to break his rules, that’s probably not his voice that’s calling. So reflect both on how he has spoken to holy people in the past as well as how he has worked in your own life in the past.
  2. Is it a surprise? Suppose you are writing a story. It would be very hard for you to be caught off guard by any twists, since you’re the one in control of where the story goes and you can see ahead. But reading someone else’s story can be full of surprises. In the same way, thoughts that come from our own hearts, good or bad, are seldom surprising. Yet I find that the clearest messages I’ve had from God cause a light bulb to go off for me: “I never thought of it THAT way before!”

It seems odd that both of these things can be true at the same time (it’s old news, it’s new news) but I believe this is captured well by St. Augustine who marvels that God is “ever ancient and ever new.”  There is something remarkable about a message and God that can speak to a world that struggles in the same selfish patterns time and again with a message of love that still refreshes and frees whenever we receive it.

Peace ~ Fr. Dan