Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting Answers From God

As Christians we all want to obey God but we don't always know what God wants. So you have vocation stories. Someone explains exactly how they figured out God was calling them to religious life. You have them for the married vocation to but those are normally called romances. But it is similar. Typically at a young age people are discerning how God wants them to spend the rest of their lives. How do they know this? God does not often give an external command. He could appear to a young person and say "marry so and so" or perhaps "become a monk." He does do that but only in a small minority of cases. He could do it more. Somehow God wants us to discover who we are rather than Him just telling us. We tend to rebel against things that are imposed on us. When it is our own idea we are much more likely to embrace it.

We also have an amazing capacity for questioning the most obvious signs. If we did have a vision or a dream and God spoke to us and told us exactly what His will for our life was then what would happen? We would proceed with great confidence at first. But as we went along and we encountered struggles and the vision faded in our memory we might start to wonder. Did I really hear from God? Did I imagine it? Could my mind have been playing tricks on me? We imagine that God could resolve all our doubts with one obvious sign but God knows there are deeper doubts there that will resurface even after something like that. So he puts us through a much slower process that deals with those deeper doubts. Letting your faith that this is God's will for you grow over time. So you might not be able to describe how or why you became certain this was His will. But you do get a peace about it.

So we can spend much time searching and praying for our mission and God can be quite slow to answer. Often He is giving hints. Pointing us in the right direction. Why does it take long? One reason is we are not willing to contemplate that God might be telling us what he is telling us. GK Chesterton said the big step in his Catholic conversion is when he simply decided to be fair to the church. Once he took that wall of prejudice down the conversion process proceeded slowly but surely. That is pretty common in conversion stories and vocation stories. There is something that is preventing the person from seriously considering going there. Once that has been removed it is a matter of due diligence. You still need time to pray and get questions answered. If it is truly God's will that should strengthen your resolve.

Another reason it can take a long time is because the answer can be way bigger than we imagined. I know when I prayed for a wife in my early 20's God seemed not to answer for a long time. In hindsight I can see that He had to clean up a lot of issues in my life before I was ready for the kind of marriage He wanted for me. That took time. But back then I didn't see those connections. I thought God was just slow.

Something similar often happens when people ask God for something and the answer is to discard protestantism and become Catholic. They often don't know how big a thing they have asked God for. They might just want to know what God's truth is on one doctrinal question that has been bugging them. But the answer is going to imply that many doctrines they are quite confident about are actually wrong. So people get confused as to why God can't just show them whether women can be ordained or not. But their understanding of ordination is way off base so what seems like a simple question isn't simple at all.

Asking God questions is not safe. The answers can mess with our lives big time. But we need to do it and we need to be willing to consider any answer. We need to persist. We need to use all the means of grace available. Read the bible and pray for sure but don't stop there. Fast, make sacrifices, do Eucharistic adoration, have a mass said for your intention, say a rosary, ask saints to intercede, ask family and friends and clergy to pray and give advice. There are so many ways God gives us to pray.

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