Q. How did you choose the path you did? How have you come to know God? And how does anyone know for sure that God is calling them to do what they do or what their vocation is?
A. The key to this question is what we call “discernment.” Discernment is a very important topic for young people as they look to their future so it’s a very good question.
The first thing that is very important to know is that God does have a plan for your life and for everyone’s life. Sometimes it can be a bit frightening to be open to this plan or even to think about what God may want of you. But the first step to a very happy life is to know that whatever God wants of you is what is best way to a life of happiness!
For some reason, it’s easy to think that whatever God wants us to do will be hard and will somehow make us unhappy. Sure, in theory we all hopefully know that this is not true. But in practice it can be hard to actually believe that God’s plan will make us happier than anything we could choose by ourselves. So my first suggestion for those trying to figure out the path for their lives is to stop and simply acknowledge that God DOES have a wonderful plan for me!
Once you come to actually believe that truth it’s important that you say yes to it. But that’s the tricky part! It’s “tricky” because God will usually want us to say “yes” to His plan even before we know what it is. This requires trust and surrender. I think this is hard because we often want to know all we are getting into before we agree to it. But with God, we have to know and trust that He will take care for us and that we will be happy with whatever He has in mind for us. So our prayer may look like this: “Lord, whatever you want of me I will do! I do not know your will right now but I say yes to it anyway and trust that you will show me your plan when I need to know it.” In fact, saying yes to God’s will before we fully understand it is often the key to having God begin showing us what He wants.
Personally, I found in my life that as God showed me His plan for my life it was something that was slow and consistent. What I mean is that, as I looked back at my time of discernment, I found that I slowly and steadily grew in a conviction of where God was leading me. There were no loud and clear signs for me. Rather, it was His gentle Voice that slowly became clearer and clearer over time. In the end, when I was ready to make the final decision to become a priest, I decided that my conviction was so strong that it must be God Who led me there.
As for knowing for sure, I do believe it’s possible to know with deep certitude. It’s just a matter of silencing the many thoughts and ideas we have and letting go of all our own preferences and letting God’s will take over. All I can say is that you will know it when that happens. In fact, this sort of certitude, which we call the gift of faith, can ultimately become much clearer to us than anything else if we only let speak to us!