By Fr. Garry Richmeier, CPPS
In this series of video blogs, I’ve talked about life events, experiences, and situations as pieces of a puzzle that we have to situate in our lives. I’ve shared my ideas of how to do that in ways that cause us less anxiety and suffering, which is what all of us want.
But the question arises “But what does God want us to do with the puzzle pieces?” People who come to me for Spiritual Direction often ask this question in this way: “Am I doing God’s will?”
There is an idea among us human beings that God has a detailed plan for each of us regarding how to live our lives, and we are to try and figure that out. Since God doesn’t usually come down from heaven in a big booming voice and fill us in, we are left guessing. This can lead to anxiety, and even fear, of guessing wrongly, not pleasing God, and having to suffer the negative consequences.
There is an alternative way of looking at all this that can make life much less anxiety-producing.
First of all, we must trust that God has an overall goal/promise toward which God is moving us. We can call it the Reign of God, eternal life, heaven, salvation, etc. But working out the details of how to reach that goal is a joint effort between myself and God. Both of us have say in what the path to that goal looks like.
God’s role in that process is to speak to us through every event and experience we encounter, nudging us toward the final goal. For example, we might meet someone who loves us. God can speak through that relationship, nudging us to respond with love also. God also speaks through less pleasant things. For example, if we are dishonest in a relationship and it ends the relationship, God can speak through that experience, nudging us to be more honest next time.
Our role in this process, first of all, is to believe that God speaks through every experience, and then to listen. Secondly, we use our best judgment (or make our best guess) as to what is the most loving/forgiving/compassionate thing to do in any specific situation, and do it.
So the details of my life (what I do) are a creation of God’s nudging, my listening, my best judgment, and my intentions of doing what is most loving. This is much different than trying to guess what life map God has in mind for me. It can be much more comforting because it is God and myself creating it as we go.
God is always nudging us, and we can always use our best judgment and best intentions.
A choice I make may turn out badly, but that experience immediately becomes another puzzle piece through which God will speak, nudging me toward the final goal. In a way, we are in a no-lose situation, because each choice, each experience, whatever it looks like, becomes the next step toward the final goal/promise God has for us.
I don’t believe God has a “to-do list” for each of us, with negative consequences for not getting everything on the list done. God doesn’t keep us in the dark, setting an impossible task for us of trying to guess what God wants us to do. All God asks is that we trust that God speaks through every life experience, that we use our best judgment about what is the most loving thing to do in any situation, and then do it even when it is difficult. That is very possible, and well within our reach. If we do that, the details of what our life looks like will take care of themselves.
I wish you well in discerning and following God’s nudges, and building as you go, the path to new life.
All of the videos in this series can be found here: Assembly God’s Puzzle.
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[Fr. Garry Richmeier, a Precious Blood priest and spiritual director, holds a Master’s of Divinity Degree from St John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and a Master’s of Counseling Psychology degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist.]
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