By Matt Keppel
What happens when your discernment doesn’t go as planned? Have you ever had that happen before? You’ve taken the high road, given God everything that you could, but despite everything you did or said things just have not turned out the way you had hoped. Yeah, I know that story. I have had that anthem echoing in my head. Somewhere along the way things become skewed. You discerned well, but your vision became blurred and your goal now seems farther than ever. Frankly, it hurts, and somewhere deep inside you feel betrayed.
For a long time I spent time discerning my vocation to be a priest. I went to college thinking it would be good to get some life experience, and oh, was it ever. Indeed, I went certain I would succeed, because, well, I had never really failed. But, my heart was lost. I was not sure who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, and I was torn between the ordained life and the lay life. It was a struggle to say least. I failed at a lot of things those years: classes, relationships, friendship. Nothing seemed to go right. Except, in the midst of all the turmoil, and especially having come out on the other side: I know that I was growing.
This is discernment. It’s a part of the journey. Along the winding path, it’s easy to find the long, arduous road disheartening. It’s easy for someone to say that this is God’s way of testing you– similar to the story of Job. It’s quite another to live it. It’s a story that we all know, but not a picture that anyone undergoing such struggles ever wants to face. Let’s face the music: we often create for ourselves the biggest obstacles we encounter. Though, they are not necessarily good or bad in and of themselves. They challenge us, force us to learn and grow, and somewhere along the way we begin to find the path to follow.
So how do we know that we are on the right path? How do we know that we are doing the right thing? Peace and joy! I know it seems strange to think about, but really, think about it. In fact, don’t think about it, pray on it. What do you feel? Deep down inside, what is it that you really feel? Peace and joy are not be confused with happiness. Just because you’re experiencing hardship; just because the path in front of you is filled with obstacles does not mean that God has abandoned you or that you have erred. Search your heart; find what brings you that lasting joy. I cannot promise that it will be easy. In fact, I can almost guarantee that it won’t be! However, what I can promise is something lasting, that will sustain you and lead you to greater things.