“What does God want me to do with my life?!”
Fr. Mike Schmitz addresses the very heart of a matter that so deeply affects many of us in this video on discernment. Or, to put it more emphatically, he addresses that heart-wrenching question yelled at top volume from the bottom of our souls, what does God want me to do with my life?!
When we ask this question, it can seem that God has a secret plan for our lives that we will only discover if – and when – we are “good enough.” Or when we look hard enough. Or try hard enough. Or reach some level of holiness (only, He’s not told us what that level is yet, nor whether we’ve reached it).
Three years ago, I started a time of discernment in my life. I was 21, desperate to find my place in the world and desperate to give something meaningful to it. I wanted to make my mark and have a purpose. Daily, I was terrified that my life amounted to nothing and that I was wasting every day until I found out what I was meant to do with my life. I believed it would be wrong for me to make any concrete step forward without God’s firm and obvious indication, “Yes, do this.” To make matters worse, I believed that God wasn’t talking to me, either because I wasn’t trying hard enough or because I wasn’t listening well enough. I kept on trying harder, but willpower only got me so far. I fell into apathy, and from there to despair.
I did not realize that all that was asked of me then was to continue walking forward with my daily life, finding joy in the little things and doing what I could with integrity. I had not failed the ‘test’ of my discernment because there was no obvious answer. There was no obvious answer from God at that time because there wasn’t meant to be. I came to discover that discernment is not an impossible , directionless journey to a set but hidden destination. I was waiting desperately for a lightning bolt to tell me what to do with my life. This feeling came from a very well-meaning desire to do what is right and to be obedient. It also came from a deep love of Christ… if you love God and you love Christ, you want to do what He wants of you, and do it as soon as possible, right?
What I discovered, however, is what Fr. Mike explains — that God’s pace is not our pace and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). While I was stressing about what my future should be, I did not realize that God just wanted to spend time with me now.
Now, right now, is the only time God can speak to us. He cannot reach us if we are always projecting into the future. Discernment is a conversation, a discovery of who we are with God. Moreover, we have the freedom to make steps without God’s emphatic “yes.” Fr. Mike uses the excellent example of Mary, who in Luke’s gospel is met with the most astonishing God-intervention in all of human history when an angel tells her she will give birth to God’s Son. This was so obvious she couldn’t have missed what God wanted her to do with her life! And yet, ‘the angel left her’ and she was alone. Mary didn’t stop in her tracks and wait for the next angel to arrive and tell her what to do. She continued with her life, step by step.
We too have that freedom – freedom to follow our gifts, talents, desires, following the things we love and enjoy, knowing that if they are good, they will bear fruit for others in abundant ways. Nor is life about filling in the days with meaningful things until God sees fit to reveal what our vocation is. It is about living each day fully, as if it was the greatest and only gift we have.
Christ Himself knew our worries and fears for the future when He said “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Mt 6:34).
Living like this gives us a tremendous freedom. Look at what God has given you today. Do your very best today. Walk with Christ; spend time with Him; be with Him now. Get to know Him and ask Him to help you get to know yourself. As Fr. Mike Schmitz puts it, “God will never ask you to answer a question that he hasn’t asked you” and you can be absolutely sure that when Christ calls you to “move forward, he will do so with clarity.”