Guide to Discerning – The Four Voices of Discernment
The Four Voices of Discernment
The Four Voices of Discernment will all vie for your attention during this process. The first, and most important, is the Voice of the Lord. Every day, you can hear Him urging you to do good in your actions, to trust in Him and to sacrifice out of love. You can hear Him in Scripture, at Church or even from the world around you. Remember that discouragement and confusion are never the Voice of the Lord. Even when you sin, he still says “I love you, no matter what.” Still, His voice can challenge you to a deeper relationship with Him.
You can be certain that He is calling you to a specific vocation, which might be to join the priesthood. If you feel like that might be the case, know that God never lies and never plays games. Whatever He asks you to do, He will give you the grace and the confidence to do it. You might feel like He has asked you to live a life that you do not want or can’t live up to, but that’s never the case. Within His call lies the desire to answer, and the grace to make it possible.
During this process, you will also hear the Voice of Yourself. This voice speaks your desires, and is the only voice you have control over. Part of growing up is becoming aware of who you are and what you want. Hopefully, you want to be heroic, to change the world, and to love and serve the Lord in whatever you do. Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way. Our sinfulness and worldly attachments can compete with or even drown out the Voice of the Lord. Other times, it may just be that you’re choosing between two objectively good things. Maybe you want to be a priest, but you also want to be married and raise children.
No matter what, the desires of your deepest, truest self will agree with God’s wishes for you. The trick is to be able to look that far into yourself. One way to do so is to be aware of what you’re thinking about when your mind is free. Is there something that you think about whenever something else isn’t demanding your attention? This might be a sign from Jesus, so you should ask Him what those thoughts mean. Why do you have them? What is the meaning behind them? It can be difficult to reach far enough inside to reach this state because you have so many other desires that have been instilled in you by the world around you.
The Voice of the World is under the dominion of the devil, and can be considered an extension of his voice. That doesn’t mean everything in the world comes from the devil, nor does it mean you should ignore all worldly advice. Your friends, family, mentors or even total strangers might play a part in helping you to hear God’s call. No, the voice of the world refers to the desire to put your trust in the things of this world: money, prestige, fame and relationships. Dreams of big houses and expensive cars are not from Jesus, they were put in you by advertisements and celebrities. This voice calls you to ignore your salvation and reward in Heaven to focus on the here and now. Sometimes, those desires are so powerful that they can drown out even the Lord’s voice.
The final voice you might hear in this process is the Voice of the Devil. He is always trying to lead you away from Jesus, to doubt the Lord’s goodness and give up your trust in Him. This is the voice that tells you to ignore or reject Jesus. The most obvious example of the devil’s voice is the temptation to sin, but he can be very cunning. If he can’t get you to sin, he may still try to get you to turn from God’s plan by doing something that, while still good, isn’t what He wants for you. If he cannot turn you to evil, he will settle for a lesser good.
You will only be able to make progress toward finding your vocation when you’ve learned to distinguish between these four voices. By turning away from the voices of the world and the devil, you’ll finally achieve that heart-to-heart with God that is so beautiful and so necessary to this process.