Sunday, January 8, 2012

Much needed guidance from God

O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people who call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

- Collect for the First Sunday after Epiphany.


I have found through out my life that I have occasionally made some poor or wrong choices. I can think of at least three or four bad major life decisions, for which another choice probably would have led to a better outcome for me.

I try not to dwell too much from these mistakes or live in the past, but I do want to learn from my mistakes. As I face challenges ahead,  one of my hopes is that I will seek God's guidance and wisdom, and will try to hear what God is saying to me or how God is leading me.

In 12-step recovery programs, the 11th step is: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

This is a most wholesome exercise. I pray for other things besides knowledge of God's will, but I think praying for knowledge of God's will in your life is very important. With pressing life choices and decisions, knowing God's will can be the difference between making a good or bad choice.

Notice that in both the Collect above, and in the 11th step, the power to carry out God's will is mentioned. Sometimes, the right choice may require some sacrifice. It may be that we have to do something difficult or hard for us, at least in the short term. We need God's help, the grace and power that come from God, in order to follow through with making the right choice.

Often making the right choice involves letting go, and sacrifice. Letting go of hurts, resentments, wants, desires. Sacrificing instant gratification or momentary pleasure to be able to enjoy long term satisfaction.

I really should use a concrete examples from my life to help flesh this out, but I am frankly embarrassed by some of my poor choices, and also, some have involved relationships with other people. Suffice to say that choices around lovers and mates, and major purchases, require wise decision making.

With relationships, it is important to be honest about who we are or what we want up front. I have felt that I have often cheated myself by downplaying some aspect of my life with someone I was dating. Also, it is better to be honest with people, in any kind of relationship. Sometimes, in an attempt to spare someone's feelings are smooth out a relationship, we are not honest with another person. We do not lay all our cards on the table. It is better though to be honest upfront. Troublesome issues will eventually come to a head.

Some choices may involve making an ethical decision. Making the ethical choice and following through on it is often a more difficult course of action than an easier path that is unethical. However, the more ethical choice, even if more difficult to begin with, yields better results in the end. We often do not want to deal with difficulty or hardship up front.

Some choices we make may not necessarily have an ethical component, but there are consequences nonetheless. It can be hard to make wise decisions. Common sense can help us in some situations, but not all situations have an apparent common sense choice versus a foolish choice. Choosing a life partner, a home, a school, a job, making a financial decision, can all impact our lives greatly. Sometimes, making the wise choice will involve delaying gratification or taking the common sense approach. Other times it is not so clear. Sometimes we are forced to make decisions around these issues at a difficult time.

We can turn to God when our life is hard, or when life confronts us with difficult choices to make.

In order to be able to hear God speaking to us, and to seek God's guidance, we need to be consistent in prayer. We also need to be dedicated to God. St. Paul expresses this idea beautiful in his epistle to the Romans:

Therefore, my brothers, I implore you by God's mercy to offer your very selves to him: a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart. Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world, but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed. Then you will be able to to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect. 

- Romans 12.1-2, New English Bible 

St. Paul teaches us here, that in order to discern God's will and be empowered by divine grace, we must be committed to God. It is a commitment to love and follow God, to pray consistently, and to be willing always to do the right thing. We need to keep a consistent life of prayer and meditation, so that we be able to hear God speak to us, or discern God's will for us.

Life is very difficult, but we may have peace in knowing God.

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