The last reason that we are going to examine and which frequently causes us to lose our sense of peace is lack of certitude, the troubling of conscience that is experienced when it is necessary to make a decision and we are not able to see clearly. We are afraid to make a mistake that may have disturbing consequences, we are afraid that it may not be the will of the Lord.
Situations of this type can be very painful and certain dilemmas truly agonizing. The general stance of abandonment and confidence of which we have spoken, this approach of putting everything into the hands of God which enable us to avoid “dramatizing” anything (even the consequences that our errors might engender!) will be particularly precious in these situations of incertitude.
We would like, however, to make a few useful remarks for conserving our interior peace when making decisions.
The first thing to say (and this is in complete harmony with what we have said up to this point) is that, faced with an important decision, one of the errors to avoid is that of being excessively hurried or precipitous. A certain deliberation is often necessary in order to properly consider things and to allow our hearts to orient themselves peaceably and gently toward a good solution.
Saint Vincent de Paul made decisions that were presented to him after mature reflection (and above all prayer!), in such a way that some people who were close to him found him too slow to decide. But, one judges a tree by its fruit!
Before making a decision, it is necessary to do what is appropriate to see the situation clearly and not to decide precipitously or arbitrarily. We need to analyze the situation with its different aspects and to consider our motivations in order to decide with a pure heart and not in an effort to serve our personal interest. We need to pray for the light of the Holy Spirit and the grace to act in conformity with the will of God and, if necessary, to ask the advice of people who can enlighten us relative to the decision.
In this regard, we must know that everyone will encounter, above all in the spiritual life, certain situations where one would not have sufficient light, would be incapable of making a necessary discernment or of making a determination in peace, without recourse to a spiritual advisor.
The Lord does not want us to be self-sufficient and, as part of His pedagogy, He permits that sometime we find ourselves in the impossibility of finding enlightenment and peace by ourselves; we cannot receive them except through the intermediary of another person to whom we can open up.
There is, in this opening up of the heart relative to questions that we ask ourselves or dilemmas that we try to solve, a disposition of humility and trust which greatly pleases the Lord and frequently renders harmless the traps that the enemy sets there to deceive or trouble us.
Regarding this interior peace, which is so precious and of which we have spoken so much, we know that at certain moments in our lives we cannot find it by ourselves without the help of someone to whom we can open our souls.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori was an unparalleled director of souls, but with regard to that which concerned his own spiritual life, he was very often incapable of orienting himself without the aid of someone to whom he opened himself and toward whom he was obedient.
Having said that, it is important to know one thing. Whatever the precautions (prayer, reflection, advice) that one uses to obtain enlightenment before making a decision and in order to be sure of doing God’s will (it’s a duty to take these precautions, because we do not have the right, above all in domains of importance, to decide lightly), one will not always receive this light in a clear and unambiguous manner.
Confronted with a specific situation, we ask ourselves (and we must always do this!): “What must I do? What is the Lord’s will?” We will not always have a response!
When we make this effort at discernment and search for God’s will, often the Lord speaks to us in diverse ways and makes us understand in a clear way how we must act. Then we can make our decision in peace.
But, it may happen that the Lord does not respond to us. And this is completely normal. Sometimes, He simply leaves us free and sometimes, for reasons of His own, He does not manifest Himself.
It is good to know this, because it often happens that people, for fear of making a mistake, of not doing the will of God, seek at any price to have an answer.
They increase their reflections, their prayers, they open the Bible ten times looking for a text in order to obtain the desired enlightenment. And all this is troubling and disquieting more than anything else. We do not see things more clearly for all that; we have a text, but we don’t know how to interpret it.
When the Lord leave us thus in incertitude, we must quietly accept it. Rather than wanting to “force things” and torment ourselves unnecessarily because we do not have an evident response, we must follow the principle that Saint Faustina offers us:
When one does not know what is best, one must reflect, consider and take counsel, because one does not have the right to act in incertitude of conscience. In incertitude (if the incertitude remains) one must tell oneself: whatever I do , it will be good, provided that I have the intention to do good.
That which we consider good, God accepts and considers as good. Don’t be chagrined if, after a certain time, you see that these things are not good. God looks at the intention with which we begin and He grants the reward according to this intention. It is a principle that we must follow. (Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of the Servant of God, Sister Faustina Kowalska).
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