If God wants us to begin our discernment where we are, then another helpful thing we can do is to reflect a bit about the “setting” of our lives, our particular world—the concrete circumstances in which we live.
There will always be some things about the circumstances of our lives that we cannot change:
- Aspects of our own personality
- Our families and the people we share our lives with—our primary commitments
- Our history (although we can change the way we understand our past)
But even though we cannot change them, it’s helpful to consider our situation, to accept where we are, and to actively seek the Lord’s invitations within this “setting” of our lives that he shares with us.
Other circumstances of our lives may be relatively permanent, or we may be able to change them over time, if we want to or feel we are called to:
- The responsibilities that we have committed to
- Where we live
- Our relationships with the people we share our lives with
- Our training/the kind of work we do/our vocational commitments
Finally, there are many things in our lives that we can change—our behavior, attitudes, and choices; how we interact with others; how much time we spend in certain activities; what we give priority to each day, etc. But before making any changes, it’s helpful to first understand and acknowledge where we are, what’s going well and what we’re struggling with or longing for.
When we pray to the Most Holy Trinity, we often do so by distinguishing the roles of the Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity in our world. If we praise the Father as Creative Love, the Son as the Beloved Word of the Father, then we might pray to the Holy Spirit as the Embrace between Father and Son. This holy, eternal Embrace, the Holy Spirit, extends outside the Trinity into the lives of God’s beloved people. The Holy Spirit embraces us in our lives, in the concrete situations in which we live. When Saint Paul tries to explain God’s presence in the world to non-believing Greeks, he speaks of God as the One in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Isn’t that an apt description of the Holy Spirit as the One embracing us, within and through the context of our lives?
A. To Pray With
Below is a series of questions about the setting or circumstances of your life that you may wish to journal about or pray with. As we pray with these questions, we want to remember that this setting of the story of our lives is the realm of the Holy Spirit, who works in and through all the particulars and details of our life. God is active in the moments, in the day-to-day, in the concrete details of our lives. These questions can help us to recognize how the Spirit is at work in our lives as they are—where are his invitations, his signs of faithful love, his challenges? As we begin to pray with the circumstances of our lives, we ask for the light of the Holy Spirit so that we can contemplate our lives with the eyes of Christ, with his loving gaze.
Here are some questions to pray over:
- Where am I?
- What are the circumstances in which I find myself?
- What do I love about my life?
- What do I struggle with or find not working for me?
- What do I long for?
- How is God present in my life?
- How might God be speaking to me through the circumstances of my life?
B. To Pray & Journal About
While there are some things about my life that I cannot change, there are many ways that I can improve my circumstances to grow spiritually, to be healthier, to foster personal growth, to more fully live the mission God has entrusted to me. In another time of prayer, reflect on these two questions, praying the second question especially in the light of the Holy Spirit, and asking for his light and for clarity:
1. What insights have I received about myself and my life?
2. How is God speaking to me through the circumstances of my life right now: encouraging me, blessing me, inviting me, challenging me to grow?