Whether we follow our vocation or not can have eternal consequences, both for ourselves and for others. And it definitely has profound consequences on our lives and happiness here and now. In other words, discerning our vocation is a big deal, and it’s something to take seriously!
On the other hand, we do not need to worry obsessively about mistakenly missing out on what our vocation is altogether.
Discerning our vocation presupposes a couple of assumptions about God and his relationship with us. Without these assumptions, it doesn’t make sense for us to discern, nor is it possible for us to discern well. Discerning is based on the beliefs that:
1. God has a plan for us
2. God’s will is the best for us (because God is almighty, omniscient, all-loving and merciful)
3. God will communicate his will to us, at least as far as the next step he invites us to take
Discerning God’s will for us is putting our lives, our future, all we have, are, and want to be, into God’s hands. When we discern well, the process of vocational discernment brings us to a free, complete surrender to God’s will for us. Discerning our vocation is an immense act of trust in God’s loving goodness. This is one reason why it’s so important to nurture a personal relationship with God throughout our lives, and to be already living a dynamic relationship with God when we begin to discern our vocation. True discernment requires this immense trust in one’s real, personal relationship with God. A superficial relationship with God that we haven’t taken time to develop may not have the depth to sustain the generous surrender that discernment requires.
For those who worry about making a mistake
in their vocational discernment: If someone mistakenly chooses a vocational state different from what is God’s will for them, God will work with that person to bring them to live his or her personal vocation as fully as possible, inasmuch as the person seeks to collaborate with God’s action in their lives. On the other hand, if someone discerns God’s will but deliberately—out of neglect or self-will or omission—follows his or her own will instead of God’s plan, it’s harder for God to work with this person, because they aren’t truly seeking God’s will. That is why the key to discernment truly is the motivation to do God’s will. God can (and does) work with our mistakes, perhaps eventually bringing us to living the fullness of his plan for us. God will not, however, force us to choose his will if we choose another path. God always leaves us free.
If we are sincerely seeking God’s will, and we do our best to come to know and then to follow God’s will for us, then God will guide us, because God loves us, knows us better than anyone else ever could, and wants us to experience the fullness of happiness.