Discernment and the “Four Voices”
Adapted from Fr. Brian Bashista’s Quo Vadis Days Manual
By Fr. Matthew Keller
In the process of discernment we should become aware of four voices that call for our attention and learn to distinguish them from one another. These four voices are: The Lord’s, our own, the world’s, and the devil’s. It is not always easy to tell these voice apart from one another, therefore discernment requires time, patience and perseverance in the face of struggle. Being attuned to the voice of God, will make the other voices easier to identify.
The Voice of the Lord
The Lord’s voice is constantly communicating His unfailing love to us. We hear His voice through Divine Revelation, both in Holy Scripture and in Holy Tradition, as well as in the Magisterium of His Church, urging us to do that which is good, to trust Him, and to sacrifice out of love. Discouragement and confusion are never the voice of Jesus. His voice always expresses the truth as he calls us to a deeper conversion in the face of sin.
With regard to your vocation, be assured that He is calling you to one vocation; either the priesthood, the consecrated life, marriage, or a generous single life. His voice is never deceptive and He will give you the grace to accomplish whatever that particular vocation requires of you. When we are tempted to think that Jesus is calling us to a life that will not be fulfilling or that we cannot accomplish, it is not His voice that we are hearing, but that of another. We can recognize the Lord’s voice in our mind and hearts whenever we hear the sentiment that exhorts us to, “fear not”.
One’s own voice
Our own voice is expressed in the deepest desires of the heart. With maturity comes an ordered awareness of these desires and the ability to fulfill them in accord with God’s Law. You are designed by God to desire to be heroic, to change the world for the better, and to love and serve the Lord Jesus with all that you are by loving and serving His creation. Be assured that because it was He who put those desires in your heart it is He who will allow you to fulfill them. Sometimes, however, our deepest desires seem to be in conflict. The sinfulness of our fallen nature can clamor loudly. Sometimes our voice is in conflict with the voice of the Lord. We are always in need of deeper conversion. Characteristic of our own voice is the sentiment in our minds and hearts that says, “I want”.
The Voice of the World
The voice of the world is a voice that is under the influence of the devil. Indirectly, and often unwittingly, it coveys his voice. It calls us to put our trust in the things of this world: prestige, money, fame, shallow relationships, and the aura of importance. It is this voice we hear in advertising, on TV shows, and in much of the music on the radio. It is a constant “noise” that distracts us. This voice tempts us to forget about Heaven, our salvation and the Lord’s call in our life. The alluring things that appeal to the flesh threaten to drown out the voice of Jesus and His loving call. The voice of the world can be recognized by the thought s and sentiments in our hearts and minds that cause us to worry about “what people will say” if we follow Christ in a radical way.
The voice of the devil
The voice of the devil is the one that is always trying to lead us away from Jesus and to enslave us. His voice is the one that tempts us to doubt the Lord’s goodness. This is the voice of discouragement and the one telling us that we are not worthy enough or strong enough to follow Christ’s call. This is the voice that tempts us to say no to God. This voice will tell us to settle for something less than we are called to be as Children of God and disciples of Christ. This voice can be recognized by its insistence that God is trying to violate your rights and freedom. This voice says that “you can be as God” deciding for yourself what is good and evil.
Be Not Afraid
Confusion, frustration and sometimes outright rebellion can afflict us in the discernment process. Nevertheless Jesus tells us, “Be not afraid. I am here.” His love can conquer everything, and if we open ourselves to the power of His grace, we will come to find our vocation. Simply respond, “Jesus, I Trust in You”.