Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Discerning God's Will

Discerning God's will is a concept that I've wanted to more fully understand for a long time. I've recently ordered some Catholic books relating to this topic. My sister sent me the following quote from Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment by Thomas Dubay (Ignatius Press):

God expects us to use ordinary means to achieve ordinary ends. If I break a leg, he expects me to get it set by a doctor. I may pray for divine healing but not at the expense of refusing ordinary medical help. We should surely pray for divine enlightenment but not at the expense of refusing study and consultation. Where human reason is sufficient to solve problems God is not likely to intervene in a supernatural manner.

This is such a great quote. It also reminds me of the two boats and a helicopter joke. Just in case you haven't heard it...

A man is caught on the roof of his house during a major flood. The waters are rising and he knows he's in trouble. So he prays to God to save him. A man comes by in a boat and offers to take him to safety. He refuses, saying that God will save him. Another boat comes by and once again he declines to be rowed ashore. The waters continue to rise and he has just a small piece of roof to keep him from the waters. He finally refuses the help of a helicopter team preparing to pick him up. The flood waters continue to rise and the man is swept away and drowned. He gets to Heaven and is feeling a little ticked off. He storms over to God and asks why God didn't save him from the flood. God responds, "What do you mean I didn't save you? I sent you two boats and a helicopter."

It's always made sense to me that faith and reason work hand in hand when trying to follow God's will. Some things take a lot of hard work. Does that mean it's not God's will because he would have smoothed things out for us? (I don't think so!) Some things are too coincidental and silly to be taken seriously as a "sign from God". Some "coincidences" are so amazing, beneficial and unplanned by us that the word "providential" seems a lot more appropriate than "lucky."

Well, I have a lot of unanswered questions and am looking forward to digging into some of these books - Authenticity (as mentioned above) and two books by St. Francis de Sales. That ought to keep me busy for awhile.


clairity said...

These are great points on discernment. Yesterday at Cahiers Peguy, Fred K. wrote about discernment and cultural choices based on St. Ignatius. Similar subject.

Mary Eileen said...

That joke was the first thing I thougth of on reading the quote. Humor can be a great way to reveal truth!

Love2Learn Mom said...

Thanks Sharon, great link!

Hi M.E. - and you know how much I like that joke! :)

Nancy C. Brown said...

I love Fr. Dubay!

2nd grade mom said...

I loved the two boats and a helicopter too. Isn't it amazing what God can do. I was reminded about the time we ran out of diesel in our car, got off the freeway on the nearby offramp, and found a truck full of diesel fuel parked under the overpass willing to give us some ... without pay.