A reader recently asked the question, "Is there an endpoint to discernment?" This excellent question raises several important issues around discernment because some discernments have a specific question with a necessary final decision, and some are more about day to day living.
If a person is seeking God’s input on a specific choice or decision they have to make, they would benefit from entering a “formal” discernment process with a spiritual director. A formal discernment, according to the Ignatian method, involves research on one’s options, exploring pros and cons to each, consulting with a director, and listening to the movements of one’s heart when considering option A and then option B. We count on the Holy Spirit to move our hearts so that we can align ourselves with what seems to be God’s desire for us. This very helpful process offers guidance for a specific choice and generally comes to a conclusion after a few months or more.
But we can also want to tune in to God’s intentions or desires for us in our daily living: how to handle a relationship, what courses to take, how to grow in virtue, etc. These kinds of stirrings are not about major decisions but about how to live more “in the mind and heart of Christ Jesus.” This kind of seeking of God’s hopes for us is about living a discerning life, a life tuned in to God. This kind of discerning is ongoing. It is the way of the disciple, of someone committed to living like Jesus lived, and it has no ending. The next right move unfolds each day for one who lives rooted in attentive listening to God, in prayer and in all the other ways God speaks.