By: Father Basil Hickman – St. George Greek Orthodox Church (Des Moines, Iowa)
“What would Jesus do?” This is a question many of us have heard before, and perhaps asked ourselves as well. This is good. Life is filled with so many choices, and seeking a Christ-like approach throughout the many situations in which we find ourselves is definitely wise. But maybe we should go deeper than simply asking “What would Jesus do?” Given the fact that God is everywhere present, and that our Lord said “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20), perhaps we should ask ourselves not simply “What would Jesus do?” but “What is Jesus calling me to do? How might Jesus be seeking to work in and through me?”
Discerning our Lord’s will for us is not always easy. There are times when we feel like God is calling us to do something; but we can’t always be sure whether this inclination is truly coming from God, or from some other source (such as our imagination, or even from demonic forces). So what are we to do? One important guide to help us discern is our spiritual father. We can also seek advice from Christ-centered friends and relatives whose opinions we trust. In this, we should always be careful not to rush toward accepting “worldly” perspectives, which may currently be popular. (I am reminded here of the words from the Scriptures, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21)
As we seek to discern God’s will, we also look to the teachings of our Holy Orthodox Faith. Reading the Bible, learning from the writings and lives of the saints, familiarizing ourselves with the doctrines, opening our hearts and minds to the spiritual depth of our Orthodox prayers, immersing ourselves in the praxis of the Church – and then humbly evaluating our thoughts by these standards is also helpful. (If our “calling” contradicts the faith and ways of Christ’s Holy Church, we can be pretty sure that it isn’t coming from Christ!
I would like to conclude with the following quote: “Those thoughts, especially during prayer, that destroy one’s inner peace or incite such feelings as pride, enmity, fear, confusion or dejection are obviously from the enemy. On the other hand, those thoughts that instill, for example, humility, repentance, compassion, love, joy and peace are of the Holy Spirit.” (Orthodox Spiritual Life, According to Saint Silouan the Athonite, p. 73, by Harry Boosalis) May our Lord always help us to truly discern His will.