" To me, God is the sun, and the blooming rose is the soul which finds and lives out its vocation — married, single, or religious — in full accordance with God’s will. "
COTTAGE GROVE — I used to be afraid of God’s will. Although I prayed “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” countless times, I didn’t mean it. My own plans were dear to my heart, and I preferred not to know, much less discern, the mysterious will of my Creator. If my plans failed, I’d say, “I guess it wasn’t God’s will.” But I never pursued his divine intentions any further. Deep down, I knew he wanted more from my life, and I was scared to discover what that meant. I didn’t trust him enough. “Who knows what he’ll ask of me?” was my fearful excuse. Despite all this, God was gracious with me. Year by year, I have come to appreciate discernment as a journey rich with meaning and beauty. It is a breathtaking search, an unfolding story, a hidden treasure, a precious dialogue, a growing intimacy with God. The discerning soul, like a flower, unfolds petal after petal to the sun, growing in grace and maturity, until all lovely hues and fragrances are revealed, and the once homely bud is transfigured into a full-blown rose. To me, God is the sun, and the blooming rose is the soul which finds and lives out its vocation — married, single, or religious — in full accordance with God’s will.

But how does one practically discern God’s will? And what if our will is contrary to God’s? Is God’s will always better than our own? These questions troubled me for quite some time, and they still resurface when I experience difficulties and trials. However, the following points always help me, no matter if I’m struggling with a pandemic, a personal sorrow, or a bad grade.

First, it helps to understand that God does not purposefully hide his will from us. He actively reveals it to us through everyday circumstances. The key is knowing how to listen. Maintaining an active prayer life helps us fine-tune the ears of our souls. This fine-tuning is necessary because God often speaks through small things, like unexpected phone calls, a sibling’s comment, or a simple quote. If we expect and await an answer to prayer, then God’s voice is more easily recognized, no matter what form it assumes.

Second, God’s will, no matter how hard, always reaps more blessings and beauty than our own. He knows all things, and he keeps our well-being and eternal salvation first and foremost in all he does. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).

Finally, I believe we gain the most peace and fulfillment when carrying out our Creator’s will. He carefully designed each intricate soul, and therefore, only he can truly satisfy and develop our innermost longings and desires. God is deeply worthy of our trust, and he waits eagerly for a chance to prove it to us.

The social, political, and personal turmoil of the past year changed me forever. As I witnessed my plans shake and crumble one after the other, God’s plans carried on, and bestowed blessings beyond my wildest imaginings. I trust him now. What plans of hope and welfare will he reveal in the coming year? I am excited to find out and no longer afraid. After all, I’ve learned that the brightest sunlight yields the loveliest roses.

Padilla Amador, a homeschooled 18-year-old, is a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Cottage Grove.