Discerning God's Will in an Outcome

Situation with two possible outcomes, X and Y.

Person sincerely believes, with good, reasonable basis, that X is the holy and desirable outcome. Person prays fervently for X. Person of course also prays, “Not my will Lord, but Thy will be done” but at the same time is firmly convinced, again with good, reasonable basis, that X is the holy/ morally right outcome and thus totally storms heaven for X.

However, X doesn’t happen. Instead, Y happens. Y is a morally undesirable, or at least significantly less desirable, outcome in the view of the Person praying.

Person can have various reactions to the outcome Y:

  1. “Y can’t possibly be the will of God. Satan must have interfered, causing Y. Let’s continue to fight Satan and pray for X, which is truly God’s will.”

  2. “Y is the will of God, but it’s a trial/ punishment/ chastisement for us because mankind was too sinful/ God wants to teach us a lesson/ we didn’t pray hard enough/ some other reason. Let’s continue to pray and do penance that we be delivered from Y and that X happens instead.”

  3. “Y is the will of God. There is a lesson in this for us. We need to understand why God would will Y rather than X even though X looks like the morally appropriate outcome. We therefore should accept Y as being God’s will, even though that’s a difficult concept for us to grasp, and we pray that God enlightens us as to why Y was necessary.”

How do people choose to react as 1), 2) or 3)?


#1 made me chuckle. Clearly God and I are on the same page and if that pesky devil would just get out of the way…! :rofl:

#2 is how I was raised & at least accidentally can engender a pretty negative view of God as grumpy judge vs loving Father.

#3 is what I actually think. :woman_shrugging:t2:

Edited to add: I do hesitate at the idea that we accept something as being “from God” when it’s morally inappropriate. I mean what are we talking about here? I prayed for someone not to hav an abortion… they did anyway… I’m thinking that means God wanted the abortion?!?! We do have free will & the person we’re praying for can reject Gods will. An option could perhaps be
#4 God didn’t want it to be this way BUT he’s loves us too much to take away our free will. He’s still here if we want to turn back to him later.

#1 might make sense in some contexts. For example, if a dictator takes over a country and starts closing down all the Catholic churches, throwing Catholics in jail, and executing priests, it’s pretty easy to conclude that’s not God’s will and Satan is in the mix messing things up. So if Person sees the situation of X and Y as being comparable to that extreme, then Person might think like #1. If others do not see the situation of X and Y as being comparable to that extreme, then they will chuckle or dismiss Person’s concerns, causing Person to feel like the faithful “remnant” or crusader who is the only one who sees the evil that is afoot or has some special knowledge or insight while others don’t take the problem seriously.


Ah yes, I totally agree! And may that scenario always stay hypothetical!! :pray:t2:

Unless there are exterior circumstances like the anti-Catholic dictator scenario, I’d go with #3 as well, mostly because I think there’s not much doubt that a) God is merciful and desires our good and b) my point of view on life is clearly partial and limited.


I tend to think (3) as well.

I could maybe see (2) if the outcome proceeded directly from some kind of mass sinful behavior, but in general I think it’s a bad way of thinking to perceive everything as a “chastisement”.

I’m a bit baffled by (1), but at the same time, it would seem to be against God’s nature to will a seriously evil outcome. “Seriously evil” is interpreted different ways by different people. Some folks are seeing the election of Biden as “seriously evil” and thus not in keeping with God’s will, and reacting like (1). I’m trying to understand it better although my initial reaction is to think “So-and-so has gone off their rocker and needs some help”.

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And 4, “Y may or may not be the will of God. It is uncertain.”


Those aren’t the only three possibilities.

God does not necessarily make things happen like that. People have free will.


So what is the appropriate reaction in that case? Watch and pray?

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If God allowed an event to happen then it was apparently his will not to prevent it and to allow human free will to prevail.

My query is, how does one arrive at when it is more prudent to simply accept and adjust to a situation vs. continuing to storm Heaven for some different outcome.

Please note, I am NOT asking on my own behalf to try to decide what to do. I’m group (3) for pretty much everything. I am trying to understand the thought process of others in a kind way.

Prayer doesn’t change God, prayer changes us.

We ask things of God because Jesus instructs us to; not to change His mind. Many times it turns out that we are asking for things that are inappropriate or bad for us (even if the “bad for us” reality is not known now, and may not be known before we get to heaven).

Free will is an everlasting gift from God, a gift He never rescinds or impedes. Misuse of it always causes problems, often unseen or realized much later, if at all.

The inherent problem in trying to figure out God’s will is always flawed because we cannot comprehend His mind, and are limited by human capacity. As Scripture teaches, “His ways are not our ways.

So, the example is missing #4 - Y is either NOT the will of God (Y may have nothing to do with God’s will), OR God’s will is beyond our human comprehension in this case.

Further complicating this example are the different kinds of God’s will: sovereign, permissive, and secret. That’s probably for a different thread altogether, though.

Among the most difficult areas of interior life, and one that shows true advancement in our spiritual lives, is that of grasping prayer to an immutable God.

Deacon Christopher

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My personal belief is that things do not happen in a vacuum; people either do God’s will or act against God’s will. I do not believe that anything is outside the concern of God. So, I would agree with “God’s will is beyond human comprehension in this case” because I believe that much of God is beyond human comprehension and our attempts to explain or understand are always going to fall short and never going to cover all of it.

However, once again this is going to my personal belief and not the subject of the thread, which is why others might choose the viewpoint 1, 2, 3, or 4 (in whatever sense they understand 4). I’m not having a problem with my personal belief, which is that God is in charge and whatever happens is what he wants me to deal with today. Other people do not always seem to think this way. It could be, however, that they take the stance 1) or 2) because they believe God is calling on them to “deal with it” by fighting Satan harder or by praying harder.

#3 is closest to the Church’s position regarding all moral and physical evil and why God allows it, even if He doesn’t will it.

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Thank you, interesting response. Do you have citations to any Church documents showing the Church position on this?

324 The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.

385 God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? “I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution”, said St. Augustine, and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. For “the mystery of lawlessness” is clarified only in the light of the “mystery of our religion”. The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace. We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.


Thank you again.

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True, but I think the emphasis here is not that God actively chose NOT to prevent something, but that God will ALWAYS honor our free will. We know that because we weren’t created as subservient robots. God is also a God of justice, however, as well as mercy; the bad things that happen here can be a way to bring us close to Him, and it’s when we’re all before Him at the end that justice will prevail.

I think the appropriate reaction is always to continue to pray, hope and work ceaselessly for holy things in the world. We know of instances where God did destroy the machinations of evil-doers (see the justice part above), and so we persevere knowing that God’s justice and mercy will show itself sooner or later, in this life or the next.


I think this is close, but “to understand why” and “that God enlightens us as to why” are not essential in this life. We can accept it even if we don’t understand why. That would be my prayer.

We should not accept it angrily or grudgingly. Rather accept it with faith, hope, and love, which will bring peace to our heart.

Then we examine where we are, and look for the right path forward. Though I have said we, it has to begin with me, here, and now. Where do I find myself in the world today? What does God want me to do now?


This to me is kind of a “Why”. Maybe I phrased it badly. I don’t usually go around asking “Why, God, Why?” although I know some people do. God is obviously calling people to respond in some way. What is the best response.



1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going."65 "Keep sane and sober for your prayers."66 Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.67 It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

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