How Do You Know You're Doing God's Will?


I’m looking for some insights about how people know that you’re doing God’s will. I’ve had people tell me to take comfort in the fact that wherever I am and whatever I’m doing is a part of God’s will. First of all, I think that is deterministic and denies the fact that we have free will. Secondly, I highly doubt that every single detail of my life such as going to the grocery store at 4pm versus 10pm always as some hidden meaning in it. I think that looking for God’s will in every life circumstance leads you to disappointment, frustration and complacency.

Basically, I am in a job that I do not enjoy or find worthwhile in any way, in a very small town without any social connections; yet my friend tells me “this is what God wants for you right now.” Really? God wants me to feel empty and isolated? I have trouble buying this.

Before anyone recommends going to visit the blessed sacrament more, joining Church activities more or getting out more I would like to say that those options are not available where I’m at without a long drive.

Also, my real question is how do we know when it is time to act (like for example look for a job someplace else) and when we should just be patient in our current circumstances?


Doing God’s will is the universal call to holiness. If you are being holy in your life, then you are doing God’s will. If you aren’t being holy, then you aren’t.

Some people may be called to different vocations, but even if you’re not in your ideal vocation you’re still doing God’s will as long as you are answering the universal call to holiness. I doubt that God is micromanaging you to be in X position in X town; if you feel your abilities would be best served elsewhere, and if those ambitions are in line with God’s universal call to holiness, then that is probably true. Even so, some of the best growth can happen precisely in the times where we are the least satisfied in our life. Those with little can learn to be grateful for much.


I personally do not believe God wants us to be stuck in a situation that makes us feel unhappy as you describe. The fact that you feel “empty and isolated in a job you do not enjoy or find worthwhile” may well be prodding from the Holy Spirit letting you know it is time to move on. God’s will for us is not always evident, yes you have to pray and ask for guidance etc.but then you have to make a choice.All you can do is make what seems to be the best choice. At times it may seem to be the "crazy " choice. Many years ago I had the option of staying in the general area of the state where I live, which was in the north or go 400 miles south. It would have been easier to stay in the north,but after much prayer I felt that going south was the right choice, so I had to reach out in faith and make the move. Ultimately it was the right thing to do.


Oh dear. Sounds like there is more going on then just a concern for completing your call as a Christian. You have my prayers.

One thing you might do to find out if you are living according to God’s will is check out the 10 Commandments and see if you are keeping them. Then after you’ve examined your life thus far is in relation them, add the Church’s precepts and teachings. These are God’s will for you. It really is that simple.

As for your feelings of dissatisfaction in your life, that can be from several things, some good, some not so good. It may just be your youth or it may mean you are called to live differently. This takes discernment and wise spiritual counsel, not just any old advice, however those who know you best, do know you best and can probably tell you if you’re off or not should you consult them.

Dissatisfaction in life can also be the result of sin. It robs us of the joy of living. Is there any habitual sin in your life that may be causing the unhappiness? This should come to light if you search your heart in light of the above, (10 Commandments, precepts and teachings, etc.)

Another answer may be found most certainly in an Ignatian Retreat. The Jesuits are expert at setting lives in order according to God’s will and it works. If you can find one and can either beg or afford the cost it will most certainly do it’s job and straighten out the disorder in your life. I guarantee that you will leave it knowing God’s will for you in particular and will also find the ability to carry it out.

Whatever is bothering you, I sincerely hope you find your answers in Christ. He really is the answer bar none to all our questions and trials and tribulations.

God bless you.



My musings: Doing God’s will involves the denial of the self and the taking up of one’s cross. It requires being docile (even forcing oneself, if necessary) to the Holy Sprit, and it may require intense prayer to discern. Receiving competent spiritual direction can be important. Doing God’s will is not necessarily about happiness or fulfillment - witness the Book of Jonah.

As to time spent with out Lord, He is in the Tabernacle. On your way driving to work, school or the store, you may pass a parish - any parish. Nothing except your free will prevents you from stopping in, or even parking in the lot to pray for a few moments. It does not have to be a holy hour. It can be the holiest 5 minutes of the day. You certainly have 5 minutes before or after mass! Those moments in prayer can bring you immense benefits.

You could ponder this: “I went looking for friends and found none. I became a friend and found many.” There is a possibility that you may be building walls and isolating yourself. If others do not seem to be charitable and inviting, remember that it is incumbent upon you to be charitable and inviting.


Thanks to all who responded. @glendab, I’m not aware of any habitual sin at least outside of the typical flaws we all have. I’m also not that young. I also would like to point out that unhappiness/happiness isn’t the crux of my question. The crux of my question is knowing that you are following God’s path for you. A lot of choices in life are left up to us but I do believe that there are certain major decisions that God has chosen for us based upon who he made us to be.

I recently read Mother Dolores Hart’s biography and she said that the greatest sin is to not be who we are. Also, she said that she would have moments in her previous life (before she became a nun) when she would get this otherworldly sensation of feeling removed from the situation and she began to wonder why she was there. I feel that way. I pray daily, go to daily mass occasionally and read spiritual writings yet I still struggle to know my path. Yet at the same time I think that it is the prayer that is making me feel dissatisfied with my current situation. That being said, a lot of my friends/relatives will encourage me to stay put, wait it out and give it a chance. I am just wondering how long I should wait.


Yes, I realize the ultimate purpose of my life is not to be happy. However, when we suffer or when we are going through tough times it helps to find meaning in it. Lately, I’ve been wondering what all the struggle is for. Maybe I’ll never know, but wouldn’t one expect to have at least some inkling of a clue? Like a father or mother knows that they are raising a child and everything they do is for their family or something like that. It doesn’t always make them feel super duper inspired, but there’s a small calm place in their soul that knows it is all for a good reason.

Okay, I know that you have to put an effort into making friends. I am usually pretty good at that. There are no people here to make friends with, they keep to themselves and I’m a single person in a town of married people with families.

I do pray a lot and meditate on scripture.


**If you have set a goal for yourself, patience is required. Do you have a goal for your life in this town and in this job? Something you are trying to attain in this place you are in? If you have no real reason to be there, no specific goal you are working for, there’s no compelling reason to stay there and be miserable. Is your friend trying to sabotage your desire to get out of this little town? He/she may be just as miserable as you, and you know how misery loves company. Your friend can’t live your life for you…you must do what’s right for yourself, and if living in this town is stifling, then go somewhere where you can bloom. **


It sounds like you really feel a need to have a purpose in life. Don’t we all! If this town ain’t cutting the mustard for you, frankly, get out. I lived in a small town for a while. It was fun for the first year, then it got old. I’m much happier living in a bigger city. Small towns are very clique-ish. A co-worker of mine who is 60 just recently decided to join the Peace Corp! She was looking for a purpose and she found one. I hope she’ll be safe, wherever they send her. We are all going through life looking for our purpose. Some call it God’s will. Others call it a purpose. Same thing. If there’s no friends, no marriage prospects, boring job, etc, in this town, why stay? Have you ever looked at It’s a great resource on cities all over the country.


There are some resources on discerning God’s will. Timothy Gallagher has a book on this, and I think Joyce Meyer might have a CD on this.

What I recall from a sermon on this subject is that it is easiest to discern the will of God when you are taking some action. Thus, if you are not happy where you are, then research other options for self improvement or change. Then it will be easier to discern God’s will.

Thus, if a person is moving, he / she can be directed to go left or right etc. It is hard to direct a person until he / she starts moving – was the gist of the sermon.



We don’t know if we are doing God’s will or our own.

Realizing that we don’t know that, we must pray for God to help us do His will and protect us from putting ourselves above Him.

If we have humility about ourselves and realize we can be very wrong about almost anything, we are less likely to drive our spiritual life into the ditch of error.


That sounds like a good sermon, makes sense, you need to be doing something or moving in some direction or other. Thanks.


So how would you know that your prayers are answered? I understand to pray for God’s guidance but how would we know if he is telling us to stay or go?


Hello Grin. I hope you’re feeling better today.

I am a disabled person. I cannot work a job like I used to because of it. I have my days down in the dumps and it is a real challenge BUT I can and do make the morning offering each and every day and my suffering united to God’s can and does save souls in Purgatory because I asked Him to make use of my suffering. It gives much meaning to my suffering. Pain isn’t useless at all. It tells us something is wrong. I’m sorry you are having such a hard time in your life right now but usually after a time of sorrow when joy returns, we find out we grew a little better for it and it can draw us closer to God.



Thanks for your answer Glenda, good insights.


I just started taking a class taught by a priest on “discerning God’s will for your life”. It follows the St. Ignatius discernment process. Fr. recommended the book “The Discernment of Spirits” … just search Amazon and it pops up.


Wow… I think I can relate to many of the things with which you struggle.

I recall, almost four years ago, going to a priest and telling him I felt like the Lord was asking me to spend more time on church and ministry and less time pursuing money. At the time, I was at a good job that I didn’t love and was less and less satisfied the closer I got to Jesus. Sound familiar?

Now, at that time, a wise priest suggested I pray my rosary, go to mass and “bloom where I was planted” for a while. That was NOT what I wanted to hear! I felt like Jesus had just said “Come, follow me” and this priest is telling me to keep acting like “the old man” and act like nothing has changed? I was ready to leave town and start a new life.

I too struggled with the whole “abandonment to providence” concept, feeling like it was some sort of Calvinist denial of free will! “So, Peter should have just stayed on the boat fishing, and not made a decision?” I cried. :eek:

Looking back, I can say that priest was wise but back then I felt hurt and misunderstood. There have been rough times, no doubt. But now I can see the path that has been unfolding these four years.

  • I prayed about that job and was fired unexpectedly. Praise God!

  • I came across a part-time ministry opportunity that truly blessed me and gave me a taste of sharing the gospel.

  • I wound up leaving the church for a year, only to come back with a far deeper respect and understanding of truth.

  • After a year of serving as a catechist and an extraordinary minister of holy communion, people started asking me if I was in seminary, or preparing for the priesthood or diaconate.

Right now, I have received my pastor’s blessing to pursue discernment and seminary- the dream I thought I saw years ago.

What’s my point? Yes, we must trust God. Yes, he has a plan for us. Yes, we have free will. As Padre Pio said, “Pray, don’t worry and trust God.”

Do you wonder why you have to
Feel the things that hurt you
If there’s a God who loves you
Where is He now

Maybe there are things you can’t see
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending
Someday somehow you’ll see you’ll see

Would you dare would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming
So hold on you gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning

My friend you know how this all ends
And You know where you’re going
You just don’t know how you’ll get there
So say a prayer

And hold on cause there’s good for those who love God
But life is not a snapshot
It might take a little time but you’ll see the bigger picture

(from Josh Wilson’s Before the Morning)


I don’t buy it either. You don’t have to stay in this job, you are free to move away and find something better.

I think that the time to act is when you are really fed up and have enough courage to do something about it. My family and I made a big move to Malaysia almost 2 years ago, because both my husband and I were seriously fed up with things at that point. We found it easier than we imagined, things somehow fell into place and all along we had a good feeling about the decision, like it was meant to be.

If you are fed up, just make a decision to find a way to change things and then do it. Don’t listen to people who have no initiative in life and mask that behind some weird idea of God’s will.

Good luck!

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