Discernment of Spirits and Discernment of God’s will
According to Traub (2008), Ignatius Loyal described the approach of discernment into two sets of rules; discernment of spirits and discernment of God’s will. Ignatius believed that discernment of spirit identifies the interior movement of one’s spirit. Contrary, discernment of God’s will identify a considerable choice that one makes to live a life that aligns with God’s purpose. Discernment is crucial in Ignatius spirituality in that, it’s a God’s gift achieved simultaneously when we choose to abide in the future promised by God. Ignatius spirituality points out that we acquire discernment by aligning ourselves with God’s will that demands one to live a truly and fully human life. Through discernment, one goes beyond avoiding evil, but seeks ways that enable one to achieve God’s purpose. This paper seeks to analyze the two types of discernment as described by Ignatian spirituality.
Discernment of spirits is what St. Ignatius referred as “motions of the soul” (Woodgate, 1977). It has interior movements that consist of emotions, desires, feelings, attractions, repulsions, and thoughts. Discernment of spirits regards an individual to understand their origin and their effect. Ignatius highlights rules of discernment spirits derived from spiritual exercise that recognizes that, good and evil spirits causes interior movements. Discernment of spirit allows one to follow actions good spirit and reject those of evil spirit. Ignatius describes discernment of spirit as the way of articulating God’s desire or will in life. In this context, Ignatius recognizes that evil spirit is greater than we are and this dimension stirs feelings of being content with sin. In contrast, good spirit stirs feelings of discontent and remorse to the sinful nature of life. Those living a life pleasant to God are encouraged, consoled, and strengthened by the good spirits. On the other hand, the evil spirit attributes confusion, sadness, anxiety, and frustration. Ignatius argument for discernment of spirit provides a framework that requires inner quiet and ability to reflect on following good spirit. One must be ready to adjust and improvise since God works in a unique way. Studies document that; the feelings attributed by evil and good spirits refer as desolation and consolation as described in Ignatian spirituality language (O’Leary, 2009). Spiritual desolation is the experience of a soul in turmoil or darkness that causes confusion, anxiety, and restlessness, which makes one to live without love and hope. On the other hand, spiritual consolation is the aspect of being on fire with God’s love that inspires one to love, praise, and serve God. It facilitates and encourages a sense of gratefulness for God’s mercy, companionship, and faithfulness in our lives. It enhances the feeling of being more connected and alive to others.
To Woodgate (1977); sensitivity of God’s wills involves choices that one makes in life, and direct one to live a life in accord with God’s will. Ignatian spirituality regards that, on a daily basis, we make decisions on how to spend our time, prioritize our goals, and pay attention to doing what is right. Perspicacity of God’s wills enables an individual follow the right path and make good decisions. The key principle of this discernment is to make choices that expand our relationship with Jesus. Through God’s discernment, we can tackle the density of decision-making by inviting God to be our guide and shepherd. This discernment instructs and guides our hearts to choices and decisions that closer us to God. One must align to God’s will thus; discern when the evil or good spirit is operating in our lives. In this case, one discovers that God is a being who desires to flourish our lives. An individual with Discernment of God’s will comprehend that everything derived from God is beneficial and everyday hanker for God’s guidance and abide to his will. As one grows in God’s will, he obeys God’s voice more frequently through the ‘inner voice” or circumstances. God’s discernment requires one to exercise judgment of whether God is acting or not. Ignatian explore that; someone with God’s discernment understands his voice as patient, kind, and forgiving, encouraging, and bad spirit as impatient, negative, harsh, and condemning. One understands the dramatic difference between the two spirits, which in turn, helps one to make sober decisions in life. Discernment of God’s will obligates one to understand what pleases God, one that spends quality time in prayers, and humble to follow God’s direction. One who solemnly strives to do God’s will is discontent with sin but finds pleasure in doing what pleases God. Certainly, such an individual; finds peace, joy, happiness, and strength in fulfilling God’s will. He is consistent to follow God’s direction in his life and committed to recognizing God’s voice.
Conclusively, the two discernments majors on the subject of following God’s will and trusting his guidance. Ignatius concept of discernment is deep in content on the discernment of spirits and God’s will.
O’Leary, B. (2009). Ignatian spirituality. Dublin: Messenger Publications.
Traub, G.W. (2008). An Ignatian Spirituality Reader. London: Loyola Press
Woodgate, M. J. (1977). Ignatian spirituality. Ilfracombe: Stockwell.
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