In the process of discernment we should become aware of four voices and need to learn to distinguish them from one another. These four voices are the Lord’s, our own, the world’s, and the devil’s. Being attuned to the voice of God, as the previous steps have led us toward, will make the other voices easier to separate. It is not always easy to tell these voices apart from one another, therefore discernment requires time, patience and perseverance in the face of struggle.
The Voice of the Lord
The Lord’s voice is that which is communicating His constant and unfailing love to us. We hear His voice through Divine Revelation, both in Holy Scripture and in Holy Tradition, and in the Magisterium of His Church, urging us to do that which is good, to trust in Him and to sacrifice out of love. Discouragement and confusion are never the voice of Jesus, which expresses courage and truth as he calls us to a deeper conversion in the face of sin.
With regard to your vocation, be assured that He is calling you, as a man, to one vocation - either the priesthood, consecrated life or marriage. His voice is never deceptive and He will give you the graces to accomplish whatever that particular vocation is. When we are tempted to think that Jesus is calling us to a life that we do not want or cannot accomplish, it is not His voice that we are hearing, but that of another.
Our own voice
Our own voice is expressed in the deep down desires of our heart. With maturity comes an ordered awareness of these desires and the ability to fulfill them. As a man you are designed by God to desire to be heroic, to change the world for the better, and to love and serve the Lord Jesus with all that you are by loving and serving his creation. Be assured that because it was He who put those desires in your heart, it is He who will allow you to fulfill them. Sometimes, however, our deepest desires are in conflict. The sinfulness of our fallen nature can clamor loudly. Sometimes our voice is in conflict with the voice of the Lord. We are always in need of deeper conversion.
The Voice of the World
The voice of the world is a voice that is under the dominion of the devil, and thus could be considered an extension of his voice. It calls us to put our trust in the things of this world: prestige, money, fame, relationships, importance. It is the voice we hear in advertising, on TV shows, and in much of the music on the radio. The “noise” mentioned before is part of the voice of the world. This voice tempts us to forget about Heaven, our salvation and the Lord’s call in our life. The alluring things that appeal to the flesh often drown out the voice of Jesus and His love.
The Voice of the Devil
The voice of the devil is that voice that is always trying to lead us away from Jesus and to keep us enslaved to him. His voice always tells us to doubt the Lord’s goodness and not to trust in Him. It is the voice that says, “I know more than He does.” It is the voice that tells us to say “no” to Jesus. The most obvious example of the voice of the devil is the temptation to sin, but he can be very cunning, and as St. Paul says can appear as an angel of light. If the devil cannot get us to listen to sin, he then will try to get us to choose something that, while good in itself, is not the good that Jesus wants for us. In other words, the devil’s voice can try to make us choose a less perfect life than that which God has prepared for us.
Conclusion: Be Not Afraid
Confusion, frustration and sometimes outright rebellion can be part of the process of exploring your vocation. Nevertheless Jesus tells us, “Be not afraid. I am here.” His love can conquer everything, and if we open ourselves to the power of His grace, we will come to find our vocation. Jesus’ desire to tell us is infinitely greater than our desire to know. We need but say with simple hearts, “Jesus, I trust in Thee.”