Not a problem, but a tree
It’s easy to think of vocational discernment as a problem to be solved. Plug the right information in (I like this, I don’t like that; I am good at this, I am not good at that; people say this about me, etc.) and voila… you get an answer. But the answers to the fundamental questions (who am I, why do I exist, and who does God want me to be) are not questions of logic. They can’t just be “figured out.”
A better way to think of discernment is as a tree. After all, it’s Jesus’ analogy; He’s the one who calls us to bear fruit that will last!
Let’s say you are given a tiny sapling and told it will bear fruit after some time. You don’t know what the fruit is at first, but if you think about it, that isn’t the important thing to focus on at the beginning! You need to give your tiny tree good conditions for growing. You need to provide it with fertile soil, give it water, make sure it is in proper light, and protect it from harsh weather. This will take time, effort, and most importantly, patience.
It is only after much cultivation and caring for the tree that you’ll see the first fruit blossoms, followed by the fruits themselves. Only then will you discover with great joy what type of fruit your tree produces.
A vocation also requires a similar cultivation. If we are to produce good fruit, we need to place ourselves in the right conditions, adapting ourselves so that we are open to answering the call of God.
Allowing the Fruit to Mature: Basic conditions for cultivating a vocation
Total Trust in God – God can and will give you the means to overcome any obstacle, no matter how insurmountable it seems. Have a childlike trust in your Heavenly Father and in His limitless love for you.
Faithfulness to Personal Prayer – God longs for you to understand what He wants for you, and will speak to you in your heart. Develop an intimacy with Him through frequent mental prayer. Over time you will hear Him more clearly.
Immersion in the Word of God – Answers are often found in Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels. Allow the Holy Spirit to influence and form your mind and heart by praying with scripture and resting with His Word.
Give Oneself Totally to God – Do not worry about being holy, smart, or talented enough for God’s Plan. Just be willing to give yourself to the Lord as you are, with all your gifts and imperfections. God does great things with a sincere “yes”.
Be Patient – While a sense of urgency in discovering your vocation is good, God’s plan may include allowing you to suffer through periods of doubt and uncertainty. Your faithful patience will be rewarded with “fruit that will last.”