J.M.J. “I find myself ‘hearing’ and getting thoughts regularly. How do I know if these thoughts are from God? For example, does it always mean that a thought of rebuking someone is from the devil?”
During the course of a day, each of us experiences many thoughts. Some thoughts are deliberate, while others are passing.
It can be difficult to know exactly what our thoughts mean and from where they come, especially those that seem to pass rather quickly through our minds. For example, I may be walking down the street past a bank and suddenly think: “I really could use the money in the bank to pay my bills. I know what I’ll do: I’ll go in and apply for a loan.”
Or I may think: “I need and deserve that money inside the bank. So, I’ll make plans to steal it.”
Another possibility: “I should be more grateful to God for the financial resources that He has given to me.”
All of the above seem to be passing thoughts.
The first possibility regarding the loan is neutral. It could be prudent or imprudent to act upon it.
The second possibility would be sinful to act upon.
The third possibility is virtuous and should be acted upon.
A passing thought then becomes deliberate upon further and more purposeful reflection. “I shouldn’t apply for a loan because then I’ll be burdened with a significant debt to pay. Perhaps I should limit my spending and then I won’t need a loan.”
Our thought processes often have many contours.
How do we judge the persistent thoughts that we have? We must discern their meaning. Are they thoughts that are pleasing to God? Do they lead me away from Him? Perhaps they are “neutral.”
How do we know whether our thoughts are from God? Spiritual writers suggest several things to do.
First, we should pray. Prayer is our communication with the living God. We invoke the Holy Spirit to give His wisdom to us so that we may know what Our Lord wants of us and how we should respond to His grace.
Second, we should receive the Sacraments. We should avail ourselves of Confession and Holy Communion as often and worthily as possible.
Third, we should turn to Our Lady. The Mother of God knows our human condition and what God desires better than we.
Fourth, we should study. Take up our Holy Bible, pick up our copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, consult the lives of the Saints. The riches of the Church are immense. They are there for our inspiration and education.
Fifth, we should seek counsel. We may select a spiritual director or have recourse to a family member or friend whose advice is sound.
Is a thought of rebuking someone always from Satan? It could be that such a thought is a temptation to become angry. On the other hand, there are situations in which one must issue a word of challenge—even a rebuke—to another because of the circumstances. But here, we must go slowly because it is easy to fall into self-deception.
Virgin most prudent, pray for us.