Henri Nouwen, the world-renowned spiritual guide and counselor, understood the spiritual life as a journey of faith and transformation that is deepened by accountability, community, and relationships. And the practice of discernment is about how to read the 'signs of the times' in daily life in order to know what next to do. Nouwen's witness is that there is a way of life that helps one discern one's calling and mission through the people we meet on our path, in the events and circumstances that each day brings, in the books and sacred texts we read and meditate on, and in current events of our times. In listening to the Word of God, in our hearts, in the scripture, in the community of faith, and in the voice of the poor, we can discern the 'signs of the times' and to know what to do. Discernment seeks the will of God, requiring the disciplines of contemplative prayer, compassionate action and theological reflection.
Nouwen was concerned with discerning the presence of God in the world, in community, in his own vocation during the different seasons of his life, in prayer and action as he tired to listen to and obey God.
Though he counseled many people during his lifetime, his principles of discernment were never written down. Two of Nouwen's longtime students, Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird, have taken his coursework, journals, and Nouwen's unpublished writings to create the definitive series work Nouwen's thoughts on discernment, a topic of perennial interest for spiritual seekers and Christians alike who are asking the question: what should I do with my life?