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Freedom in Christ: Practicing Discernment of Spirits

Freedom in Christ

Freedom in ChristLiving in Freedom through Discernment of Spirits

What chains or addictions are holding you back? We all have our own addictions, our own struggles that we can never seem to shake and keep us from living a life of freedom in Christ. For some, it doesn’t take much digging to know what plagues them. For others, it may take some searching to find in the depths of their heart the things that hold them back from living in the freedom of Christ in which they were created to live.

The struggle that holds me back the most is a struggle with negative thoughts. The battle with negativity can often impact my spiritual life. I can fall into the habit of buying into the lies of the devil and believe that God does not look out for my best interests. This is a lie from the pits of hell. When we believe the lies of the devil, it becomes ever so easy to run from prayer, when, in fact, we need to be running to prayer. In order to resist the temptation to negative thoughts, it is important to stay sober and vigilant as 1 Peter 5 instructs:

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.”

– 1 Peter 5:8-9

Being aware of the spiritual battle going on is the first step. Learning to practice discernment of spirits can help you identify the ways in which you can fall into negativity, or whatever it is that you struggle with the most. Once you identify the triggers, you can learn to combat them and continue on the path of freedom in Christ.

St. Philip Neri once said, “There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.” The devil wants to hinder our prayer because he knows that a soul devoted to mental prayer is a soul safe in the hands of God. The devil wants us to stop praying when prayer gets dry. But the fact of the matter is we must push through dryness in order to progress in the spiritual life.

The spiritual life always involves s extent of fluctuation between consolation and desolation, comfort and aridity. St. Ignatius wrote extensively about this concept in his Spiritual Exercises, but this concept can be found in saints throughout the history of the Church. The more you read from the saints, the more you realize that they all experienced the patterns of consolation and desolation, but that didn’t stop them from pursuing God. Desolation reminds us of our spiritual poverty, our utter dependence on the grace of God. We cannot achieve sanctification or any sort of unity with God by our own efforts, but it does require our cooperation with the grace of God. He wants us to say yes to Him so that His grace can consume and transform us. How are you going to say yes to Him today?

I can testify from personal experience that learning about this great tradition of the Church can set you free. Although there will always be sin and suffering in this world, Discernment of Spirits can help you to break free of the chains that hold you back. With the help of this great tradition, we can begin to have a taste of the radical freedom in Christ about which St. Paul says:

“For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

In Ephesians, St. Paul refers to the spiritual battle using the analogy of battle armor to tell Christians to resist the devil and his temptations.

“Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in the truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

– Ephesians 6:13-17

To enter into the spiritual life is to enter into a battle. Scripture makes this clear. What are you doing to prepare yourself for this battle? Are you equipped to fight the battle? Or are you failing to stay sober and vigilant, constantly on guard for the subtle ways the enemy seeks to creep in unnoticed?

The tradition of discernment of spirits can help us discover the riches laid out for us in Scripture. Scripture, Tradition, and mental prayer work together to help us to discover the depths of God and the reality of His presence in our lives. Living this reality is a beautiful experience that no one can take away from you. Living this battle is always worth it. The result is true freedom in Christ that the world cannot provide.

If you want to go even deeper, we offer a course on Discernment of Spirits at the Avila Institute, where you can also take exciting courses like Foundations of Prayer, Growth in Holiness, and Evangelization in the Spiritual Life to name a few. It’s free to apply for the School of Spiritual Formation, and you can take classes at your own pace, as few or as many as you desire.


Art: Resurrection, Corbert Gauthier, 2010, copyright, all rights reserved, used with permission; Individual stained glass detail of Archangel Michael, taken from Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Cathedral of Our Lady of Solitude – [Our Most Sorrowful Lady]) [Diocese of Acapulco], artist not identified, photographed by Enrique López-Tomayo Biosca, 15 February 2013, CCA-2.0 Generic, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dylan Jedlovec

Dylan Jedlovec was formerly an Operations Administrative Assistant at the Avila Foundation, parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio. Finishing up an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Economics from Samford University, Dylan is first and foremost a disciple of Christ and a son of the Church. Dylan has a heart for evangelization on college campuses, and has worked closely with FOCUS as a student missionary and served as President of the Catholic Student Association at Samford. As a member of the University Fellows Program at Samford, Dylan developed a love for the writings of the Saints, particularly the Doctors of the Church, through his studies of the core texts of the Western Intellectual Tradition. This love for the rich intellectual tradition of the faith brought him to the Avila Foundation, where he seeks to further the kingdom through feeding Christ’s sheep. In his free time, Dylan enjoys watching baseball, reading, hiking, running, and lifting weights (although you can’t really tell).

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