Counsel, one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, helps us make the right choices in life, from major decisions to small. (CNS illustration; photo by Paul Haring)

“Lord, if you could just tell us what to do, like, now … that would be much appreciated.”

It was a dark and rainy Friday evening in Rockville, Maryland, when my husband and I prayed for an answer to the biggest question of our married life. We had received a match from our adoption agency — pictures, video and medical files of a child from China’s Shandong province.

We had one week to decide if this little boy on the other side of the world was to be our son.

We sent the file to various medical specialists to learn all we could about this child’s condition and prognosis. The answers we got were tentative. His future was completely unpredictable (but isn’t that always the case?).

We weren’t afraid. We knew that God would provide for this child’s needs, and ours. But were we meant to say yes? Was this completely crazy?

Our time to decide was almost over. So there we were, standing in the church parking lot in the rain, looking up at a statue of the risen Christ.


“Please, Jesus, we need to decide now.”

When we finished our prayer, we decided to go inside the church. As we entered, we saw that there was some sort of service going on — but it wasn’t in any language we understood. My husband asked someone what was going on, and they told him it was the Stations of the Cross — in Chinese.

Answers to prayer aren’t always as obvious as this. This was a special grace, for sure. But even so, in the life of a Christian, when we ask the Lord for advice, he often stirs our hearts to lead us toward the right path.

The gift of counsel is how the Holy Spirit acts within us to guide us as we make decisions. Not just the big ones, but everyday ones too, like what to say or how to act in a difficult situation.

“When we receive and welcome him into our heart, the Holy Spirit immediately begins to make us sensitive to his voice and to guide our thoughts. … Counsel, then, is the gift through which the Holy Spirit enables our conscience to make a concrete choice in communion with God, according to the logic of Jesus and his Gospel,” Pope Francis said in a general audience May 2014.

Jesus is alive, and he desires an intimate relationship with each of us. How often do we remember that we can go to the Lord himself for advice when we need it?

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” These words of Jesus from John 10:27 show us what it means to live with this beautiful gift of counsel. The more we pray and seek the Lord’s will in every situation, the more we come to know and recognize his voice in our hearts.

When we have a difficult situation at work, a family relationship issue, questions of vocational discernment or even an in-the-moment parenting dilemma, the Holy Spirit is there. He cares for all of it. Our smallest worry, we can hand over to him.

Was it a crazy idea to choose to parent a child from the other side of the world?

Yes, and it was the most wonderful choice we’ve ever made.

We need the gift of counsel even more now as we navigate the road of parenting and special needs. Every day, every moment provides a chance to look to up and ask, “What now, Lord?”

Relying on the Lord for his counsel, trusting in his goodness, we’re learning to recognize the voice of our Shepherd leading us home.


Poulos is a freelance writer based in Maryland.