A Lesson in Discernment

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

How do you know if you are following God's will?

Often when people talk about discerning God’s will they are talking about deciding which of 2 choices might happen be God’s will; such as “Is it God’s will that I take this job or not?” Or, “Is it God’s will that I marry this person or not?”

To be sure, God probably has an opinion on both of those questions, but have you ever noticed how He generally does not answer these kinds of questions nearly as often as we ask them?

I know that I have a tendency to go to God expecting a clear answer to which choice I should make. Usually, instead of feeling like He has given me a clear answer to questions like this it usually feels as if I walk away with a new set of questions.

After many years of experiencing the frustrations of trying to force and answer from the divine, I have come to the realization that He just does not think about problems the same way that I do. Perhaps this should be obvious, after all He does tell us “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).”

Even still, I think that we each have a tendency to believe that God operates like we do. He does not!

To Him, life is not a series of “either-this-or-that” choices.

This is one of the reasons we often do not get answers back from Heaven when we ask which of 2 options happens to be His will. In fact, either road may turn out to be equally beneficial or disastrous, depending on the issues at play in our hearts.

For instance, when faced between taking either of two career paths, they may both be equally good, or they may both be distractions from the real purpose we were created; they may both be only for a season so it may not matter much which way we go; it may be that He is developing in us the ability to make our own choices; it may be that He is already leading us in a new direction but we have not realized it yet; etc.

Life is a complex interaction between a myriad of circumstances and events. It is not as black and white as we may like it to be. And, God seems to like hanging out in that gray space of mystery more often than we like.

Even beyond these, and oh so many other possibilities, I have found that the greatest reason He has for not directly answering “either-this-or-that” kinds of questions is that He is working on us at a deeper level than the question we present Him with.

For instance, a few years ago I came to God with a question like “Should I take this job or that one?” I felt Him gently push back at me with a question of His own. I heard deep in my heart something like “What if I don’t have a job for you right now?” This stung! And, it set me on a course of fear: “If there is no job then are you abandoning me? Will my family be broke? Are we going to have to borrow money? Will I ever find a work? How about a job that I enjoy? Will I ever be valued for what I bring vocationally? What will my in-laws think of me if I don’t get a job right now? Why have you forsaken me?” And, just like that “BINGO,” we struck the real issue.

My mouth may have been asking “Should I take this job or that one?” But, behind my question was a mountain of fears and an old would that caused my heart to default to “Why have you forsaken me?” whenever I felt insecure.

So, the real issue was not so black and white, and it wasn’t really even about a job. The real issue was about old fears resurfacing in an unhealed area of my heart.

I am convinced that God is constantly trying to communicate with us and that we often miss is because we are expecting Him to answer us in a certain way.

In truth, hearing from God is often a case of asking the right questions and being willing to allow Him to stir up some uncomfortable feelings in our hearts. After all, spiritual heart surgery is an indispensable part of the Christian life. No one can live a vibrant life of faith filled with rewarding experiences of God without allowing Him to work deeply in our hearts.

Often He uses the stresses and challenges of life to stir up those deep and dormant feelings within.

Of course, those are the real issues we face. Life may present us with challenges in the form of relationships, finances, occupation, health, family, etc., but the real problems we face happen inside our hearts and minds. Our internal issues are really the issues. Life with all its external problems only highlights them—or rubs them the wrong way.

Therefore, the reason that God seldom answers questions like “Do you want me to do this or that?” is that He usually has a deeper purpose in mind than simply alleviating the angst we feel. In fact, that angst may be just what He wants to bring up and draw out in order for us to deal with it and for Him to heal us of it.

So, the next time we feel stuck between the rock and hard place of two choices, and God does not seem to answer our questions as to which route to choose, let us both try to ask a different question.

Let’s try instead to ask something like “God, why does this situation bother me so much?” Or, “God what are you trying to tell me in these circumstances?

I am certain that if we will listen, that God will graciously answer these kinds of questions in way that we can understand. That is what He has done so in my life so thus far.


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