Discernment accompanies many of my interactions with others in spiritual direction. Directees seek where God is touching their lives. They listen for his guidance, his presence and often they hear their own voices in what needs tending.
What is Discernment?
For me discernment is discovering and articulating how God is moving in our lives. We listen deeply together to identify how the spirit is guiding us in our daily steps and major life moves.
Discernment is the sorting/sifting through all our desires, voices, wants, and needs bombarding our soul and choosing what is best draws us towards God.
I believe we all want to make the best decisions whether they are significant life changing ones or discerning how to best live in everyday life. Facing a difficult time of indecisiveness and confusion twists our guts and fogs our faith. How can we live and thrive and grow as discerning people?
Discernment is more than decision making. To discern in Latin means to discernere –dis = apart and cernere = to separate. We make a choice but as believers we take in all the meanings, consequences, and God’s will into the decision.
We take the options apart, we sift and sort, we listen with an open and receptive heart.
We often think of discernment in the major, life-changing decision in life and rightfully so. Should I marry that person? Do I take that job? What if my situation gets worse, what then?
But I am learning to be a more discerning person in the everyday circumstances too.
“Christian discernment is a practice and a gift from God.
The object of this practice and gift is to come closer to God in all our actions, in all our decisions, and in everything we do.”
Additional Definitions of Discernment
Discernment is a spiritual understanding and an experiential knowledge of how God is active in daily life…Discernment is faith living and listening to God’s love and direction so that we can fulfill our individual calling and shared mission…The purpose of discern is to know God’s will, that is, to find accept and affirm the unique way in which God’s love is manifest in our life.
“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
“Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”
Discernment in its fullness takes a practiced heart, fine-tuned to hear the word of God and the single-mindedness to follow that word in love. It is truly a gift from God, but not one dropped from the skies fully formed. It is a gift cultivated by a prayerful life and the search for self-knowledge.
“Discernment means to separate, distinguish to determine and sort out…Discernment is sifting through our inner and outer experiences to determine their origin – whether they are the voice of our ego or the Spirit.”
Discernment: The Next Right Thing
I have a new favorite podcast: Emily P Freeman’s The Next Right Thing. Her weekly insights in how to choose the “next right thing” in our lives are full of wisdom and hope in every broadcast.
In one episode she shared:
“I haven’t done the research myself, but I’ve seen the number thrown around the internet that adults make over 35,000 decisions every day. Every choice we make determines our life in big and small ways. But with the state of our soul and the pace of our lives, are we giving ourselves the room we need to make thoughtful decisions, much less ones that actually reflect who we are and what we feel called to? My audacious goal in these few minutes we have together on Tuesdays is to help create space for your soul to breathe so that you can discern and decide your next right thing.”
In another episode she says, “Now when it comes to hard decisions, I don’t wait two weeks to ask this question. I ask it at the first sign of hesitation. Am I being led by love or pushed by fear? The answer to that question isn’t always clear but I continue to carry it with me into every hard decision.”
One simple but difficult question to hold when discerning: Am I being led by love or pushed by fear? Isn’t that powerful? And helpful in discernment.
Another Tip for Discernment
I have always been a good decision maker who sees thing fairly quickly and likes to make my mind up in a fast fashion. I am learning to slow down and to listen more in discernment.
Several years ago, I wrote a post here on Healthy Spirituality called “Blue tooth discernment” and it is worth adding to this current discussion of this practice.
In essence, I am trying to pause before saying yes, before deciding, before determining a direction in life.
Pause and listen to God. And to my own heart before proceeding.
Living with questions when we want clear answers is messy, occasionally conflicting and takes courage to persevere through God’s gentle unfolding, evolving and shaping in our lives.
A few years ago, I compiled “21 Questions to Help You in the Practice of Discernment” and you can get this list free guide by clicking on the button below.
What helps you in discernment?