Discernment is one of the main reasons people seek out a spiritual director. They genuinely desire to hear God clearer and experience the divine in a deeper way for guidance and growth.
Discernment is intentional decision making in the light of God. This essential spiritual practice is one we keep learning about on our entire walk with God. I have featured this practice several times in the past here and here on Healthy Spirituality.
One of the difficulties in discernment is the multiple options we now have in our lives. Maybe we can choose between something wrong vs right or hateful vs. loving, but what about those gray areas with many in-between choices? Most of our possibilities fall in the middle of the spectrum with a large range of advantages and disadvantages.
Good Better Best Use in the Foggy Middle
One technique I have been using when discerning my next right step is to list the viable and realistic choices and then rate them: Good, Better, Best. To be honest, the best choice isn’t always the right choice. And please note this isn’t the only tool to use in wise decision making. It is only one additional way we may hear God’s direction.
As I struggle – and sometimes it is very difficult – to rank my options in this order, I have the opportunity to explore all possible answers and name exactly what I am desiring/needing as I try to follow God’s will. My heart unfolds in more openness to receiving God’s guidance. New ideas emerge I hadn’t considered, and others fade away. Often, I see the difference between want and need better and my ego clinging to only one way instead of compromise.
I experience freedom in these types of choices. Knowing the Good ones are the bottom line, the basic level provides insight to what is actually occurring within my heart. There are times my next right step is the Good option due to time, convenience, urgency, and perhaps the needs of others.
When I hold the option out into the light of Better and Best – my excuses fall away. At times, the Good choice was just the easy one. I find myself considering how my decision not only affects me, but others around me. Better and Best lead me to a wider, more compassionate view.
When I reflect back onto decisions made the past day or week, I can use good-better- best as a tool to assess my discerning and learn from my mistakes. Were there other options I never considered or would have been better/best, but in the rush to make a final decision, I never considered? I am better prepared (or hope I am) the next time I face this fork in the road.
I enjoyed reading a few years ago Lysa TerKerusts book The Best Yes. Here are a few quotes of wisdom from her:
“If I’m trusting myself, I will stare at all the possible ways I could fail. If I’m trusting God, I will stare at all the possible ways He’ll use this whether I fail or succeed.”
“Imagine this opportunity as an amazingly attractive but fast-moving river. There is so much that looks extremely appealing about this river, you’re going to be tempted to jump right in. But once you are in the river, you have diminished your ability to make decisions. That river is moving so fast that it will take you where it is going. And if you haven’t carefully traced out in advance whether you want to go through and to the places that river flows, you’ll be in trouble.”
“Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.”
About 10 years ago I received a phone call from an influential friend asking me to come work with him. My ego was honored to be asked. I possessed the gifts and skills to offer and contribute to the job. The work presented a flexible schedule. All good, right?
I really struggled to say yes or no. I even spent a day in a training to gather more information about the work to test my interest and discern God’s will. What was the good/better/best decision?
One morning in my office, I prayed “What do I do, Lord? Do I take this job or not?”
I heard a gentle whisper back, “What does your gut tell you?”
I chuckled. “To be honest, Lord, my gut says no.”
“Then that is the decision.”
Well, I argued with God. Anyone else ever doubt what you are hearing and hold a lively debate with God?
After a few minutes of restating why I should take the job – it did fit me pretty good – I heard the Lord say, “Jeanie, no matter which way you go I will be with you and bless your way. What is your best decision?”
I knew then not to take the job. God was right – Duh! Immediately I felt the fight over, and peace descend upon my heart.
A lesson in discernment.
Good – Better – Best – a simple tool that may offer insight and guide our discerning with the many choices we face in life.
What helps you in discernment? Share a time you wrestle with a decision and what finally help you?