The Key to Discernment

July 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

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The key to discernment is to slow down and through prayer, conversation, and reflection, lay the issue before God. This necessarily involves moving to the place where we are enabled to detach ourselves from the outcome we desire–holy indifference.

–Jeff Gissing

 

There’s a difference between decision-making and discernment. Decision-making is, for the most part, simply a calculus of costs and benefits. If the benefits exceed the costs then we choose “A”; if not, we choose “B.” Discernment is much more ambiguous. Discernment shifts the calculus away from a simple cost/benefit analysis and factors into the equation the values of the Kingdom of God. God regularly invites us to do things that seem counter-intuitive–love our enemies, for example.

Decision-making places us in the driver seat whereas in discernment we place ourselves into a larger conversation, one centered on Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture, and in community with others. The key to discernment is to slow down and through prayer, conversation, and reflection, lay the issue before God. This necessarily involves moving to the place where we are enabled to detach ourselves from the outcome we desire–holy indifference.

In the words of Teresa Blythe:

Can you be at peace with whatever God shows you in this discernment, regardless of the outcome? If not, ask God to help with that? Do you desire to know what God wants in this situation? If there is a fear or a block, acknowledge it and ask God for help.

When we’re dealing with really important questions we typically enter into discernment attached to a certain outcome. For example, in looking at job offers we might desire to move to work closer to our families or we might desire to work in a certain type of organization. Wisdom dictates that we pay attention to our desires, but we mustn’t do so uncritically or absolutely. Our desires aren’t infallible; they’re not the voice of God.

Consequently, healthy discernment means that we move into a place where we become more concerned with what God wants for a question than what we want. This isn’t the same as saying, “whatever!” We will eventually move through this holy indifference to a path forward and toward an answer to our question, but not too quickly. Jumping to resolution isn’t always healthy, even though its often what we most desire. After all, “Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life span?” (Mt. 12).

I recommend Teresa Blthe’s post on discernment as a model for leaning into the hard work of making a decision that is based on discernment. You can read it here.

One of the most freeing things about living new life in Jesus Christ is growing into the realization that we are in control of very little, and that God is in control of all things and all things move in the direction of fulfilling His will.

 

 

 

 

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