Are intuition and reason really at war with one another? {Book Club}

Before we get started, would you please take this short, four question survey — even if you’ve never participated in the book club — to help choose the next book (and future books?). Thanks! Book club survey

Do you already know what we are going to discuss today?

Today we continue with  The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and are talking about Guidepost #5 — Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith (get it … did you know? Oh it’s the small things that bring a smile or a groan). If you’ve missed any of our earlier discussions, you can find them by clicking on the introductory chaptersThe things that get in the way and Guidepost #1 (Cultivating Authenticity), Guidepost #2 (Cultivating Self-Compassion), Guidepost #3-– Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting go of numbing and powerlessness, and Guidepost #4 — Cultivating Gratitude and Joy.

Last week in the comments I linked this Ted Talk, talking about how to make stress your friend. Of all the things last week, it elicited the most response 🙂 … even from me as I said, “#3 WHOA — I need to change the way I talk about and respond to stress.” And at the very end of the talk Kelly McGonigal references meaning and resiliency!! Like her, I have done plenty of training about stress (but for me it’s been related to being a cross-cultural worker) and I, too, feel I need to atone by getting a healthier, more God inspiring, message out there. So, here is the video and if you’re reading this in an email, click here).

If you watched this last week and want to re-watch it with someone and you are anything like me, you will sit next to them and just smile knowing what’s coming up. And when they look at you with wide eyes at different points, you can go “I know, I KNOW!”

You might wonder what this TED Talk has to do with intuition and faith. The subtitle of the chapter is “letting go of certainty.” I’m not certain you needed that video, but I intuited it would be good for you :). Like how I did that?

Brene states that another way of looking at intuition is “listening to your gut.” I’d also add as believers, it’s trusting the Holy Spirit to be at work in our lives and when we intuit something and have a track record of walking with God, to trust it is from God. Anyone else been there with the polling of people? And trying to get other’s opinions? What areas might you have seen yourself poll more than you needed on the field?

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” This definition speaks to me.

I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb and share something that drives me nuts and I know not all of you are going to agree with me. In Christian circles, it pushes my buttons when people hide behind “God language” and say things like “God told me to tell you ….” instead of saying, “Hey, there’s something I need to tell you. When you are late for team meetings (or make fun of the locals or never have money on you when we go out to eat), it bothers me. I mean like A LOT. Could you ….?”

I see the “God language” as a way to create certainty, instead of leaning into and owning the uncertainty.

Brene mentioned “When I’m really scared or unsure, I need something right away to clam my cravings for certainty.” What have you found that helps you calm your craving for certainty? I’ll share mine in the comments 🙂

What else got stirred up in your thoughts and soul this week as you read?

Until the comments … Amy

P. S. Congrats to Elisa and Alex on winning copies of Mary DeMuth’s Not Marked 

Photo Credit: ЕленАндреа via Compfight cc

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazonany purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. Amy Young April 7, 2014

    Thanks for the book suggestions whoever made them 🙂 … this is the down side of the survey, I don’t have a way to contact you and have no idea who you are. Feel NO pressure to identify yourself! The Sparrow is one of my all time fav cross cultural books and I had suggested it for January, but as you said, a bit graphic so Danielle and I decided to earn some credibility before launching into that one. BUT some where down the road I’d love to! And another book group I’m in is doing “My name is Asher Lev” by Potok (loved you suggested it). I’ve read two of the books I suggested as well :), but it’s been a while since I read them. Anyway, thank you so much for the suggestions! Culture Making by Andy Crouch is amazing, isn’t it?! I’ll stop here before I babble too much :). You might like the messy middle (my blog’) quarterly newsletter that will come out this week — I share the 12 memoirs I’ve read since June :). Toodles!

  2. morielle April 8, 2014

    A quote from a memoir I finished this afternoon that really hit me (and, I think, really resonates with your ideas here): “Paul asks the question, ‘Do we nullify the law through faith?’ His answer is, ‘Of course not! On the contrary, we establish the law.’ How? It connects us with God in a manner that we can start living by risk (i.e. faith) and quit being tied up in knots about whether we’re doing it right or not…..Though justification is a legal term in Greek and English, there’s nothing in the epistle to suggest that justification is merely about being right ‘on the books’. It’s about being right before God. What does he value? What does he consider righteous? God reckons the man who has faith as righteous, not the man who tries to keep all the laws…..trying to be perfect by keeping the laws doesn’t work…..eventually you slip up. The better way is the life of faith.” (At the Foot of the Snows 228)

    1. Kimberly Todd April 8, 2014

      I’m so curious how you came to read the Watters’s book. One of our sending groups sends Steve and his family as well, so we have us a little chat whenever we’re home at the same time. Love that you are reading and quoting this incredible family.

      1. morielle April 9, 2014

        My mom came to visit me over the winter holiday and was reading the book. She finished it and left it with me. I LOVED it. So many threads really hit me: struggling with doubts and discouragement, encounters with the reality of the local religion, wondering if what they were doing was ethical, finding such beautiful ways to express scripture within the cultural context….man. I cried a lot. You are super lucky to actually know Steve! The discussion in the book of translating 1 Corinthians 13 really reminded me of your post on Love a while back. They actually had no abstract noun to use, so they made the passage describe a person “whose heart reaches out”.  So powerful.

        1. Kimberly Todd April 9, 2014

          Excellent. I haven’t read the book yet, but now it will be the first one off my shelf when I get back to my parents’ home again.

    2. Amy Young April 8, 2014

      And what a great way to look at faith — we ARE going to slip up, but the way of faith is the better way :). Thanks Morielle.

  3. Kimberly Todd April 8, 2014

    Because of this chapter I reread Coelho’s The Alchemist and loved it all over again. This quote speaks to me about intuition and uncertainty: “He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

    1. Elisa April 8, 2014

      Kim love this quote too and have never read this book.  It’s now on my very long list. But towards the top. 😉  As in I might read it next after I finish the novel I’m on. 😉 Any suggestions on how to approach reading it?  Or just jump in and love it?

      1. Kimberly Todd April 8, 2014

        just jump in and love it!

    2. Amy Young April 8, 2014

      Kim, what a beautiful response to this chapter! — and anyone else, did you smile as you read the quote? Oh that river, I know her.

  4. Emily Thomas April 8, 2014

    That TED Talk was so good! Thanks for “intuiting” (is that a word?) that we’d need that.

    To answer your question: I can only calm my desire for certainty through reading the Bible and through hearing stories of what God has done and is doing in the lives of others. THEN I have to very intentionally remember them because I lose focus on what is True quickly. I love the idea of writing down on stones what God has done and keeping them in a garden or something. I think I might need to make my own stones of remembrance for my house.

    1. Brittany April 9, 2014

      Emily, I love the idea about the stones.  My husband and I started doing that when we got married.  We collected our Ebenezers and then found that with all the moving we do, and ALL THE AWESOME THINGS we’ve seen God do for us, we couldn’t continue with stones.  It’s a great reminder of the evidence that God is for us and that when all else is uncertain, HE is sure.

  5. Elisa April 8, 2014

    I LOVED this chapter! As I’m living through and struggling with exhaustion that was so bad it made me not trust my intuition and hate uncertainty.  I’m learning (strong on the -ing) what really does calm my cravings for certainty.  I’m a pretty opinionated girl, with strong convictions and one that can let those convictions turn into condemnations.  I’ve always struggled with being over spiritual or over self-righteous and judgmental because of how strongly I judged myself and tend to set perfection as a standard. My mis-understanding and wrong beliefs of  perfection haven’t only hurt me but tend to leak into the sin of doing the same with others (judging).  Perfectionism has been a life long struggle for me.  And even in the midst of my current valley it’s a lie that I keep having to beat down (or give into depending on the day).  I keep having to remind myself that everyone and everything around is broken, including me.  And that brokenness is just a fact of life.  That being broken isn’t bad, it’s just makes things harder and that I was made eventually to be perfect and live in a perfect world.  I can so easily comfort and tell others this truth but I can’t seem to really believe it in the way I divvy out high expectations for myself.  So, back to what I’m learning…I’m learn-ING that my quenching of my thirst for certainty can be great and very different depending on the day.  I’m learning that sometimes it really is the prayers of others over means in-person that helps. OR reading the same verse over and over and singing P&W that really helps.  BUT sometimes the answer is less  spiritual and EQUALLY GOOD!  Sometimes, it’s just making time to go to the gym, or cook something from scratch, or yes, even watching a TV show or reading a novel (I know, I know… it that can all be addictive if you let it but in it’s own place and correct time frame perfectly “restful” for me).  I’ve learned in the last week that where I am now is totally different than where I was this time last week or last month.  (Praise Him)  And that going to the gym after this post and DO-ing something productive and purposeful during the rest of my time on home-assignment can naturally give me a rhythm/good level of certainty that will also help me rest well instead of BE rest-LESS.  Amy thanks for talking me into joining the discussion and book club.  This chapter and last weeks video were excellent and exactly what I needed. 🙂  Off to the gym…

    1. Amy Young April 8, 2014

      Elisa, thanks for such a thoughtful comment. I’m late for a meeting so will come back and comment more later. As I was sitting here thinking about your comment, I looked out the window and the breeze was moving the branches of the trees. As beautiful an act as others you mentioned. Scripture does point out that trees praise God, and I think we can praise him in greater variety we realize. Cooking can be a form of faith, of praise, of connection with God, ourselves, and others.

      The branches move, open to the wind and I wonder where else do I need to let go of certainty?

  6. Elisa April 8, 2014

    Emily,I really resonate with your response.  Looking forward to being in a community group with you.

  7. Brittany April 9, 2014

    I struggled with this chapter.  I guess that means I’ve got some things to work through, for sure.  I’ve always thought intuition has it’s place.  So as I first was reading the chapter, I saw a lot of red flags.  I felt like she was saying we shouldn’t seek out Godly counsel for big decisions or even small ones.  However, as I read further, I understand that intuition can tell us that we don’t have good instinct on something and need more info (i.e. counsel/advice?).  As I search the Scriptures, I see numerous times where wisdom comes from seeking Godly counsel.  But I also know from experience that “Godly counsel” is sometimes a disguise for someone to say “God told me to tell you that it isn’t wise to get married so young.”  Or “It’s not God’s will for you to take such young children to live overseas.”  I’ve also been guilty of just making a decision because I’m tired of thinking about it anymore.  “…it’s a good idea to ask ourselves whether we simply can’t stand the vulnerability of being still long enough to think it through and make a mindful decision.” (p. 93)  Ouch.  As if decision making wasn’t hard enough!  I just want to make the right decisions!  I don’t want to be wrong!  I’m scared!  That’s it.  I’m scared.

    I feel like for the believer, the relationship between intuition and faith is fairly obvious.  Would “discernment” be synonymous with intuition?  Doesn’t the Holy Spirit play the part of intuition?

    I don’t know if any of my thoughts are connecting, or if I’m making any sense.  Maybe you can see the struggle I’ve been having this week.  This is all stuff I’ve been journaling through.  I think I like the chapters that are easier for me, lol.

    1. Elisa April 11, 2014

      Brittany,  I thought your flow of thought made sense to me and was easy to follow.  I think the questions and struggles that you brought up from the chapter were some of the same ones I too was working out in my own context.

      Your question about discernment and intuition and the Holy Spirit being a part of that… I think the easy answer is, “Yes, of course the HS plays a role.  I think that discernment and intuition are often words we use interchangeably.”  But as to whether they can always be used interchangeably…I think there are times that we as Christians call things “discernment” that really is more related to the example you gave above: “God told me to tell you…”.  We have the tendency to over-spiritualize things to MAKE THEM “right” or at the very least more palatable to others.  It’s a fine line; a grey area.  And as I’m walking through similar struggles in my own context I’m finding out that Jesus was more grey than black and white.  He was counter-cultural.  He lived a paradoxical life.  BUT He was God.  And I’m not.  So this whole thing is hard and should be a struggle for me.  Just not one that consumes me or puts me in bondage.  For I’m also to walk in the freedom of this verse (Rom. 8:1-2) and whole chapter.

      All that to say, Brittany.  I journaling a lot about this too.  It was awesome to read your post because the way you processed this chapter was very similar to how I did.  It’s nice to know I’m not alone! 🙂  Thanks for sharing!

      1. Elisa April 11, 2014

        So would anyone else out there help me answer this question: what  is true discernment? I’m even more interested in this question though: What are the warning signs or red flags when I either receive “discernment” from another or give “discernment” to others?

    2. Amy Young April 11, 2014

      LOVE it that you helped us understand where you’re coming from –“I’m scared.” I’m guessing 🙂 (another word for intuition? Not going to go that far!), that reason feels more concrete than intuition, and maybe a bit more comforting when fear rears up her ugly head and says, “You’re going to do WHAT?! Really, is that a good idea?” Reason at least can answer back with a list instead of “feelings.”

  8. Elisa April 9, 2014

    So here is a picture of how I can sometimes feel when I’m uncertain about something.  In the picture that I found online I’m the Teddy Bear.  The word/thought bubbles are mine.  Sometimes humor helps me grasp deep concepts. 🙂  Hope you all enjoy this. I had fun making it!  After reading Guidepost 5 uncertainty makes more sense to me.  “Aslan is good but he’s not safe”  Safe to me sometimes can mean certain but those words can’t always be interchangeable because our God is GOOD and if safe is a good word to me…Well, to me He’s safe (Because He’s my refuge and ever-present help in times of trouble) but he’s unpredictable for sure!  I can never be completely certain of anything outside of Him!

    Cartoon Credit:

  9. Elisa April 9, 2014

    Here’s the cartoon mentioned above.

  10. Amy Young April 9, 2014

    Click here to see Elisa’s cartoon. Don’t know why I can’t get it to show up any other way … but I am accepting this gift of imperfection and offering it to you 🙂

  11. Shelly April 12, 2014

    I think the question of the relationship between intuition and discernment is an interesting one.  Allow me to think out loud with you on this question.

    First, the definitions. Discernment is defined as “keen perception/judgment” and “the ability to see and understand people, things, or situations clearly and intelligently.” Wisdom is a synonym that is said to be an integration of truth and just action. James defines godly wisdom as being “first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). It’s more than intelligence or intellectual knowing.

    Intuition is defined in online dictionaries as “immediate apprehension” (not fear, but knowing or perception). I don’t think this is contrary to what Brene offers as a definition, but she certainly expands it. She writes that intuition is “an ABILITY to hold space for uncertainty and a WILLINGNESS to trust” our multifaceted knowing, which includes “instinct, experience, faith, and reason” (93).

    Second, an illustration. Let’s consider a situation in which I sense that a friend is “at odds” or “feeling awkward” with me, but nothing has been said or done to give concrete evidence of this. I feel it and I don’t ignore it. (Maybe that is facing the uncertainty since I really don’t know what the friend is feeling or thinking.) Now, do I trust that this sense, or intuition, is accurate and worth acting on in some way? Well, I scan my past experiences with my friend, note times when we have in fact been “at odds” or “awkward” with one another, recall ways we have worked it out, and so I say “yes” to myself, and choose to engage the friend.

    Here is where, I think, discernment (wisdom) is needed in order to act in a way that brings wholeness rather than more brokenness.  Here, is where I need to call upon the Holy Spirit to lead me into all truth, so that I may act wisely (with discernment).  Here is where I need faith (her other point in this chapter) to let go of my fear of uncertainty about the outcome of the soon-to-happen interaction with my friend. Here is where I must “decide to live and love with [my] whole heart in a world where [I] want assurances before [I] risk being vulnerable and getting hurt” (94). Here is where I need ti courageously declare to myself that “I’m going to engage Wholeheartedly in my life” (94).

    So, I think discernment works alongside intuition. Perhaps it’s similar to the way she describes the “gut” telling us to slow down or get more information. Listening to the “gut,” might be compared to “testing the spirits,” which the apostles exhorted believers to do. It’s applying wisdom to that multifaceted knowing that Brene calls “intuition.”

    Would love to hear from you Elisa and Brittany, since you opened up this question. 🙂

    1. Brittany April 13, 2014

      Shelly, I appreciate you giving such a thoughtful response!  I can see how discernment and intuition are complementary (rather than synonymous).  Great real life example.  This is definitely an area that is difficult for me to walk in.  I question my gut probably a little too much for fear that I will make the “wrong” decision that will impact everyone around me.  And other times, I jump into a decision because thinking about it is too hard, and I just hope everything turns out alright.  Neither is the proper response, I know.  I’m praying that the Spirit works this in my heart to hear Him and trust Him.  I am still wrestling with the trusting my gut aspect.  I hope my heart is tuned into the Holy Spirit, but I also know that at my core, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…” (Jer. 17:9).  And “whoever trusts his own heart is a fool…” (Prov. 28:26) Jesus, take over!  Control my thoughts, feelings, reactions!

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