Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a special process that aided in discernment? I’d like to have a special prayer that I could pray, or maybe a unique combination of Scripture reading mixed with advice from wise friends. I’d also like to throw out fleeces. I’d like to construct random experiences that I ask God to show himself through, hoping beyond hope that he will tell me what I should do.
It sounds quite animistic if I’m honest.
It reminds me of Mongolia where they have special altars called ovoos—mounds of rocks found on the top of mountains and hills that act as places of worship. It’s on these rocks that they place milk, money, and scarves in an attempt to receive blessing and wisdom and dare I say, discernment, for their future.
These altars come to my mind often when I have a decision to make and I like to joke. I joke that to find God’s will, I should walk around the house backwards three times fast, throwing salt over my shoulder and while this is a sad joke, it hints at my underlying desire.
I want God to tell me what to do. I want to know that my future will be blessed. I don’t want to fail or be humiliated or make Jesus angry. I want magic and fortune telling. I want absolute assurance that I made the right choice.
Discernment is always connected to choice and knowledge; it is about being both decisive and wise. Yet, honestly, unless we are about to be willfully sinful, decisions are simply that: decisions based on the knowledge we currently have. They are a point of convergence, from one path to another, maybe right or maybe wrong, certainly different. Each unique choice we make will lead us down a path with its own set of struggles and victories.
As Christians, we spend so much energy worrying about whether or not the choices we make will be the right choice, or if they are in God’s will, but what if we began to view our choices as the means through which we gain wisdom.
In this way, discernment is more about the ability for each of us to course correct then it is about making the perfect decision in the first place.
There is freedom in that.
Where an animist has to pay their dues to gain wisdom, hoping to appease the spirits that are in control, we are told in scripture that, “If any of you lacks wisdom you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)”
This means that we can ask God for wisdom directly and if we are not given any new insight then we can trust that he has already given us all that we need to choose.
And the choice is ours.
Is this man trustworthy, God? Should I go back to school? How should I discipline my children? Where should I move? What should I be doing with my free time? Should I stay overseas? Will my kids be ok in this isolated country?
We can only answer these questions based on the knowledge that we currently have and our knowledge is flawed. In ten years this knowledge will be different, we will know more, we will have gained wisdom through trial, error and lived experience. Yet, living in the conscience of the moment is all that we can do and it is good.
James 1:6 continues, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”
When we are consistently second guessing, looking to find the latest, greatest word from God, we miss out on the freedom and ease that the gospel brings to us. We become tossed in turmoil, seeking animistically what has already been given to us: God’s wisdom, freedom to choose, grace to fail and an all-powerful, insanely loving God that works intricately in the world to make it good.
How do you seek God’s wisdom? Do you struggle believing that God has already provided the wisdom you need? Do you find yourself seeking the answer over God?