The Practice of Discernment Doesn’t Happen in a Hurry

(Learn to Discern, Principle # 16)

Discernment can’t really happen when we’re in a hurry – at least, not usually – because when we’re in a hurry, we aren’t poised to listen well. And the practice of discernment is mostly about listening well: to God, and to our own hearts in dialogue with him.

This doesn’t mean discernment can’t happen quickly. Sometimes, we need to make an important decision and outside circumstances limit the time we have to make it. If we practice discernment as a habit, if we are leading listening lives, then very often we can discern well in a short span of time.

But hurry is different. Hurry is a state of anxiousness and worry; fear is the driver when we’re in a hurry. We’re afraid we won’t make it in time, that there won’t be anything left, that someone or something won’t work well unless we’re the ones to oversee it.

There is no peace in hurry. There is no confidence that things will be ok because God is in control.

It’s perfectly possible to move both peacefully and swiftly: the best medics and rescue workers exhibit just such a response under pressure. Hurrying, though, is different. A person who’s in a hurry isn’t calm or at peace. A hurried person lets concern about the situation outweigh his assurance that it can be dealt with. A peaceful person who moves quickly recognizes the gravity of the situation—but she allows confidence to win the fight against fear.

The practice of discernment is all about deepening our relationship with God and inviting Him into every decision of our lives.

Confidence in God, then, is the basis of all good discernment. Confidence in His care for our life; confidence in His ability to communicate with us; and confidence in His desire to help and communicate with us, even if we do a bad job of listening!

Our God is a God of power and majesty. Our God is a God who cares for the lilies and the sparrows. Our God is a God who writes straight with crooked lines.

If we’re anxious our afraid in discernment, it really comes down to one of two things: either we don’t trust God, or we don’t trust ourself.

The latter makes sense. We’re imperfect, we’re selfish, and when it comes to being good listeners, most of us are like an 8 year old learning math: distracted by anything else.

Here’s the thing, though: God is patient. (See: all of the OT and Jesus.) God wants to communicate with us. Sometimes we do a better job of listening than others. But even when we’re daydreaming about recess, God doesn’t just give up. He is persistent and He is gentle and you know what? Even if we mess up big time, God can work with that.

So let’s let go of the anxiousness around not trusting ourselves in discernment.

But what about not trusting God? This is an important question and offers us space for growth. If hurry, anxiousness, and worry are the factors driving us in discernment, we have to ask: why don’t I trust God? Have I given Him the space to gain my trust? Or is there something else at play?

These questions deserve an entire post of their own: we’ll turn to them in another post.