Often when faced with a decision, don’t you wish you could text God for an answer? I know there have been TV shows that lean into that very longing. “God is only a text away.” However, there is a process you can use to feel more confident in moving forward towards the path you think God has for you. You can use spiritual discernment questions to make decisions.
I had a decision to make.”Did I delay or postpone a retreat for women because of a snowstorm prediction?” Could it be clear cut? This is winter in Wisconsin, after all, I reasoned.
What is the amount of snow predicted?
When is the storm suppose to hit?
How far away do the women have to drive?
What kind of road conditions might they face?
My mind swirled with all of the options.
I decided to step back and use spiritual discernment questions to make this decision. I needed to get God’s perspective. The retreat was focused on hearing His voice for our healthy dreams, so listening before the retreat seemed appropriate.
5 Question Framework
In using spiritual discernment to make a decision, these 5 questions became the framework.
How willing are you to follow His desires over your desires?
If you and I are coming to God for discernment, then openness to the answers received is a prerequisite.
You have to believe He has your best interests in mind.
Your best choice becomes the one that is most pleasing to God. This is what makes discernment in decision-making a spiritual practice and a challenge.
The purity of your intentions is to dispose of yourself to God’s love, acknowledge His presence and follow His leading as best you know how.
St Ignatius of Loyola called this indifference, being free as much as possible to follow the call of God.
So as I approached God with my retreat question and what to do about the weather, I needed to consider how willing was I to postpone it, cancel it or change it altogether? Was I open to any other idea He might bring to me? Whew, I truly had to believe He had the best choice in mind for all the women involved. He was slowly prying open my hands.
What is the question you are wanting to discern?
How to frame the scope and content of your discernment question takes practice. It may be a small issue like in my example of the retreat postponement or cancellation. Or it could be a much bigger issue, like trying to decide how to resolve a debt issue you are facing or whether or not to go back to work.
Either way, framing your question becomes crucial to focusing your discernment.
The good news is that you can even ask for help in how to ask your question. Take time to sit with God and ask Him for the willingness to follow through on whatever question does finally arise.
Describe during your prayer time the problem you are facing, such as a debt issue or where you might work next. As you speak to Him, pay attention to any feelings or thoughts that begin stirring.
Continue noting these stirrings in your journal and what aspects seem important to you. What question seems to be bubbling to the top?
After a while, you may begin to sense the question you are to focus upon. It needs to be as specific and concrete as possible. My discernment question became,
What is my plan of action to get women to the retreat as safely as possible?
What information do you need to gather to present before God?
The temptation after you get your focus question is to run off and answer the question on your own. I know after I got my question formed, I began to visualize a plan of action.
Not so fast, Nancy, I felt He said. I am the one running the show.
If the discernment is to be truly God’s, continually bringing things back to Him for sifting will bring the most fruit.
In my example, I needed to gather four types of data to give Him:
A Intrapersonal: How do I feel about making a change? What do I desire? What are my fears?
B Interpersonal: Who will be affected by these decisions and how will they be affected? In my retreat –– what will the women think, adjusting their schedules- taking a day off work, caring for their safety.
C Structural information: What are the logistics involved? Who decides? In my retreat – What if I change the start time? How does that impact the rest of the activities? Or of postponing and changing the date? How do I let others know of any changes?
D Information from the natural world: What environment are people coming into? For me, I am thinking – What is the timing of the storm? What is the amount of snow predicted? What about the road and traffic conditions?
What are your reactions to the data?
Going through all four areas of the data, now requires interpretation with God’s eyes.
Interpersonally: How do you feel about the data and information you have gathered?
Intrapersonally: What reactions might occur with the people who will be affected?
Structurally: How might various systems in your life need to be adjusted?
In Nature: In the big scheme of things, how might this decision impact you or your environment?
What can the discernment process show you?
I found this discernment process to be so helpful and calming. My decision became clear. Instead of spinning around and around with thoughts of what I should do or not do, I found God pointed out my choice.
The one area I had not considered was the fact that some of the women had taken off work to come to this Friday retreat. That made the option of choosing another day off the table for me.
After listening to the latest weather reports, my plan of action was to delay the start of the retreat, if necessary, to give the road crews n the necessary time to clear the roads. It also gave commuters time to get off the roads so that the women coming to the retreat would have clearer roads to travel upon.
I don’t have to make that decision, though, until the evening before the retreat, as I hear the latest weather predictions. I can certainly preview the women of the possibilities of a late start, though, and ease their anxieties.
I am grateful for this discernment process and for God leading the way to my decision.
The Take Away
What about you? Could you use the process of first being willing to surrender your own agenda to God, believing He has your best outcomes in mind?
Then I encourage you to take the time to gain clarity for your focus question on what you really want to discern.
And finally you can research the data of interpersonal, intrapersonal, structurally and environmentally to share with God and see what bubbles to the top.
By going through this discernment process, you can be assured that things you hadn’t thought about or noticed will be brought to your attention. You can feel more settled at moving forward with “eyes that see and ears that hear” to make a solid decision.
God’s fingerprints are all over our lives. Seeking Him in discernment is another way to see them and make clear decisions.
Nancy Booth wants to create safe spaces for you, helping you find ways to have two-way conversations with God. She loves encouraging you to look for ways He is at work. Nancy is a spiritual director and writer. She would love to accompany you on your journey of discovery to hear and see more of the God who delights in you. Peace, hope and freedom could be yours Contact her today..
This article first appeared in Koinonia, October, 2019