By: Beth Doohan
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)
“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13)
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When I was a senior in high school, my family traveled from Bloomington, Minnesota, home of the Mall of America and much of my childhood, to drop off my older brother and sister at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After driving eleven hours with five people in a humid vehicle, we began the process of unloading the van full of clothes, bedding, and knick-knacks. My mom and I decided to take a break and attend a women’s luncheon at a local church the following day. As we sat at a nicely decorated table with a circle of women, I was struck by what guest speaker Sarah Wehrli shared. Her message, entitled “Where are you headed in life?” challenged us to “wait for God’s best,” to wait for His timing and leading in our decision-making.
This concept of God’s best struck me deeply, and put into perspective what I had long made too complicated—godly discernment. I had somehow built up God’s will to be this mysterious thing that I could easily mess up or miss, and then who knows where my life and decisions would lead? How was I supposed to sift through all the opportunities to make right decisions?
As we go through life, we face thousands of decisions. Some are big (Should I take that college night class or go on a trip with family?) and some are small (Should I dry my hair today or leave it natural?). Each of these decisions is important, and it can be daunting to try to make them, especially when we want to please God, our families, our friends and hopefully in the end, ourselves. Believe it or not, God does care about all of your decisions, because He cares about you. Isaiah 30:21 says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” But how can we learn to discern what “God’s best” is and what He wants us to do when there are so many choices to be made, both big and little?
We see a biblical theme of God being our Shepherd throughout the Bible. Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” Our loving God is ready and able to lead our decisions, as a good Shepherd leads His sheep. Let’s explore how this concept of “God being our Shepherd,” applies to discernment:
There are several important things to consider when discerning God’s best for our lives and in our decisions:
1) Look to God’s Word
First, look to God’s Word—What does the Bible say about this decision? While the Bible may not specifically mention college classes or vacations, part of discernment is asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten His Word to your situation. 1 Peter 2:25 says, “Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” We no longer follow the whims of our changing culture and what others say we need to do. Instead, we live by God’s Word as our anchor, studying the guide He gave us—the Bible—and obeying His teachings.
2) Reflect on Your Emotions
Next, reflect on your emotions—Which decision produces anxiety or worry? Which brings feelings of peace and satisfaction in your life? Our emotions can easily become confusing and unreliable in times of indecision or doubt. But asking God to give you peace about one decision or another can help you decipher whether it’s merely a good option, or truly God’s best for you. Hebrews 13:20-21 says, “Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with His blood—may He equip you with all you need for doing his will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him.” When we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading for decisions, He gives us peace about what to do and equips us to do it by saying no to other options. It can be difficult to close doors of “good” options, for fear of trusting God to work out His “best” option. But God is the one who ultimately blesses us when we follow Him, helping us in our weakness to fulfill His calling for us. We are never alone in this pursuit.
3) Consider God’s Character and Yours
Third, consider God’s character and yours—What things has God gifted you with? What are the desires of your heart? The answers to these questions can often lead us to understanding “God’s best” for us. When we are God’s children, the things in His heart are in ours, too. The Lord puts desires there because He created you! And He loves that about you. In John 10:14-16, Jesus tells His disciples, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know Me, just as my Father knows Me and I know the Father…They will listen to My voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” Jesus was saying that because His people belong to Him, they will know His will and what pleases Him by knowing Him. When we follow God’s leading for our lives, He promises to bless us and takes delight in us. When we choose our own way, God does not stop loving us, but His blessing becomes inhibited by sin and His Spirit is grieved. Knowing that God is for us, and that to listen to His voice but not obey it is sinful, motivates me all the more to pursue and follow Him. Like a good earthly father earns his child’s respect, God deserves ours and is completely trustworthy with our decisions.
Ultimately, godly discernment comes down to knowing the Lord, trusting Him, and loving Him. When we actively seek Him in His Word and follow the leading and peace of His Holy Spirit, we don’t have to fear “missing out” or making the wrong decision. God is bigger than that, and He loves us dearly. We also can be confident in our decisions, knowing that even though we have other options, the one our Lord is leading us to is His best for us. We can also know that choosing to ignore God’s leading and going our own way or following what others say is sinful and can lead to brokenness and heartache. But, when we come to Him with repentant hearts, God is ever-loving and forgiving. He will help us in our weakness and bless us as we follow Him.
Discernment takes practice, but the more we study and obey God’s Word and listen to His Spirit, the easier it will become to hear His voice and know Him. Seek God through prayer and His Word. He is waiting for you to come to Him. You can trust Him with both the journey of discernment and the outcome. Take time today to ask God for wisdom and discernment with your decisions, big and small. Trust Him for His timing and His best.
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