By: Beth Doohan
“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.’” ~Isaiah 30:21
“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” ~John 10:27
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While out shopping with her daughter, Jaelyn perused the toddler clothing section to find a new sweater for fall. After humming and hawing for a few minutes, she picked out two good options and gave her daughter a choice. “Which one do you like best?” she asked her three-year-old. Her little dolly gazed at the sweaters and thoughtfully put her hand on her chin, mimicking a gesture Jaelyn routinely makes. After a pause, her face broke out into a delighted smile as she happily decided, “Both of them!”
This scene may make us chuckle, but it points out an important truth. While children commonly have a hard time just picking one thing, how often do we as adult wholehearted women struggle with choices? It may not be hard to pick something we like, but it is hard to say no to something else we like, too. So, how’s a girl to know the best decision to make? This is where godly discernment comes into play.
God’s Best for Me
Simply put, discernment is seeking the Lord intentionally in order to understand, or discern, His will. Part of the Wholehearted Woman mission is “helping women be fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ.” A fully surrendered heart not only desires to please God, but involves Him in all her decisions. I do not mean common sense questions, like whether or not to brush your teeth. However, I do believe that God has your best interest in mind as you follow Him, and the way to experience His best is to ask Him about specific decisions.
If you are new to hearing God’s voice, start by praying that the Holy Spirit would speak to you as you read His Word. Then spend time journaling prayers for the decisions in your life and ask Him for wisdom. The Lord speaks through a still small voice, imparting ideas and giving you peace as you make decisions. Once you believe He has spoken to you or given you direction, take steps toward your decision and see if doors open and you continue to have peace in your heart. Keep asking Him as you move forward, and He will make it clear to you if you are on the right path. 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.’”
You can come to God about anything, anything! He will answer! Psalm 138:3 says, “As soon as I pray, You answer me; You encourage me by giving me strength.” Isaiah 55:6 and 11 says, “Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near…I send it (my Word) out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” The Father’s heart is longing, waiting to walk every day with you and give you wisdom for your decisions. James 4:8 says, “Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you.” Seeking Him first and in all things will produce a listening heart to discern His Holy Spirit’s direction for big and little decisions.
As you practice listening to the Holy Spirit, it will become easier to hear His voice. Just as a friend’s voice becomes recognizable, warm, affectionate, so you will learn to recognize God’s voice more and more, discerning His Spirit speaking to you. God promises, “To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge” (Matthew 13:12). The Lord will continually lead your heart as you walk with Him.
God’s Best for Others
There is another element of godly discernment, and that is when your decisions impact others. When you are married, your decisions affect the most important man in your life and vice versa. When you are a parent, your decisions affect your children. Other relationships in life may be impacted, such as saying goodbye to coworkers or friends during a job transition or move. But in marriage we have surrendered our decisions to the union of our bond. In parenting, we have taken on the responsibility of investing in the best interest of our children until they are grown.
Elisabeth Elliot wrote about how a choice is a limitation in her book Let Me Be a Woman. “When you make a choice, you accept the limitations of that choice. To accept the limitations requires maturity… To do this is not to do that. To be this is not to be that.” If you choose to marry, you cannot remain single nor act like your decisions affect just you, or your marriage will suffer. If you bear children, you cannot pursue your own interests to the detriment of their needs and best interests, or your children will suffer. Saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to all the others.
As a wife and mama of two boys (ages 3 and 1), I have had a couple years of leaning on the Lord for decisions that affect not just myself, but the man I love more than anything and the two precious lives who are dependent on us. I have had a mirror of how my own attitudes and decisions every day impact those closest to me. My choices have to be spirit-led, redeemed of my own selfishness, to fulfill the 1 John 4:7 mandate, “to love one another, for love comes from God.” The way I do this is to seek God first every day, put on the armor of God, invite Him into my family’s life and decisions, and walk it out by His grace. When I make mistakes, I ask for God’s forgiveness and for His grace to cover the situation or relationship. I invite Him to renew in me a clean heart and ask Him how best to invest in my family for His glory and our joy.
Putting on Love
I am so thankful for our gracious Heavenly Father who not only speaks wisdom to our hearts through discernment, but also gives grace to renew us when we fail. John continues in verses 10-11, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” As you practice discernment, remembering God’s immense love for you (and your family!), you can know that He is at work in your life and heart. A choice is a limitation, but if it is the best choice, the one God has given you discernment to say “yes” to, then you can confidently know that He is at work in your life and heart! You will experience His best!
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