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 college 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 the guest speaker shared. Her message, entitled “Where are you headed in life?” challenged us to “wait for God’s best,” to seek 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 in their own way. It can feel daunting to try to make them, especially when we want to honor God and when decisions particularly may affect our families, our friends, and the course of our daily lives. 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 as 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 as they draw us closer to Him!
2) REFLECT ON YOUR EMOTIONS
Next, reflect on your emotions—Our emotions can easily become confusing and unreliable in times of indecision or doubt. But asking God to give you peace and assurance 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. Also, consider what might be impeding our love for the things of God. 1 John 2:15-16 reminds us not to love the world or the things in the world but to seek the “love of the Father.” When we choose our own way, God does not stop loving us, but His blessing becomes inhibited by sin, and His Spirit is grieved. When we seek Him, the things in His heart grow in ours, too, as He works His will in our hearts and lives! 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.
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. It is something to be taken seriously yet not striving for it in our own strength. Philippians 2:12-13 reminds us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” What a tremendous reassurance to our hearts!
Our Lord invites us 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 as your good Shepherd. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)
TIME TO REFLECT
1) We explored how we can grow in godly discernment through looking to God’s Word, reflecting on our emotions, and considering His character and ours. Which of these three areas most resonated with your heart today?
2) Revisit the Scripture passages in this devotional. What is God teaching you about Himself as your Shepherd? How does this affect your approach to decision-making?
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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)