Discernment. What is it really? In a few words, it’s the process of us trying to discover the Lord’s will for our lives either in something big such as which University we’ll attend or what trade we’d like to study or in small things like whether we’ll give a talk in youth group or not. In certain circles, you’ll often hear people say things like, “I’m discerning it” or “I’ll pray about it.” But, what exactly does that mean? For me, it often means spending a lot of time in prayer saying, “God, do you want me to do A or B?” and then trying to listen hard enough to know which he wants me to do. While that might sound holy, I’ve found it less than gratifying at times as I sit around waiting for a booming, “Amanda, go to UF” and never get it. The truth is that God does want to reveal his will to us and he does speak to us, but it’s not always how we expect him to. God speaks to us through our desires, through other people, and in our hearts in gentle whispers.
One really important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t let discernment immobilize us. I remember my senior year of college spending months trying to discern what God wanted me to do after graduation. I found myself paralyzed because I didn’t want to move in any one direction until I was sure it was God’s will. One day, God gave me this great image in prayer. I was standing in a hallway with several doors around me. I was standing there simply waiting for the right door to swing open in front of me so I’d know which one to go through. I realized, though, that what I needed to do was take action. I needed to go try the handles and see if any of them would open. If one did, I could go through it in good faith knowing that I was seeking God’s will and he had opened a path for me. If it was locked, I would know I wasn’t supposed to go through that one, and I could try another one.
Inspired by this new idea, I applied for a master’s program at Notre Dame. After a few months and an interview, I didn’t get accepted. So, that was one locked door. Next, I decided to try another door by acting on my longstanding desire to get involved with NET ministries in Ireland. I requested an application and started looking over it. I saw that I needed to get two letters of recommendation and decided to get that out of the way before attacking the rest of the application. When I called my first potential “recommend-er”, he told me he’d be happy to write one for me but that first he wanted to tell me about what Life Teen was doing in Germany. As soon as I heard the plan for the Mission Base in Europe, I knew it was exactly where the Lord was calling me.
It was an answer to a desire of mine to return to Germany (I had lived there as a young girl), it was an opportunity to serve the church in Europe (I have such a heart for that continent!), and it was mission—leading teens closer to Christ! As the mission was explained to me, I just knew that it was the door the Lord wanted me to go through. Now, while all of my time in prayer was well spent, the answer only came in conjunction with me setting myself in motion. That reminds me of an old adage from Benjamin Franklin, “God helps those who help themselves.” God is always standing behind us, leading us, and encouraging us, but we have some work to do too! So, don’t be afraid to make the first move! Don’t get paralyzed by discernment! Pray and then take steps trusting that the Lord will guide you along the way! If you head in one direction with good intentions, you can’t go wrong. The Lord is always with us and when in doubt, remember that he can write straight with crooked lines. So, don’t run from the “D” word, put it in motion!