Wednesday, February 20, 2013
3 Distractions to Discerning God’s Will and How to Overcome Them
By Micky Wolf
Any time we desire to make a Spirit-led choice or decision, we will likely be presented with a fair share of challenges and temptations. For some folks, there is the propensity to “blame it on the devil”, or as Ignatius puts it—the enemy of our human nature—as the primary interference.
There is little doubt ‘evil prowls about, seeking whom it may destroy’. [1 Peter 5:8]These dark spirits, whose harassing tendencies are not unknown to God, can definitely work to influence us. At the same time, there are some aspects of human thought and feeling behaviors which are more than sufficient in and of themselves to provide plenty of fodder to distract and detour us in our desire to love, follow, and serve the Lord.
The art and practice of discernment is highly dependent upon being able to identify what is at the root of our thoughts and feelings. The more accurately and consistently we are able to note these stirrings and movements—frequently subtle in their presence—the greater the likelihood we will make a choice and take action in accordance with God’s will. Note: for those who struggle with perfectionist or obsessive compulsive tendencies, counseling or spiritual direction may be especially helpful in distinguishing the difference between what is disordered and/or detrimental to one’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being and that which is more likely typical human behavior.
Distraction #1: F-E-A-R of what might be exposed in the Light of God’s Truth
Fear, of all the feelings and emotions, can be a powerful distraction to effective discernment. A simple nudge in our gut, a tickling of our thoughts, and off we go, too often in a direction opposite of what God desires. Or in other instances, in acquiescing to fear, we sink into the self-analysis that becomes paralysis, bringing the process of discernment to a screeching halt before it ever really begins.
The more determined we are to be in God’s will, the more fear may present itself. Entertain it long enough and it may well convince us that stepping into the Light of God’s Truth will most surely expose the deepest, darkest parts of self. Yet, if we hope to be led of the Spirit, it is of utmost importance we allow God to show us why we may be leaning toward one choice rather than another, or why we are avoiding making a decision altogether. If we have made choices in the past which resulted in unloving or hurtful outcomes, either to others or self, fear will weigh heavy as we are confronted with new opportunities to discern and make choices.
Pray and ask God for courage and strength to cooperate with His grace to overcome fear, especially as it may distract from entering into a meaningful process of discernment.
Read and ponder the Scriptures which assure you of God’s love, even in the midst of His need to occasionally issue correction—if necessary—for the healing and transformation of your body, mind, emotions and spirit. [Proverbs 3:12; Job 5:17; Psalms 94:12-13; 1 Corinthians 11:32; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17; Hebrews 12:6-7; Hebrews 12:10-11]
Relax and allow the emotion to emerge and then dissipate. This exercise will likely take practice, but over time, can prove to be highly effective. As is the case with many of our emotions, the energy we exert trying to ignore or push them down succeeds only in exacerbating their potential to have a negative and unhealthy impact on our spirit, mind and body.
Distraction #2: R-E-S-I-S-T-A-N-C-E to feeling pain
Much like the immobilizing and debilitating aspects of fear, our determination to resist feeling pain—intellectually, emotionally or spiritually—can prove a very sure distraction in our desire to discern God’s will. It would be misleading to suggest you and I will always encounter discomfort or pain as we ponder a choice, yet the reality is this: we are human beings who would rather feel pleasure. To understand and accept that feeling discomfort may be meaningful to making a choice in accordance with God’s desires is not something we are eager to embrace. One need look no farther than Jesus and his struggles in the Garden to remind us that the process of making the choice to follow God can shake us to the core of our being.
If our heart-centered goal is to make choices that are God-centered and other-centered, it is inevitable that we will encounter pain. What we need is a different perspective: an acceptance and understanding that pain is one God’s most powerful tools through which He can produce good fruit in our life. Taking responsibility, confessing, and repenting of our selfish motives and attitudes may all include various intensities of discomfort, but the results can be astonishing in furthering the Kingdom of God here on Earth—and isn’t that what most of us hope for in our desire to become more Christ-like?
If you have ever had a bruised, sprained, or torn ligament, you know the value of exercising the affected area and pressing through the pain in order to get the muscle or joint functioning well.
The same is true for becoming stronger in and with Christ as we press through our mental, emotional, and spiritual pain. When God is working in us to transform the way we think, feel, and experience relationship with Him, we are going to be uncomfortable. The more we cooperate with the process, the less likely we prolong it. It is only through such experiences that we learn to release our hold on what we want and open ourselves to the will of God, in and through us.
Distraction #3: H-A-S-T-E does make waste in hearing the voice of God
It is no secret most of us tend to be impatient. Whether in our cars, dashing through the market, or eating a meal, we are in a hurry. Sadly, the rush rush attitude spills over into our quiet moments and prayer time.
Time with God is essential to understanding and discerning His desires for us. It’s not that God wants to monopolize our time to the deference of everything else, quite the opposite. The more we include God in our day, the more sensitive we are to the ways He speaks to us. Developing relationship with the Divine is no different than becoming attuned or in harmony with our earthly spouse or a good friend. Being together—fully engaged presence—makes all the difference in learning to recognize the voice of God.
If I say I am seeking God’s will, then I must commit time to being with Him with the essence of my whole being. He awaits, with open arms and open heart.
Do I hesitate to be fully present with God for fear of what might be exposed?
How do I feel about being in the light of God’s loving attention?
Do I resist feeling? Feeling pain?
Do I allow feelings to emerge in quiet time or prayer? Why, or why not?
Am I in a hurry to hear God? Impatient for answers and insight?