Lady Pastor: Pray, get advice, decide: That's discernment

Emily Carson

Decision-making is an area of expertise for some. These dear people are able to make decisions large and small feeling calm and certain.

I ran into a woman last week in a waiting room who was talking about her career path. She had recently retired from teaching. "I just knew all along that I would be a teacher. I always knew," she said.

I have another friend who chose the location of his medical residency by drawing a slip of paper out of a hat, and he felt great about that approach. Completely trusting and at ease.

Perhaps you have an innate sense of discernment. If so, I would like to follow you around for the next month and absorb a bit of your wisdom! Decision-making does not come as easily to me. The daily, small-scale decisions are no problem. I like to choose what to do on a Saturday afternoon or what to eat for supper.

The challenge for me is life's larger decisions. I don't just sit on the fence. I hibernate on the fence. I am perpetually plagued by a line in Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken." Frost wrote, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."


What is unclear is whether that his choice of road was positive or negative. What did you mean, Mr. Frost? "All the difference" in a good way? Or "all the difference" in a bad way?

Or maybe he was just making a general statement.

Another challenge in my decision-making approach is a personal tendency to wait for some kind of holy intervention. However, major God interruptions rarely happen for me. Sometimes I get a little nudge in my gut one way or the other but not usually. I've never seen the clouds in the sky develop into words and arrows pointing "THIS WAY" or "THAT WAY." When it comes to life's bigger decisions, I generally wait and wait and wait until I absolutely have to make a decision. So then I do. And then I worry whether it was the right one. This is not an ideal approach.

We're all faced with ample decisions in life. Instead of turning into knots of angst and uncertainty, maybe it's better if we find ways to make clear choices and then move forward. Discernment at its best leads us through a process of prayer, seeking helpful counsel, making a decision, and then moving ahead. For those like me who tend to get stuck on steps 1 and 2, here are a few bits of biblical guidance to help with your next decision-making experience.

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever." — John 14:16

Jesus said these words. They were originally meant to be a comfort to his disciples. They're comforting for us, too. We're not alone. The Helper (that is, the Holy Spirit) is with us forever. FOREVER. Whatever the choice we're facing, there is comfort in knowing that we aren't alone. Even without God writing words of guidance in the sky, we can be assured that the Spirit is with us and never leaves us. The Helper walks with us and leads us into a process of healthy discernment.

"Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." — Philippians 4:6-7

On both ends of the discernment journey, it is our Creator's hope that we will pray and find peace in the promise that God hears us. God's peace surpasses all understanding.


Our human understanding is limited. But God's isn't. Whatever the roads we choose in life, it makes all the difference just to know that there is no road where God won't be. Every choice and every path lead to the promise of God's presence.

May the next decision you face be an opportunity to experience a peace that surpasses all understanding.

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