Saturday, August 11, 2018

Weekend Inspiration: Discerning God's Will

A Summer of Discernment

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"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I was remarking to a friend recently that I felt that this summer had been one of discernment for me. It just feels like several concerns that I have been thinking about and praying about for quite awhile seem to be finding answers falling into place in my thinking. I feel that I know what the Lord wants me to do in these situations and I have a peace about the situations and how I need to respond to them that I did not have previously. 

Discerning God's will in our lives can sometimes happen quickly, but, most often, in my own life, I find that it takes time and comes through a process of prayer, scripture study and careful attention to what I experience in life events. It also involves my truly wanting to know God's will for my life, as well, and my willingness to listen for His still small voice in my heart. 

In his book about The Serenity Prayer, Trevor Hudson speaks about discerning God's will for our life. He speaks about the "general will" that God has for each of our lives such as finding happiness in our job, living with integrity, etc. Trevor likens this to the general will that he has for his own children. He wants them to be happy in life and to be honest and people of integrity but doesn't have any specific expectations about what they do for a career, who they marry, etc. But, he also speaks to the "specific will" that God has for each of us and that God has something beautiful in mind for each of us to accomplish in this life. So, part of living our lives, according to Trevor, is for us to discern what this beautiful thing might be and then do it. 

My own particular beliefs are more along the lines of what "Father Tim" has to say in the Mitford Series books by Jan Karon which is, "nothing that happens in the life of a child of God happens by accident."  I believe that God put it in my heart at a very young age to be a teacher and to pursue music. I believe that God put my future husband in my path so that we could meet, grow in our relationship and eventually marry. I believe that these specific things happened for a purpose as have the other events of my life. Not everyone believes this way, I know. And yes, this way of believing always presents "tough" questions about why certain bad things happen in life. And, no, I don't have all those answers. And, no, I don't believe that God makes bad things happen. Rather, I rely on God's promise in Romans 8:28 that "all things work together for good to them that love God..." God can bring good out of anything. 

You see, discerning God's will for our lives is hard. It's not always an easy thing. Sometimes it involves struggle and hard decisions. Trevor Hudson talks about the Quaker way of discernment which involves reflection, prayer and then coming to a clarity about which choice in a decision gives a feeling of inner peace. For me, finding this sense of peace only comes after much time spent in prayer and searching of scriptures. Listening to trusted Christian friends and life events around me is helpful, as well, but the prayer and scripture meditation is key for me. And finally, hearing that still small voice of God speaking is what gives me the peace I need to move forward. 

Perhaps, the struggle of coming to discernment is necessary. When I struggle it is because there is something worth struggling for. The decision is not taken lightly. It has meaning in my life that comes with reasoning backed up by scripture and a commitment to serve God through my discernment and decision making. I am reminded of the saying, "good things come to those who wait." As Proverbs 16:4 says, "The Lord works out everything to its proper end..."

How do you discern God's will for your life? I hope you will share. 


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Linda said...

For sure, it is spending some quiet time with God at the beginning of each day. Last year this week my father, brother, and I met with a gentleman. It was the 9th of August. I know, because it is written in my 2017 Journal. That meeting was momentous, because it initiated the process for my father to make the decision to sell the family farm. The farm was in our family for 4 generations. I lived there all of my 70 years. He could no longer get on his tractors and was getting weaker and the work there was beginning to be more of a challenge for the two of us to do day after day.

God's timing in the whole process was amazing. His provision of energy for my brother and I to clean out 9 buildings was a huge blessing. I got to thinking of the energy at the beginning of each new day as Manna from God.

I am reading my 2017 Journal and thanking God daily that we are no longer on the farm. We are having lots of rain here this summer. I am sure the grass is growing and the pond is overflowing at the farm. I had eleven flowerbeds. I missed them this spring, but didn't miss the work to get them all prepped, planted, and mulched this spring.

I am reading Sarah Young's book, Jesus Calling, for the third year. Her words and the scriptures she references continue to remind me to trust God and give thanks. Last year, I leaned into God. God blessed us beyond expectations with a beautiful place to rent. Since moving here, God has blessed me with a steady visitation of birds and a beautiful container garden. I continue to be thankful. At the beginning of 2017, I read My One Word. My word for the year was Be thankful...give thanks. It was amazing how God brought people into our lives to help us through the process of selling the farm. Just amazing. God helped us with the discerning process. God provided.

God continues to provide! I just need to trust and give thanks one day at a time. God has and will provide the Manna one day at a time.

I too was a teacher. I always thought of teaching as my purpose in life. But what is my purpose beyond the classroom. I still struggle with and wonder if I am doing and serving and spending my energy in a way that is pleasing to God. Every day I am busy cooking and caring for my 95 year old dad, but at the end of the day I wonder...What did I accomplish???

Lord, help us both to discern your will for our lives. Amen.

Debbie Styles Life said...

Linda, thank you for sharing such a beautiful comment. Your story is a testament to how God works in our lives and helps us to discern what to do. I am so thankful that the Lord worked out each and every detail of selling your family farm and bringing you and your Dad to a wonderful place to rent. I know this must have been a very challenging time for you and your family. Teaching is such an all encompassing profession that it is hard, when one retires, to feel that the daily work we do for home and family is accomplishing something. But, I have learned that serving those we love is huge. What you are doing for your Dad is a huge accomplishment. And, as for teaching, you taught me today about discernment through your beautiful writing! Thank you so much.

Michele Morin said...

Father Tim is one of my favorite fictional clergy, so I loved that bit of wisdom you shared . . . It may be time for me to re-read the Mitford series.

Karen said...

This is something that I have struggled with too Debbie, discerning God's will in my life. I believe that the only way to do this is to pray and study God's word, and pay close attention to what He has to say, because sometimes a small phrase will seem to jump out, or that feeling of peace that you describe when you feel you understand the necessary course of action. It's so important to quiet ourselves and to listen. Being quiet is necessary for me to even hope to hear from God. There are so many 'voices' each day, loud voices and responsibilities and get this and that done, that we often can't 'hear' what God is saying unless we just get off alone somewhere and listen for Him.

I enjoyed reading Linda's comment, above. It shows how she found peace in her situation, even though it may not be one she expected. She is looking at the positives in it, how God is blessing her. I believe God does bless us in unexpected ways. And like you said, yes, bad things happen to good people. God doesn't "make" these things happen, but He walks with us through them and can make something good come if we look expectantly for that. And if we look at our end goal, being with Him in eternity, what we experience here in this fleeting life, while it might be very difficult, is perhaps more bearable knowing that one day we will come to the end of this striving and rest in Him. Sometimes that can be a difficult focus to keep, but one that is well worth pursuing.

Clearissa said...

I have often wondered if God heard my prayers and then something would happen to confirm that He had not only heard, but He was working it out. Once we give in and rely on His promises, I believe His works are revealed. This beautifully written and the photo is gorgeous.

Debbie Styles Life said...

Michele, I love Father Tim, also! I hope you enjoy your re-reading of the Mitford Series!

Debbie Styles Life said...

You're right, Karen, it is hard to find the quiet that we need in our world to hear God's voice. I really have to work at finding the quiet moments. Retirement has helped with that some, but it is still so easy to let the noise around me limit my hearing ability!

Debbie Styles Life said...

Thank you, Clearissa. Giving in and relying on God's promises is a very important part of discernment.