I’ve heard this term tossed about, but what does it mean? What comprises an effective discernment process? My understanding is that this will vary from person to person.
Some basics will most likely be in common
- Clarify the question or issue
- Gather relevant data
- Set aside time for reflection and listening prayer
- Seek and pay attention to counsel from respected friends
Some things I have learned about discernment
- Discernment is not the same thing as knowing God’s will, but it is related
- The essence of discernment is perception of meaning, meaning that is not only true factually, but deep – penetrating to the spiritual significance of an issue
- It cannot be rushed. To put time pressure on a discernment process is a sure way to undermine it. This sometimes means you have to give a response to a question someone has asked without having come to a clear discernment of the issue concerned
- Look for meaning in two directions
- Where has this thing to be discerned come from? What are the origins, roots, sources, drivers, motives?
- Where is this thing to be discerned going? What are the consequences, knock-on effects?
- It’s never a straight line. A naive expectation is that discernment will come like the dawn, starting in darkness and gradually getting lighter until you can see clearly. In fact, the path to clarity through a discernment process is more like a labyrinth or a maze.
For me personally, an effective discernment process must include some practices that are not about reasoning, but bear directly on my ability to get clarity
- Lower any anxiety
- Reconcile relational tensions
- Repentance before God
- Be fully rested
- Address any physical stress
Taken together, the above is an expression of my discernment process when I am trying to understand what is going on in my world.
With the expectation that it may well be different to mine, how would you express your personal discernment process?