How to Discern God's Will
A simple approach to discerning God's will for your life. Inspired from the work of Alice Cullinan, PhD.
“Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
In the military, discerning the will of God can feel a bit backwards. For instance, where we move is often completely out of our control, yet whether we should volunteer (and where) can completely rob us of peace. No matter the size of your decision, you can discern God’s will by lining up your outer circumstances, inward impressions, and comparing it to the truth of God’s Word. To break it down further, ask yourself four questions. Think of it as a chair with four legs requiring all four, grounded, and firm before acting on it.
1. What does Scripture say about it? If Scripture is a lamp to my feet, lighting my path (Ps. 119:105)- should it not illuminate at least the next step? Scripture is full of wisdom, direction, and examples of how to walk closely with God. Knowing how to “correctly handle the truth” (2 Tim 2:15) by reading it in the context in which it was written helps us apply it to “train and equip us toward righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). For example, randomly opening the scripture and doing whatever the verse our finger lands on is not the wisest way to use scripture to discern God’s will for our situation.
2. What does godly counsel say? Scripture is clear that we are not alone, but have the body of Christ, working in unity for the encouragement of each other. Seek godly counsel, mentoring, and close relationships (preferably not extended family members) like your spouse and accountability partners for wisdom. Some of my best moments of conviction, change, and revelation from God involved key people that spoke truth into my situation. Something I could not have done on my own.
3. What about common sense? Does what I want to do make sense? Some decisions are easily right or wrong on our moral compass- others are more difficult to discern. I remember being in an unhealthy relationship in college and asked for my grandfather’s wisdom, he simply said, “God gave you a brain and he expects you to use it. He won’t always hand you the answer on a silver platter if you have the ability to make sense of it.” Still, our Creator may choose to speak into our inward thoughts when we need help. Although it may not be loud, we can hear a voice behind us saying “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
If you can’t answer that it is clearly right or wrong, then ask is if it is wise or foolish. For example, setting boundaries in a difficult relationship can be both wise and right in that God desires you to feel safe, valued, and loved. However, whether or not you work in the home may be wise or foolish based on your circumstances, but not wrong. Remember, trust that every decision is from the Lord, even though we may cast the lot (Prov. 16:33). Do your best to make the right decision, He is there.
4. Are the doors around you open or closed? Paul refers to looking for open opportunities several times throughout 1st and 2nd Corinthians. We may not know until we are about to walk through the door if it will shut, and sometimes we walk through only to find ourselves thrown out. Paul described in Acts 16 that the spirit of Jesus would not allow him and his companions to enter into a region to preach. God has an amazing way of refining and focusing our passion towards where it can best be used and received. Our obedience requires effort, self discipline, humility, and obedience to Him, but it should never feel forced or worse- leaving casualties or destruction behind us.
Now of course, a few comments must be made about the foundation on which we process all of this beginning with sound theological and doctrinal beliefs. Truths related to the Trinity and its relationship with humanity, salvation, and sin, for example, set the foundation. Our time with the Lord in worship and in prayer is not replaceable when it comes to hearing from God. God desires an amazing relationship with us that can only happen when we draw near to Him. There, we discover our strengths, shortcomings, confession, forgiveness, and restoration that lead to our obedience to Him.
Finally, remember that God never tempts us to sin but will lovingly test us. A time of testing, may feel like chaos, God may seem silent, and the enemy may attempt to confuse us. His wisdom, though, is that when that season passes, you will discover confidence in Him, yourself, and new purpose. Therefore, “commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (Prov 16:3).
To see this article as seen in Wives in Bloom On-line Magazine, click here