There seems to be this misconception that everything done in the name of good intentions is a direct connection to God. Unfortunately, though this would make discernment a heck of a lot easier, understanding the will of God is a lot harder than saying yes to the thing that sounds the most “Christian-y.” But if it really were that easy, why would we need God?
For a long time, I felt like every time I was offered an opportunity to do something cool or new or exciting, it must be in God’s will. I thought that if I didn’t openly pursue something and it just sort of dropped in my lap, it had to be divine appointment.
By this mindset, I took on leadership positions I wasn’t spiritually equipped for. I invested money in great things I wasn’t financially prepared for. I established relationships I wasn’t emotionally stable enough to pour into.
Rest assured, every single one of these opportunities presented was a good opportunity that offered major growth, but in pursuing them I experienced dryness of spirit, set backs, and failures I wasn’t necessarily supposed to walk through. Rest assured, God used them, but I probably would’ve found more growth and less pain if I had actively practiced discernment.
Back in junior high, I attended a church a solid three months straight. Okay, it was mostly because there was this guy, and he was sort of my first boyfriend. So of course that meant that I went to church too. You know, so we could hold hands during the sermon and hang out at lock-ins during youth week. *hint, hint, nudge, nudge*
Anyway, this short span of church going in my awkward teenage glory happened to fall in the season of Lent. The church I attended with Jake (read: with gooey, dreamy emphasis) also happened to practice fasting during the season of Lent. And much to my dismay, the youth group collectively fasted together. So, for a solid month, I relinquished my Facebook to a God I didn’t even know. It was awful. I hated it. But I also wanted to prove to Jake that I was a Jesus-lovin’ babe. So I suffered through the horrendous, pointless fasting.
Do you think that time of fasting was at all actually submitted to God? Did it bring Him any glory? Heck to the no. I didn’t pray. I didn’t dedicate the time I spent on Facebook to worshiping Him. I probably spent most of it on YouTube. Much in the same way, when we dedicate a decision to Him without actually seeking Him, we have not actually pursued His will.
Discernment is a practice that takes time, effort, and a lot of listening. It takes a life-style change. Slow down. No decision you make should feel pressured or rushed.
Ask questions. Will this be beneficial to both you and those involved spiritually and emotionally? God is our provider, but if you put yourself in a situation that leads you to mental exhaustion, you can’t help anyone. When I take on something I cannot feasibly commit to, I hurt more than just me. That decision delays, disrespects, and sometimes denies those involved a resolution.
It should be our priority to be blessings to others, but if you walk a road that isn’t meant for you, you may deprive another person of being a blessing to others. Take rest in knowing that God doesn’t need us in order to bless others. The weight of the world does not rest on your shoulders but on His.
Recognize the limitations that God has placed for your safety and benefit. We are called to strive for excellence in all that we do as a means of honoring God (Colo 3:23). But how affective can we be if we pour out without going to the source to be filled up once more? If an opportunity arises that will leave you without time for God, how affective can you be in pursuing this opportunity with excellence?
Our commission is to love God and love our neighbors. However, in order to love our neighbors, we must first love Him. That relationship is priority. It is also the means by which we have the capacity to love our neighbors.
Don’t be afraid to say yes, but please, don’t be afraid to say no. Prioritize the things that matter most – whether they be your family, your passionate hobbies, your job, or your ministry – and align the time you spend in accordance with these priorities. If your kids are your first priority, where should most of your time be spent? Hopefully not staring at Netflix for 12 hours a day.
God has given you passions and dreams and purpose. It’s okay to focus your time on these things. It’s okay to say yes to the big things and no to the things God hasn’t purposed you for. In fact, that's exactly in God's will. Be prayerful. Seek the challenges God has in store for you. Allow Him to prepare you for the big dreams, but don't be overwhelmed by the trials you were never meant to walk through.
By all means, if you have the time, energy, or emotional and physical fortitude to do it all, do it all. But respect yourself and the askers. Heck, respect God enough to know the difference between good and God.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”