Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him . . . (Psalm 37:7)

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

When we’re looking for something, we want to find it as quickly as possible. The longer it takes, the more frustrated we get.

When we’re searching for God’s will, we can fall into the trap of wanting the answer if not right now, at least in a time frame we consider reasonable. We say we’ve put God in the driver’s seat, but we’re itchy and twitchy and repeatedly asking, “Are we there yet?”

There are many blocks to discerning God’s will, and impatience is a big one. Getting around this block requires two things: recognizing the sovereignty of God, and the discipline to be patient with His timing. When the answer is not forthcoming, the discerning person will continue to wait. Otherwise, we’ll stop at a place God isn’t leading us to and take up residence there. However it starts out, it won’t be an edifying experience.

Other conditions can block our search for God’s will. Physical factors include burnout from plugging too many “good” things into our schedule, as well as being in poor physical condition. Not every “good thing” is a “God thing” – we can become so overwhelmed by good things that we end up being little good to anyone. It’s an easy trap for the Christian to fall into, and we often get there with Satan’s gleeful encouragement.

Our emotional condition has a huge impact on our ability to discern God’s voice. Fear of what others expect or think casts an enormous shadow over the search for God’s light. Looking hard at whether these fears are affecting our thinking is essential. If they are, we need to ask God to help us move to a healthier place so we can truly serve Him. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (1:10)

Anger and unforgiveness are guaranteed to keep us from hearing God. No matter how justified, anger and peace can’t co-exist in us. We need to ask God to help us to come to terms with our anger so that we can move forward.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:12-13)

. . .human anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:20)

Grief is a further obstacle, and one that can go unrecognized. We tend to associate grief with death, but grief is a natural reaction to any significant loss. We can lose friends, jobs, health – if it’s important to us and it’s either threatened or no longer there, we will grieve. Acknowledging our grief is the first step in moving through it with God’s help. It’s also important to recognize that major decisions should be postponed while we’re in this state.

Sometimes we’re not hearing God’s voice because the answer He’s giving us is totally unexpected. Whether or not we realize it, when we’re looking for God’s will, we have some ideas about what that will look like. When the answer doesn’t match our imagination, we can discount it. If the place God seems to be leading us seems like a crazy detour, don’t dismiss it out of hand. Ask Him for more revelation, explore it with some trusted believers, seek confirmation. If there’s a sea in front of you, God may be about to part the waters.

Spiritual blocks to discernment can come in the form of isolating ourselves from other believers, spending more time thinking about our problems than praying about them, and relying less on reading and meditating on Scripture – especially the admonitions that speak directly to what we’re experiencing at the moment.

As with any relationship, a healthy self-awareness is vital to real understanding. Getting around the blocks to hearing God’s voice will involve an honest evaluation of our physical, mental and spiritual state, and making changes where necessary.

Next: The Sum of the Parts