Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.

Guide me in your truth and teach me,

for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.

Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?

He will instruct them in the way they should choose.

The Lord confides in those who fear him;

he makes his covenant known to them.

My eyes are ever on the Lord,

for only he will release my feet from the snare.

(Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 12-15)

Discerning God’s will is not a simple equation, but the sum of many parts. Scripture affirms that God wants us to know and follow His will. God provides revelation to those who seek it. The problem is that we so often get in our own way when we’re trying to receive or interpret His will. We add to or subtract from the equation and then wonder why we got the wrong answer.

Discernment comes from a personal relationship with God. If we’re not spending time immersed in God’s Word and seeking His voice in listening prayer, we may have a nodding acquaintance, but not a real relationship. In relationship, we’ll experience and learn to recognize the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

Not all of our inner promptings come from the Holy Spirit. Some emanate from ourselves and some are encouraged by Satan. Awareness of our physical, mental and emotional state is crucial as we try to discern. If there is one rule I’ve learned to follow, it’s this:

NEVER MAKE A DECISION IN DESOLATION, UNLESS YOU WANT THE DEVIL AS YOUR SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR.

Desolation takes in everything from anger and disappointment to utter despair. The lesson is that positive results won’t come out of negative places. Self-awareness, the counsel of trusted believers, and time to allow God to work in us are the best defence.

Every leading must be tested. Are we hearing what we want to hear, and using circumstances as indications that this must be God’s will? Does it line up with Scripture? Does it match the abilities God has given us, or the ones we wish we had? Are we seeking an answer that meets our emotional needs more than our spiritual relationship?

Of all the psalms, number 25 is for me the best pattern for an abundant personal relationship with my Father in heaven. I might put it like this:

Father, I recognize that all truth and wisdom come from you; as You show, teach and guide me, I’ll move forward with confidence and peace and hope. You’re always with me, always available, never too busy for me. Please help me to be patient as I wait for Your timing.

Even though I’m a sinner who still makes a lot of mistakes, You don’t give up on me. As I humble myself in repentance, you help me learn valuable lessons from my mistakes and continue to guide me.

Because I hold You in awesome reverence, You show me what is the best choice for me. You speak to me personally; how blessed I am to hear Your voice.

My goal is to keep my focus on You, Father. It’s only then that I won’t be caught in the trap of my own imperfections or the snares that Satan keeps setting for me.

Discernment is the sum of many parts. It takes time and effort. The best things always do. If Discernment could be reduced to an equation, it might look like this:

Relationship + Scripture + Self-Awareness + Testing + Mature Counsel + Patience = Discernment