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Entering the Quiet: Key to Discerning God’s Will

posted Jan 6, 2012, 7:10 AM by Web Master

By Micky Wolf

     If there is one topic that regularly comes to the fore in spiritual direction it is discernment. The questions are similar: How do I discern God’s will for me? How do I know what I’m hearing is God? Or not? When I respond by posing another question, “How much quiet time are you willing to give to God to find out what He is speaking to you?” they sigh, slumping a bit in the chair.  “What exactly do you mean by quiet time?”

     Unlike many of our ancestors, most of us are not plodding through fields, plying wheels of wool, or thrashing sheaves of wheat. In these times, if we are honest, many of us find ourselves slaves to the rigors of various schedules, our own as well as those others try to impose upon us, even in the name of being good Christian servants. While it is important to take care of our responsibilities, it is also requisite that if we hope to discern God’s voice, we need to make an intentional choice to enter into the quiet.

     Most of us acknowledge the need to spend time with God. But what does entering into the quiet mean in practical terms?

     Inner chatter clutters—and informs. We know sitting still is a challenge for two-year olds. At the same time, grown-ups might be able to reign in the body parts, only to realize our insides are cart-wheeling in a dozen different directions. It’s not that God wants us to become mutes; quite the opposite. What we need is to settle and calm the inner self—whatever time it takes to become quiet on the inside. Notice—I did not say become silent. 

     In becoming quiet, we are more able to notice certain thoughts and identify specific feelings. This time of noticing helps us to discover patterns or particular characteristics in what we are thinking and feeling. Maybe a certain word or phrase keeps running through our head; maybe it is an emotion that is poking around. Because our lives are so busy, we tend to be only vaguely aware of the inside stuff. On other occasions, we would just rather not give the stuff any attention, especially if we believe it’s only going to cause problems—frequently spelled p-a-i-n. In that regard, choosing to ignore something because we believe it might be unpleasant will usually not improve the situation or make it go away; things will likely only become more uncomfortable over time.

     Spontaneity and openness. God longs to hear what it is we desire to understand, or discern, however, if we have little sense of what it is we are really trying to say to God we can very easily end up reeling off little more than a list of ‘I want, I need, please help me with this or that’. There’s nothing wrong with requesting, even pleading with God. Cloudiness develops when we try to organize, evaluate and explain things [mostly for our benefit] rather than spontaneously and openly laying it all out before Him. It’s the difference between working to give God the blueprint and plans for what we think is going on and needs to happen as opposed to simply sharing, friend to friend. “I’m sad…I’m upset…I’m confused. I don’t like me very much at the moment.” Or “I had a major disagreement with the boss or spouse today…There’s no money to fix the car…the doctor’s report doesn’t sound good.”

Being quiet is not about organizing and cataloging each and every thought and feeling into our idea of order. The quiet serves as the milieu through which all the little pieces—all the fragments of who we are in that moment—can bubble to the surface. As we allow this to happen we can step back and look at things more objectively, or at the very least, with enough detachment that a meaningful process of discernment can continue to unfold. Our questions take on new meaning: What among this stuff is good? What is sinful? What has more to do with my strengths? My weaknesses? My woundedness? What is colored with fear? Seasoned with anger? Interwoven with unforgiveness? The more spontaneously open we are, the more likely we experience the real truth of our present state of being, which in turn leads to a more fully surrendered heart, one that is more responsive to following God’s will rather than our own.

     Unlike the fluctuating stock markets here and around the world, God’s economy is one of stability and generosity. He holds nothing back. He is ever willing to lavish us with all that we need, including insight and revelation about who we are and what He would have us to do in any aspect of our life. God’s invitation and availability is one of inspiring us to ‘come as we are’ into His presence. As unsettling as this may be, it is in giving to Him all the bits and pieces that our hearts are more fully disposed to clearly hearing His voice, in all things.