The Art of Leading Spiritually – Discerning on Your Own


Cross and candle

Discerning alone

The following post is part of a series on Leading Spiritually. Check out the other posts in this series:

The Art of Leading Spiritually – An Invitation to a Journey

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Why Are We Leading?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Where Are We Heading?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – How Do We Do It?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Discerning Together

Discerning on Our Own

Being part of a discerning community means a commitment to discerning the will of God in our own individual lives too. It means growing into habits that encourage listening to all the voices through which God speaks to us. The art of listening to God doesn’t come easily or naturally to any of us, but we will never hear God clearly in a group if we have not learned to listen and respond to the voice of God in our personal lives. Unfortunately I think that many of us don’t take this responsibility seriously enough. Even when we know there is something wrong with the state of our souls, rather than pausing and listening to the guidance of God, or taking time to get away for some good solitary listening to God, we push on into the very activity that crowds out God’s ability to speak to us.

God speaks to us in many and diverse ways. Some hear God clearest through scripture and prayer. Others respond better to the voice of God through interacting with nature. Still others hear the voice of God through their interactions with friends, family, their faith community or their spiritual directors. God speaks through many other ways too – through our own brokenness and struggles, through the broken and marginalized in our world wide community, through our busyness and irritability, through the demands of our bodies and the weariness of our spirits.

Writing this series on leading spiritually has been something of a process of self examination for me as I have taken the time to discern how well I am doing in my own personal spiritual discernment. One tool I have found useful is this spiritual audit process I wrote several years ago. Another is the regular retreats that Tom and I take every three to four months. This has become an essential part of my own spiritual journey and in fact this season of soul searching and reevaluating for me personally, has come out of the retreat that we held at the end of last year. I would heartily recommend this process to others. The third essential process to keep my life balanced and my spirit in that place of discernment is the keeping of Sabbath and a time of journalling and checking in with God (and with Tom).

There are many signals that tell me I am not in a good spiritual state and therefore not likely to do a good job of discerning in a group. These usually surface during our retreat or journalling times. Busyness, irritability, not sleeping well at night, putting on weight, constantly feeling overwhelmed are all good indicators for me that all is not well with my soul. There are other indicators too that I don’t always take notice of – cutting back on my Sabbath observances, losing the balance between work and rest, community and solitude, secular and sacred are all indicators of a dysfunctional life that I know can destroy my ability to discern well within our leadership group.

The best book that I read in 2011 was Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Learning to live in a place of gratitude, where we are fully attentive to each moment, seeing in that moment the revelation of a God who loves and cares deeply for us is revolutionary but it is also incredibly freeing and spiritually rewarding. I think that it should be the goal of all of us who sincerely desire to discern the will of God for our lives and our organizations.

How is it with your soul? When was the last time you took a spiritual audit or went on retreat to check in on your spiritual state? What are the distractions that cloud your ability to clearly discern the will God? What are are you doing to overcome those?

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