Ministry Musings: Accept the Limitations

We turn to some of the practical considerations with respect to discernment.  None is more important that this:  we must accept that there are limitations to our ability to discern God’s will.

God is not playing hide-and-seek with us, but neither is God’s will fully knowable.  God’s thoughts are not out thoughts; God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  Like the psalmist, we find ourselves saying to God, “Your thoughts are very deep” (92:5).

In other words, the practice of discernment is always against the backdrop of Mystery.  If we do not acknowledge this from the outset, we will confuse discernment with scrupulosity.  Scrupulosity means trying to go into greater detail than the situation will allow.  And when we become scrupulous, we will drive ourselves crazy trying to know things at a level which is simply not possible.

By accepting the limitations of our discernment, we seek God’s will in the context of freedom.  We walk as far as we can by sight, and then the rest of the way by faith.

We have already shown that God does not require us to always “get it right.”  Faith is not being “right,” it is being responsive.

So, discernment begins with us saying, “God, I want to know Your will.  I am going to do what I can to know it, and as I receive Light, I will walk in it.  I will go as far as I can on the insights I have, knowing that there will come a point when I can only act on the best available evidence that I have.  Sometimes, I’ll be correct; at other times, I’ll be incorrect.  But even when I am wrong, You will teach me and I will learn more about Your will than if I had never sought for it in the first place.”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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