Need Discernment? Start by Seeking God
by Hannah Anderson
I really liked the internet. At first.
Ten years ago, when I first logged on as a young stay-at-home mom, the internet was a lifeline. From the comfort (and isolation) of my kitchen table, I’d read the news headlines, keep in touch with friends, browse the latest fashion trends, and discover better ways of tackling my daily chores. When my husband’s work took us overseas to New Zealand, email helped us to close the gap between our parents and their year-old granddaughter. Eventually, the connectivity of the digital age opened doors for me to work from home.
But as technology has advanced and become incorporated into almost every moment of my life, a funny thing has happened. Instead of making life simpler, it often makes it more complicated. “Social” media has become decidedly anti-social, the joy of connecting with friends dampened by the inevitable political debates, clickbait headlines, and pop-up ads that dominate my feed. In a single day, I can encounter more data, more opinions, and more ideas than my grandmother did in an entire lifetime. In his book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in an Age of Information Overload, neuroscientist Daniel Levitin writes, “Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumor, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting.”
Which news reports should I believe? Who are my real “friends”? Should I post what I’m actually thinking? How can I know what’s true and what isn’t?
While some of our questions are unique to the digital age, the need to sort through conflicting opinions and make good choices is not. In fact, human beings have been trying to distinguish truth from error since the Fall—with some of us being more successful than others.
What might be surprising, however, is that the ability to make good decisions does not start with intelligence or education or even asking the right questions. The ability to know the difference between what’s good and what’s not starts with humility. It starts with seeking God.
Consider the story of Solomon in I Kings 3. Soon after he became king, Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice to the Lord. While there, the Lord appeared to him in a dream, telling him to ask whatever he wanted. Foremost on Solomon’s mind was his need to make good decisions. “Lord my God,” he replies, “give your servant a receptive heart to judge your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?” Given a blank check, Solomon did not ask for sustainable peace or for the challenges of leadership to go away. He did not ask for a long, prosperous reign. He asked for the ability to weigh the challenges he would face and make wise choices. He asked for discernment.
Later in his life, Solomon would write that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; [but] fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). In other words, people who do not think they have anything to learn, won’t. People who are confident in their own ability to make good decisions shouldn’t be. And people who refuse to humble themselves before the One who is wisdom Himself will never become wise.
But to those who will, to those like Solomon who cry out for understanding, God makes this promise: If you acknowledge your need, if you recognize your inability, if you want to know the difference between good and evil, if you commit to the process, you will be changed. You will become a person who can face the challenges of this world with clarity, purpose, and confidence.
Because this is what God does when people ask Him for discernment: He gives it.
Solomon continues with this promise: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity” (Proverbs 2:6–7). Later in the New Testament, James affirms this, writing, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
He will not chide you; He will not shame you for all you do not know. He will not laugh at your mistakes or mock your failed attempts. This God, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, this God will simply teach you what you need to know. Out of His generous heart, this God will show you the way of goodness.
When I think of how quickly the world is shifting around me, I know that I am unable to keep up with it. And while I don’t have the responsibility of governing a nation, I understand the weight Solomon felt. With him, I question, Who is able to do this? Who among us can sort through all the noise? Who can survive the waves of new information, new data, and new decisions crashing over us every moment of every day?
Even if I were to unplug, move off grid, and somehow attempt to isolate myself from the modern world, the modern world would still find me. And when it did, I would be ill-equipped to deal with it. As much as we’d like to, there’s no going back to a simpler time, no escaping the world we live in. So we must become people who can face it. We must become people who have insight and discernment. We must become people who seek the One who is wisdom Himself.
And when we do, He promises that we’ll find Him.
Hannah Anderson lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where she works beside her husband in rural ministry and cares for their three children. She is the author of Made for More, Humble Roots, and her latest book All That’s Good. She regularly writes and speaks about faith, culture, and spiritual formation. You can find more of her work at sometimesalight.com.
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