More than good thinking...
As a mom I want my girls to think well and critically. I seek to teach them to make choices that are thoughtful and aligned with God's ways, so they can live with skill... with wisdom. But I want more for them.
The Scripture gives us guidelines for life. Proverbs is known as the book of wisdom, and it is filled with treasures. God's commands throughout the Scripture are designed to protect us and honor his creative intent and goodness. But good thinking and alignment with God's law is not the whole of walking with God. I long for more than just good decisions for my girls, and for me.
Good thinking is formulaic, tending to be analytical and data based. It emphasizes reason, even good "biblical" thinking. Good thinking is important, but it provides pieces of the puzzle rather than the whole. God's ways are not always as linear as we might think. Paul reminds us that God's momentous message of love to the world was through "Christ crucified" in 1 Corinthians 1. The way down was the way up. "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Corinthians 1:25 NAS). That is partly why the religious leaders in Jesus' day got so tangled up, and why we still get tangled up today. God's way was, and often is, counterintuitive. It is bigger than "2+2=4." Because it is not the law that defines God but, rather, God defines the law.
True life centers upon relationship with and submission to the triune God, made real and accessible through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us. Good thinking is beneficial... it helps us align with the Word of God and the ways God created the world to thrive. But life is found in the person of God... and discernment is found in walking closely with the One who turns all our preconceptions upside down, who brings beauty out of ashes, who chooses the weak and the broken, and leverages suffering for our transformation.
Analytical thinking can be driven by my independence and self-sufficiency rather than by trust and faith. Therefore what appears to be good may not be God's way for me at all. Sometimes, what seems reasonable, or even good, may be far from the heart of God. In Genesis 16 we find Sarah impatient as she waits for the child God promised to her and Abraham. She says to Abraham, "The Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my maid, perhaps I shall obtain children through her"(Genesis 16: 2). In those days, in that culture, her suggestion was considered a reasonable solution, but the heartache resulting from that choice and the birth of Ismael continues today. Even by her own words, "the Lord has prevented me," it is evident that she is seeking to accomplish on her own what God had promised but was holding back for a time.
How often in the Biblical story did God ask his leaders and his people to do the unreasonable, seemingly foolish, thing? At God's direction Samuel anointed Jesse's youngest son to be the next king rather than the oldest and strongest (1 Samuel 16). According to God's instruction Joshua circumcised his army immediately before they engaged in battle, marching around Jericho seven times to take the city (Joshua 5-6). And what about Gideon? God sifted his army from 32,000 to 300 (Judges 7). But there was a reason, so Israel would know that God was their deliverer not their own strength. Just a few examples.
Discernment is always more about intimacy with God than about my most thoughtful analysis. So I bring my good thinking into prayer, and then I pause and listen for the leading of the Spirit of God. Don't be surprised if his ways are unexpected. God desires intimacy with you and me. "Discernment is first of all a habit, a way of seeing that eventually permeates our whole life. It is the journey from spiritual blindness(not seeing God anywhere or seeing him only where we expect to see him) to spiritual sight (finding God everywhere, especially where we least expect it)" Sacred Rhythms, p. 111. God is always moving for His glory and our good, because the Kingdom of God is present even in this broken world.
Can I bring my best thinking and my whole heart into prayer?
Then will I pause and listen for the leading of the Spirit of God?