Discernment can be described in many ways, but the best single word to describe it is listening. How can we hone our listening skills, and what are the obstacles to listening to God?
We have all watched movies where a character is alone in the dark, hears a noise and, despite the danger and fear, decides to go investigate. As the character walks into danger, we may even shout at the screen, “Stop! Don’t go in! Don’t you know that something bad is going to happen?” Either the movie has a poorly written cliché, or something else in the story prevents that character from listening to their intuition.
We may be wise enough not to investigate a dark alley at night by ourselves, but we all have moments when we don’t listen to the experienced voice of wisdom within us. Whether it’s lack of time or the noisiness of our life, consistently listening for God within is often the hardest part of discerning for us. Listening to how God is speaking within us includes:
- listening for God in our prayer and desires
- recognizing God’s presence in the circumstances and events of our lives.
Listening to God means living reflectively.
I try to check the pulse of my life daily to ensure that I’m making enough time for silence and prayer. Doing this daily is important because I find it so easy to be distracted by the “noise” of daily life, allowing it to overwhelm the much-needed interior silence that I need to live in mindful awareness of God’s daily invitations.
In addition to simple distractions, three obstacles that I regularly face in listening attentively to God within (in my prayer, desires, and reflection on my daily life) are:
- Busyness and/or overwork
- Restlessness or discomfort with silence or deeper reflection
- Giving others’ situations, needs, problems, or conflicts undue attention in my thoughts, so that I’m focusing on external situations that are often beyond my control, rather than my own
For me, these choices, behaviors, or attitudes are often rooted in ambition or overdeveloped ego.
What are the biggest obstacles that prevent you from listening attentively to God?