Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and help them to become what they are capable of being.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We can all grow in this important practice of discernment. One of the most discerning things any of us can do is to look beyond what is glaringly wrong, and focus in on what has the potential to be made right. Without insight, it is easy to mistake an enemy for a friend or someone’s past for their future, because the shadow realm distorts our perspective. But when light is brought to a situation, you see what is actually before you.
“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14 ESV)
Discernment comes with maturity, which is ultimately not about an age, but our approach to life. Is the word of God our ultimate standard, and love the highest motive? This scripture does not encourage the practice of labeling, but distinguishing. Labeling does not develop discernment, and labels can be painfully accurate about someone’s past while missing their future by a mile. There is always far more to be seen than the obvious.
Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Discernment is about knowing what really is going on so we can turn what others see as a disadvantage into an advantage. The discerning will know how to take what was meant for bad and turn it around for good. Discernment could be likened to distinguishing a light in the distance.
In our culture the lines between good and evil seem to blur a bit more each day. There is so much darkness right in front of us that it obscures the light on the horizon. To accurately see, we must look within and listen to the inner voice of our hearts. It is from there that we draw upon the Holy Spirit’s counsel. Notice that discernment is a power that must be trained through constant practice. Only then will we be able to separate or distinguish good from evil.
Let me open the pages of my past as an example. In my youth I lived an immoral, sexually promiscuous life. Those who were skilled in the art of labeling only saw the markings of my past written across my forehead. But describing the wrapping of a package doesn’t mean you know the contents.
Thankfully God placed a father figure in my life that had mastered the art of discernment. He and his wife welcomed me into their home. When I spent time with them, I felt loved and safe, while in other homes I just felt watched. This couple looked beyond an obviously broken girl and saw something others missed — they saw what might be.
They understood that even though I had derailed my sexual past, if it could be put back on track, the lessons learned might light the way for others.
They moved beyond the realm of shame and encouraged me to light the tinder of it as a beacon for others. Rather than allowing me to remain trapped in my past they released me into my future! Over time I was able to extract the good (lessons) and redeem my choices by way of example so others would not journey down the same road.
True discernment understands that the shadowed darkness of one’s past can serve as a distant light in someone else’s future. I challenge you to be a woman of greater discernment. What are some areas you have buried in the shadows that need to be brought to the light? Is there someone you know who needs release? Ask God to open your heart to glimpse a brighter future.