I was shocked to read that most executives make a hiring decision within five minutes of beginning an interview, based on what they feel. And its 50% wrong. They might as well toss a coin.
 
Much of the shock in reading this was the realization that I too have made decisions that way. Good grief, I might as well toss a coin.
 
And yet many people of faith talk about “having a peace” (or not) about something as the indicator that it is God’s will. If the social science is correct, we might be correct 50% of the time.

This is not the first time the people of God have wrestled with emotions and discerning God’s will. 

 
I wrote about three models of discerning God’s will, changing God’s will, and a new way of living in my previous posts, and more than 400 years ago a church leader reflected deeply about knowing God’s will, and one of the great insights Ignatius Loyola had was understanding the role of emotions in this process. 
 
Emotions are an expression of the heart, and God speaks to our hearts. Therefore we do need to learn this language of the heart and pay attention. Loyola encourages us to become aware of the ups and downs of our emotions, these two basic categories of emotion:
 
  • Consolation – feelings of peace, joy, contentment, serenity. These feel “good.”
  • Desolation – feelings of anger, depression, discouragement, inner turmoil. We don’t like these; they feel “bad.”
Emotions are the language of the heart, and they signal what you sense deep down inside your spirit. A conflict between what our rational thought process indicates and what we feel “in our gut,” is an important flag that you had better stop and take the time to reflect on this. 
 

Your inner feelings might be the Spirit of God speaking … or not. And that’s the confusing part. You need to sort your heart out. 

 
There are two steps to doing this. The first is …
 
  1. Prayerfully reflect

“Listening” to your heart. Here is a simple but very helpful way to discern by praying through your emotions.

I have found combining this prayer guide with my journaling to be very helpful to bring my head and my heart together. We must analyze these feelings with prayer. God shapes us with our joys and sorrows. We need to pay attention to what we are sensing in our spirit, and what these feelings indicate.

 
But there is a second step. Discerning God’s will is not just a solo action of personal reflection, even when we pray about it. It may be adequate for simple questions, but we’d better take a second step when considering major decisions, and that is to …
 
  1. Consult with trusted advisers
We must admit to ourselves that strong emotions sway us. Fear and anger cloud our ability to think accurately, and we make poor decisions that way. 
 
Martin Luther, another famous Christian leader, told his followers that there are two things required for spiritual discernment: 
 
  • a Scriptural foundation
  • brotherly conversations
We must acknowledge the possibility of self-deception. Solo Christians are dangerous to themselves and others. The best antidote is a healthy accountability and community. Meeting with godly, wise and trusted advisors is a very important step to check our perceptions and receive wisdom beyond what we have ourselves. 
 

We are looking for peace

 
When we thoroughly process these two steps, we should find our mind and emotions coming together. The result will be the heart shifting more into feelings of consolation, even though the situation is still difficult. 
 
Here is a very important piece of advice: Never make a major decision when you are in desolation. Feelings of turmoil, anger and depression are signals from your heart that you need to process things before acting. 
 
What we are looking for is the peace of God, a sense of God’s wholeness, and everything coming together for good to settle our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4.6-8)
 
One final word of caution: the peace we come to must still have the humility to acknowledge that we are not 100% sure. How many times have you heard someone announce, “God told me such-and-such” only to find out later it was disastrous.
 
Rather, let us act with humility. We can say, “I believe I am supposed to …” or “This is my sense …” Then we remain open to correction and adjusting our path as we go along.
 
Do these things, and you will beat the 50% odds in making wise decisions.
 
Question: What have you found helpful in making tough decisions?