Praying for Discernment Day 4: A Discerning Friend
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17, ESV)
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance. (Proverbs 1:5, ESV)
I hope when you think about a discerning friend, one of your own friends quickly comes to mind. Having a friend with the ability to discern in life’s messier situations is such a blessing. I am thankful to say I have a few, and those are the ones I regularly go to with issues that need careful thought. I also have some friends whom I love dearly, but at times, the advice given makes me inwardly cringe. It’s not to say those relationships aren’t valuable to me, but it’s less likely I will go to them in a crisis.
Some situations are pretty much open game for discussion among any of our friends because the implications are not serious in nature. Others, though, are delicate, and the direction you take needs prayerful guidance—the stakes are high. These are the situations where a discerning friend is a valuable resource. While it’s easy to find a friend who quickly agrees with you and takes your side, that won’t help shed light on what the real problem is and find a healthy resolution to it. Those friends aren’t willing to say what may be difficult to hear; sometimes we are the ones responsible for the mess we are in, and unless we can own up to that, we won’t make necessary changes, and the issue remains.
Years back when my marriage was in crisis, I needed a few people I could trust to give discerning guidance in my life. Most people were not willing to look at all the angles; they were more interested in relational justice and turned away from grace. I wanted scriptural guidance without personal agendas getting in the way. Thankfully, we also have the best Resource available—God’s Word. Friends who understood my faith foundation were the safest ones to go to.
One of the harder parts of receiving advice when we are in a vulnerable place is that we often lean toward what we want to hear, and not what we need to hear. Had I chosen to listen to the advice that was not in line with Scripture, I would not have had the opportunity to see restoration in our lives. In short, I would have missed out on God’s best plan for my life. Does He always lead us back from a broken marriage? Not always, but when the variables were put together in our own situation, I could feel Him opening the doors for reconciliation. Some really great discerning friends also saw this with me. I thank God for those who drew close when I needed them the most.
Do your friends come to you when they face difficult situations? It’s often hard to allow our initial response to reflect God’s Word; we feel impassioned to speak what first comes to mind. I know that I need to slow down and ingest what I’ve heard, collect the needed information, and see where Scripture would direct in the news I’ve heard. Immediately siding with my friend won’t help in the long run, even if it’s what they may want to hear initially.
When approached by a friend in a tough situation, we could begin by praying for discernment before we share our thoughts. Even to simply say “Let me think on this and give it some prayer before we circle back” is actually very wise. Giving a quick answer without taking the time to look at the situation with clear eyes and the help of the Holy Spirit could lead your friend down a path that gets them into more of a mess. If you’ve spoken too quickly and regret that you’ve done so, don’t be too proud to go back with an apology for giving poor advice. Our friends need to hear the truth spoken in love—exactly what we need ourselves from our own friend circle.
God created us for relationship. He didn’t leave Adam alone; He gave Eve to complement him. We might think we don’t need people in our lives but that’s a foolish thought and is contrary to Scripture. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and give you discerning advice. Listen closely to the friend that has weighty thoughts and advice for you. God has placed people in your life for a reason; pay attention to those relationships and nurture them. In turn, be a friend who prays for discernment in the issues your friends are currently facing. They need godly advice—are you willing to be that friend? May we pray that God would give abundant clarity as we seek to be a friend who speaks loving truth to those who need it most.