Something inside me freezes when I hear the word discernment. Whether I’m making a major purchase, giving advice to a friend, or standing in a voting booth feeling as if I’m taking a test I haven’t studied for, discernment is the quality that’s lacking and the thing I long for. We want good things for ourselves and for those we love, but therein is the rub: Do I know what is good? Will I recognize it when I see it? Am I qualified to discern what is good, what is true, and what is beautiful in a world skewed and often unsafe?
Hannah Anderson longed to recover the lost art of discernment as well. In her family life and her career, she craved clarity:
My actions and choices were shaped more by the brokenness around me than the reality of God’s goodness and nearness. When faced with a decision, I played defense: What will keep me safe? What are other people expecting me to do? What will happen if I make a mistake?” (12)
All That’s Good is the record of Anderson’s discovery that discernment, an eye for what’s good, is part of the believer’s transformation process Paul describes in Romans 12:2 in which the renewed mind “discerns what is [God’s] good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
This is the path away from weather vane living–the dreadful swinging in the wind that is both exhausting and embarrassing. Let me point out three aspects of this book’s solid truth telling, but rest assured that there is no short cut to discernment. Like any learned behavior or skill, discerning the good is a practice that comes with, well… practice!
Discernment is Inseparable from Virtue
The Apostle Paul was kind enough to provide a written list describing God’s vision of virtue:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Focused on God’s character–not with a microscope and a probe, but with a telescope that brings into focus God’s vast goodness–we become like what we behold.
Contemporary Culture Undermines Discernment
Research is my default, so when I’ve got a question, the facts pile high in my head. How enlightening in this digital age of Google to affirm the difference between information and knowledge, between data and wisdom. My skill in discernment is more about who I am than what I know. All the image management and groupthink social media fuels and fosters actually get in the way of my ability to discern what is good and to navigate the real world with confidence and hope.
We Become Discerning in Community
Even the Apostle Paul needed re-direction at times. God’s sovereignty is not thwarted for one minute by my wrong choices, and often he will use the voice of a brother or sister in Christ to offer the redirection that is needed. It is in the life-on-life of sharing our opinions and finding that we have reached different conclusions–but responding in love anyway–that we discover discernment as a generosity of spirit, a quality that allows for sacrifice and unity “because we are in relationship with each another, not in order to stay in relationship with each other.” (179)
As individuals and as a body, we are invited to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” As we behold what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable, and as we strive to become more fully aware of the difference between what is good and what is better, we are embarking upon the transformation process that leads to discernment and finding that it’s not a lost art after all.
Many thanks to Moody Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.