11.3 Discernment: Simple & Straightforward.

Listen to this!

Today’s Lectio Divina: 

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live Him. You’re deeply rooted in Him. You’re well constructed upon Him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving. Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in Him, so you can see and hear Him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without Him. When you come to Him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything. Colossians 2: 6-10 (MsgB)


Ignatian Truth #11: Ignatian spirituality is all about Rules of Discernment. A discerning person is always looking for an inner awareness of the movement of the Spirit, asking the question, “Am I being driven or drawn?” Ignatius’ analogy of a drop of water hitting a sponge (consolation) or a rock (desolation) is helpful, and a discerning person knows to keep discerning even after a decision is made, and not to change a decision made in a season of consolation when found in a time of desolation.


Pastor Eugene Peterson, in one of his classic books, defines true Christ-centered discipleship as “a long obedience in the same direction.”

I believe Ignatius would have agreed with Peterson’s assessment.

You see, as Ignatius attempted to walk out his own journey with Jesus, he found that there were consistencies in life that he could draw upon as he made daily choices. He called these touchstones of wisdom and truth his Rules of Discernment.

An organized man, Ignatius systematically wrote down for himself and others certain steps that he would follow as he made important choices in life. These Rules of Discernment are spelled out in detail throughout the Spiritual Exercises, so we won’t attempt to review them all here. But do allow me today to give you three simple truths that have helped me immensely along the way.

When trying to make a major decision in my life, it’s always wise to look a bit deeper underneath the decision to be made, looking for my inward motivations that might be driving the decision that awaits me.

Using the Ignatian tool of the Examen, it’s always wise to slow down in the decision-making process and ask myself these three questions…

  1. In making this decision, am I being drawn or driven? In truth, decisions that are made under duress, or being forced, either by me or by external situations, rarely are good ones. Sadly, there are too many times I’ve made major decisions by forcing the answer to come or allowing outside pressure to push me to decide. Ignatius would recommend if I am are feeling “driven” to make a decision, chances are, that decision will not be a healthy one. Yet if I feel gently “drawn” by God to a decision, it’s much easier to believe I am being led by God versus pushing my way through life.
  2. In making this decision, does it feel like a drop of water falling on a sponge or on a rock? This visual was important for Ignatius because once again, it was vitally important for Iggy to feel the peace of God that passes all understanding as he prepared to make a major decision in his life. So many decisions I make can seem like good ones (a drop of refreshing water) but when they are made under duress or forced, that refreshing drop of water will splash right off the hardness of a stone, leaving me dry and thirsty. Yet when that decision (a drop of water) falls gently onto a warm, receptive sponge, the feelings of rightness abound.
  3. In making this decision, am I presently in a season of consolation or desolation. As we discussed earlier, self-awareness of my inward condition (stressed or at peace) and awareness of my externals (stressed or at peace) is an important factor in decision making. If indeed, I am in a time of great stress (internal or external desolation, or both!) this is not the best time to be making major decisions. Sadly, so many of us make major decisions for our lives when we are under the greatest stress or pressures to do so. Ignatius recommended only making major decisions when I am in a season of consolation and suggested I never change a decision, made in a time of consolation when I am found in a season of desolation!

As I said, there’s much more to this process of wise discernment, but I like what Paul says to his friends in Colossae:

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live Him. You’re deeply rooted in Him. You’re well constructed upon Him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it!

My prayer: Jesus, I’m so thankful for others, like Paul and Ignatius, who have gone before me, leaving their words of good counsel and advice as I grow up and mature in the work of discernment. Holy Spirit, come indwell and empower me to live in Christ, deeply rooted in Him so that everything I say and do in life will give glory back to God. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: What track record do I have in wise discernment? Can I learn from my past mistakes? Can I celebrate those times I’ve chosen wisely? Then, as I learn from others who have walked this path before me, can I believe that Jesus will truly lead me and guide me, simple and straightforward, in His ways of truth, wisdom, and understanding?

How are you experiencing God as you ponder on these Ignatian truths today? 


Over a period of twelve weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take this journey into Iggy’s Biggies, contemplating twelve foundational truths found within the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read.

If you’ve never journeyed through the Exercises, might I suggest that you find a qualified spiritual director and ask them to accompany you along the way? Here at The Contemplative Activist, we can offer a good number of highly qualified folks to do just that.

Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activistwith your friends! 

Click here to go on to the next blog/podcast in this series…

1 thought on “11.3 Discernment: Simple & Straightforward.

  1. Pingback: 11.2 Discernment: Lady Wisdom & Madame Insight. | The Contemplative Activist

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