For Discernment To Give Godly Counsel

Discernment Counseling

For Discernment To Give Godly Counsel

We call these mixed-agenda couples.

One person is leaning the marriage and nearing a final decision to divorce. The other person is leaning in and ready to do whatever it takes to save the marriage. Even among couples who have filed for divorce, as many as 40% are mixed agenda.

How do you engage the leaning out partner who isn’t even sure they want to stick around for a second session, let alone do intense couples therapy?

How do you engage the leaning in partner without colluding to change the other’s mind? If you hold back from encouraging a dive into couples therapy, aren’t you then siding with the leaning out partner?

The leaning in spouse is usually freaking out. This may come out in anger, sadness, frustration, or any other strong emotion that we humans go through when we are told something as powerful as “this marriage is over.”

In our hyper individualistic culture, this “leaning in” spouse often seems immature and quite unappealing in their behaviors, thus “proving” they are worthy of being left.

During this time of emotional storms, couples often find themselves pulled by family, friends, therapists, clergy, and divorce professionals, each which their own view about marital commitment and divorce. Everyone means well but couples are ravaged by competing advice and often a lack place of safety to calmly explore all the complex feelings they’re having.

A Discernment Counselor creates a holding environment for these couples to understand each other and decide on a direction for their marriage, whether that is divorce or one last try to make it work. It’s a short term, intensive process lasting 1-5 sessions.

The discernment process focused the partners on three paths.

  • Path one is the status quo—the relationship as it has been.
  • Path two is separation/divorce.
  • Path three is a six month commitment to couples therapy (and sometimes other resources) with divorce off the table, after which they can make another decision about whether to stay or leave.

To give you a sense of how Discernment Counseling works, we’ll share the first session and how most sessions go.

!!! Be warned: the individual time is very intense, often very well received, and even a very far leaning out spouse often gets enormous value and wishes to return for a second or third session.

!!! Warning two: Simply reading this blog post is not ly to create great results. There is a lot behind the scenes.

In the first session you start with Couple time (35-40 minutes.)

The heart of this time is a series of questions for each partner to respond to separately, with no couple interaction and minimal feedback from the discernment counselor, who listens, occasionally clarifies, and takes notes.

The four core questions in
the first session of Discernment Counseling:

Divorce narrative: “What has happened to your marriage that has gotten you to the point where divorce is a possibility?” (Listen for the complexity of the story, one sided versus two sided, critical incidents.)

Repair narrative: “What have you done to try to fix these problems so that you didn’t get to this point? It might be things you tried individually, as a couple, or with outside help.” (Get each person in, and then ask follow up questions, particularly about past couples therapy.)

Children’s question: “What role, if any, do your children play in your decision making about the future of your marriage?” Generally don’t comment or ask follow ups on this one.)

Best of times: “What was the best of times in your relationship since you met? A time when you felt the most connection and joy in your relationship.” This gives you a sense of what drew them to each other. .” This gives you a sense of what drew them to each other and often ends this couple time on a positive note. Gently steer them to only speak about positives here.

With the leaning-out partner alone:

You can start with a general question such as what the couple time in the session was for them. Or if you are seeing a lot of pain or tension, you can start with a simple “How are you doing?” The goal is emotional connection.

Validate their pain and frustration with the marriage as it has been. If appropriate, rule out path one—the way things were can’t continue for this person.

If they are focusing only on their inclination to divorce, summarize the reasons you are hearing for divorce, and say that it’s clear they have thought through the reasons for path two (review the paths). Ask if it would make sense to spend some time on potential reasons to choose path three.

Make it clear throughout that you are helping them decide whether to work on the marriage (path three), as opposed to helping them change the marriage now.

Explore their sense of their own contributions to the problems in the marriage. Don’t skip this conversation in the first session no matter how distressed the person is; otherwise, you will have created a contract that does not allow this exploration in subsequent sessions.

Offer the beginning of an interactional, systemic view of their marital problems: the dance they have done together. You want to help the person see themselves as an active player in the couple dynamics, although be careful to not suggest they are responsible for their partner’s personal contributions such as alcohol abuse or an affair.

Ask if they want to do another session.

Ask what he/she would to say to the partner in the way of summary. Coach on what to say, with a focus on self-learnings and willingness to keep discerning. Even if the person has been reluctant to look at their own part, a minimum sharing might be: “I have some new things to think about concerning my role in our problems, and I would to return to another discernment counseling session.”

Bring in the partner for this sharing, with no expectation of a response from the one listening.

WITH THE Leaning-in partner alone:

Ask how they are feeling at the moment.

You will generally get more frankness about this person’s pain and anger. Listen with empathy, then move on. Don’t allow the leaning in partner to go on for 10-15 minutes with their frustration about what’s happened to them in the marriage.

Clarify the person’s desire to save the marriage, and why.

Ask if they would your help to save the marriage.

Frame the three paths, and offer to help open the door for path three.

Note hard versus soft reasons raised by the leaning out spouse. See if the leaning in spouse “gets” the concerns of the other and is willing to work on legitimate ones.

Focus first on helping the leaning in spouse hear what the other partner is saying about reasons to end the marriage.

Focus on constructive coping with the crisis: neither pursue nor distance, don’t scold, triangle with others, do self-pity, make threats. Suggest a reading: The Divorce Remedy by Michele Weiner-Davis.

Focus on learning about self and what needs to change in this relationship or another in the future.

Clarify the person’s interest in another session.

Agree on a summary to be shared with the partner at the end of the session.

Usually best to focus on:

  • a desire for path three
  • what the person has heard and gotten in the spouse's concerns
  • what aspects of self that he/she wants to work on, as well as reiteration of desire to go with path three.

The partner you just talked to gives his/her summary.

No expectation of a response from the other partner, but let them say something if they seemed inclined to do so.

Depending on the time left and what’s happened in this session, offer some words of appreciation for their work in the session and a theme or two that emerged. Say that each wants to do another session, and schedule that.

It’s often good to emphasize not to expect relationship changes between sessions since that’s not what discernment counseling is for.

Feel free to use elements of it when you see mixed-agenda couples. If you want to learn to do it well and consistently with a wide range of couples, there are many subtleties that come only with training.

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Growing in Discernment

For Discernment To Give Godly Counsel

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)

Godly discernment is the divine ability to rightly judge what is going on. In its broadest sense, discernment is closely related to wisdom as an expression of the spirit of God. By this Spirit, we can function in the manner that Jesus did: “He [did] not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears” (Isa. 11:2-3).

As believers, we should always seek after wisdom. What’s more, as James 1:5 and 6 remind us, we can be sure we’ll receive it when we ask in faith!

Discernment grows as we read and study God’s Word, practice holy living as God desires, pray and ask, and gain experience.1  

A more specific form of discernment, discerning of spirits, is a spiritual gift imparted by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:10). It is also closely related to wisdom, but it is somewhat different in that it involves specific knowledge given supernaturally. Because of this, the gift of discernment is sometimes considered a special expression of the word of knowledge.

Distinguishing the Source

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God…” (1 John 4:1)

Discerning of spirits involves distinguishing between the three possible sources of spiritual motivation and activity. The three areas of spirit activity are:

– The Spirit of God: Most important is being able to discern the activity of the Holy Spirit; He will also give the ability to recognize the activity and presence of angels.2

-The spirit of man: Discerning the spirit of man involves perceiving the true motivation or intent behind a person’s words or actions. Peter, for example, determined that Simon’s heart was not right in asking for authority to lay hands on individuals to impart the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17-24).

– The spirit of Satan: Discerning the spirit of Satan or demons includes identifying when someone has a demonic problem, or determining when something is from Satan rather than God.

Jesus demonstrated this type of discernment when He rebuked Peter by saying, “Get behind Me, Satan.

” He rightly determined that Peter’s declaration came from Satan and was contrary to God’s purpose (Matt. 16:22-23).

Identifying The Purposes

Of course, God would not give us the spiritual gift of discernment for no reason. The major reasons are:

– To test the genuineness of the spirits behind spirit manifestation. This is the most primary application—to know those who acknowledge and confess Christ and to have knowledge of the Holy Spirit’s movement so as to cooperate with Him.3

– To enable deliverance from demonic spirits. Jesus did this often, as in Mark 9:25, when He rebuked the deaf and dumb spirit.

I was once part of a small group of women who met for fellowship and prayer. At the end of one meeting, a woman laid hands on another woman who had been ill for some time with a lingering cough. The sick woman began feeling better right away, but oddly enough, the woman who had prayed for her began feeling poorly shortly after.

I had not been present at this meeting, but after being contacted by the second woman and learning she was about to be hospitalized with bronchitis, I discerned that a spirit manifesting as sickness had passed from the first woman to her. I met with her, read several scriptures, cast out the spirit, and she was healed immediately! (Don’t let this make you afraid to pray for the sick—this was extremely unusual!)

More recently, the Lord’s been giving me dreams revealing regional spirits as we prepare for a state prayer journey (we’re from Montana). One, for instance, involved the era of cattle rustling, which released a spirit of robbery!

– To discern the presence of angels or demons at a service or occasion of ministry. In the New Testament, Paul very effectively determined the source of the slave girl’s words—on the surface, it seemed of God, but it was actually demonic and causing great disruption in their midst (Acts 16:16-18).

– To expose deceivers/deception and error. This will become increasingly essential as we move toward the end of the age.4  

Cultivating The Gift

“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age… who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14)

The Lord is bringing new levels of discernment to His people—discernment is a weapon you can shoot and use often. If you desire to grow in the gift of discernment:

– Ask! We have a good heavenly Father who gives good gifts.

– Determine to fellowship with believers who can help guide you as you gain experience.

– Seek after wisdom.

– Keep in mind that, all gifts related to the prophetic, the purpose of discernment is to bring life and to build up the body of Christ—not to tear down. We must be cognizant, not critical—Spirit-led, not suspicious.

A season of accelerated harvest is about to begin, just as the people of God are about to reach the age of maturity. Using godly discernment, we will be able to unmask deception as well as recognize the presence of angels in order to cooperate with them to bring in the harvest!

For further study:

  1. See also 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet 1:13-19; Matt. 7:7-11.

  2. John 1:32-34; Matt. 4:11

  3. 1 Cor. 12:3; John 3:8

  4. Matt. 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 Tim. 4:1-2

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A Strategy for Godly Discernment

For Discernment To Give Godly Counsel

My father in law served as an assistant fire chief during his career in Northern California. I am always intrigued with the many stories that he has shared with me.

From massive building fires to forest fires, he has fought them all. What I found interesting was that there was a method to putting out fires.

You see, they didn’t go into those fires and just shoot the water haphazardly at the fire. They had a strategy for putting out the fire.

Reversely, we want to have a strategy and plan to prevent the quenching of the Spirit.  First Thessalonians 5:19 commands us to, “Quench not the Spirit.

” To quench the Spirit literally means to extinguish the flame of God’s work, whether in your life or in that of someone else. We are to be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We must be receptive to His conviction, yield to His control, and walk with Him every day of our lives.

The command of 1 Thessalonians 5:19 is followed by a strategy you can implement to prevent quenching the Spirit, and it involves discernment. Let’s see what 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22 says about discernment: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

1. Prove All Things

The word prove means to “examine” and is translated from a very common and familiar word. It carries the idea of testing something in order to ascertain its true character or nature.

Ancient stone masons would go through quarries and examine rocks. On those stones that passed the examination was painted a delta or letter “d” for approved. Those stones that failed the inspection were labeled with an alpha or “a” for unapproved.

So this verse means that we are to inspect our lives to see what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong.

We need to examine our entertainment. I always ask myself, “Would I feel comfortable if Jesus was sitting on the sofa beside me and I had control of the remote?”

We need to examine our worldview. Are your political views tied to your understanding of Scripture or are they tied to party loyalty?

We need to examine our motives. If we are honest, we often do many things to the glory of self. Examine your heart. Why are you doing what you are doing? What is your motivation?

2. Hold Fast that Which Is Good

Have you ever participated in a tug of war? You get a good grip on the rope and try not to let go. What things do you “hold fast” to in this life?

For me, I “hold fast” to my wife and children, children-in-law and grandson. Beyond my relationship to the Lord, they are the most precious on earth to me. Shelli and I have been through trials and struggles in thirty years of marriage, yet we are still committed to one another. Even when everything is not perfect, we still cling or “hold fast” to one another.

I also “hold fast” to the ministry of the Word of God. The Word of God consumes my life. I know its power, I want to embrace its truth. I want to be bound to its command. I want it to occupy my mind. I want to possess more and more of it.

We are to “examine everything carefully” and when we find things that are good, we are to get a firm grip on them.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there by any praise, think on these things.— Philippians 4:8

3. Abstain from All Appearance of Evil

Abstain is a strong word. Literally, it means “to shun away from.” It is the idea of being repulsed by something gross. Imagine walking across a field and encountering a rotting animal carcass infested with maggots… well maybe that’s a little much.

Of course you would shun away from the putrid sight. Let’s try another approach, imagine walking across the same field when you hear a rattlesnake rattle (we have a lot of those here in Tucson). What do you do? You shun away from it. You get as far away as you can as fast as you can! Paul is saying in the strongest possible terms that we should shun away from every form of evil.

Appearance means type, shape or kind of evil. Evil comes in all shapes and types. When we carefully discern and discover something is evil, we are to run away from it, shun it.

Paul is basically saying, “Look, evil is going to come at you from every direction so you need to pay attention!”

We need to have a strategy for godly discernment. Paul lays a specific strategy out here in first Thessalonians. Let’s put it into practice and have Godly discernment!

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Discernment Counseling – Time-Limited Help if Considering Divorce

For Discernment To Give Godly Counsel

If one of you is seriously contemplating divorce, or are a couple on the brink, this isn't the time to “work on the marriage.”

That time has passed.

But if you have lingering doubts about whether getting divorced is an intelligent move, you'll want to slow down and give it some serious thought. Have a place where the professional sees both of you short term, individually and briefly together. It's for mixed agenda couples deciding to divorce or not.

Divorce is an impactful decision. It's a decision only each of you can make, and it's an important one. 

“dis·cern·ment coun-sel-ing:” noun – A marital approach increasing your ability to judge your marital options well : Pre-divorce counseling: Couples seeking professional advice by a qualified mental health provider: Pre marriage counseling when you want a divorce.

In other words, it is a time-limited approach to help you to judge your marital options well, especially if you are seriously contemplating divorce. 

Make sure that marriage counseling isn’t a waste of your time and money. But also make sure you aren't jumping the gun and getting an unnecessary divorce.

It is actually designed for those who are actively doubtful that marital therapy will do any good.

The format of Discernment Counseling

A Discernment Counselor spends most of the session time in individual meetings.  1-5 meetings maximum and each session is 1.5 – 2 hours long.

But we also see you together, briefly, after each of these one-to-one meetings. This briefer, joint time is to help each of you to present your perspective and better understand the other's issues. Again, this is not marriage counseling, and there no debate or argument during this joint meeting time.

Keep in mind that one of you is leaning the marriage and nearly ready to go forward with a divorce. The other person may be ready to do whatever it takes to save the marriage.

There will be a lot to talk about. Calmly. Rationally. Seriously.

The Leaning Out Partner's Perspective

You may be looking to “get out easy” without being the one everyone “blames” for the divorce, or causing even more pain.

If you did counseling before, you may have “agreed” hardheartedly. Secretly, you were utterly convinced that “nothing would help.” Or maybe you went to someone you thought was an expert and it went horribly. Or you might have even brought up marriage counseling in the past and the idea was rejected. 

You could be involved in an undisclosed, ongoing extra-marital affair that you aren't willing to reveal or to give up.

Or are so depressed, you can't do therapy well. The divorce process is equally overwhelming, too. Or you want a no-fault divorce but are getting no cooperation. Or there are children involved and you are concerned how a divorce might impact them.

This might not be the first time you've thought about leaving.  

But at this point you just can't continue the way things are, not for your husband or wife, not for anybody. Not even if there are children involved. You are in so much pain, you believe divorce may be absolutely only solution.

You have a story to tell.

Pain, frustration. Perhaps that story hasn't been taken seriously, until now. Maybe not even now. It's about your unhappiness. The efforts you put in to make things work, and how it didn't help.

The lonely feelings you've been covering up. How invisible you feel. And how the things you've done to try to make things better between  you have left you've been even more hopeless. You just want to give up.

There's no air in the room when you are together. Vacations suck. You feel a fake staying. And you want a  life. Heck, you deserve a life. The passion is gone (if it ever was there) and you just don't believe in keeping up appearances. 

But divorce? That's a big step

You'd a place to really have the space to talk it out with somebody. To even find the words to explain it to your spouse…who may be totally freaked out. Or so angry you can't say “pass the salt” without an argument.

You may not go for more than one session. That's fine.

Each session stands on its own. 

We aren't there to “convince” you to stay. Just to slow you down and help you get clarity about what you want to do and why.

It's not marriage counseling, either. We aren't going to try to change around what makes you both so unhappy.

If you decide to go that route, that's for later. That's one of three choices you'll have to make. For now, you want to know which direction to go, with greater clarity and confidence.

But let's be honest:  If you don't explore your own contributions to the problems in the marriage, you're just ly to repeat it. And if you have an active affair going on (no, we won't make you disclose that in Discernment Counseling…) repeating that same mistake might happen sooner rather than later.

Goals for the Leaning Out Partner

  • Clarity
  • Confidence
  • Ending the struggling deciding what is the best thing.

You knew there were problems, but leaving? That's not what you thought the two of you were made of. You're not a quitter.

You can’t believe you’ve been betrayed this, when you’ve worked so long and so hard to keep the marriage together.  

“You're going to leave?  Just that?” After all this time and they are talking about throwing in the towel? Walking out on you and the family?

Is there an affair partner you found out about. Really? Her?  Him?

It's so hard to be your 'best self' in a situation that.

Of course you're hurt. Mad. Or cold and unresponsive. Betrayed, and deeply wounded. A whole host of negative emotions.

And not putting your best foot forward.

The “leaning in” partner” is usually very upset. They've just had the rug pulled out from underneath them with their spouse saying: “I'm not in love with you anymore…” or worse “I want a divorce.”

They may be angry, in mourning, frustrated, and just plain upset. Maybe have become abusive, placating, inconsolable or willing to “do anything” to make things better. Or acting in a variety of ways depending on the day…or the minute.

But you're not a “victim” and you've got work to do. 

First, you have to decide if you want to keep this marriage. That's a decision you have to make too.

If you want the marriage, if you really, really want this marriage, you have to know why. Why it's worth fighting for. Why it's worth working hard to save. And you have to work to save it even if you're the only one working.

You have to know truly, what's still working and what's not.

There are some pretty legitimate reasons for leaving a marriage. 

Can you own up to your part in any of them?

  • Drug or alcohol abuse?
  • Periodic violence?
  • Explosive rage or control depression?
  • Multiple affairs on your part?

Or maybe less dramatic things. Emotional or sexual withholding that has gone on for years, even decades? 

Discernment counseling isn't a “pity party” for those who want to hold onto their marriages. The therapist won't remain a passive listener to how you've been hurt, and try to console you.

If you aren't willing to hear what your partner is saying about why they want to end the marriage, you're practically signing the divorce papers for them.

If you want to end it, then Discernment Counseling might be a single session of getting clear on that and deciding how to move forward.

But if you don't want out as well, the way you act from this point forward really matters. We know all the ways that simply don't work. Threatening, scolding, pleading, those don't work. We could go on and on, but how you choose to conduct yourself is really what Discernment Counseling focuses on in your private sessions. 

Real. Concentrated. Work.

Goals for the Leaning In Partner?

  • Bring your best self forward
  • Settle yourself and don't make things worse
  • Reduce the ‘desperate’ feeling.

Both of you can't ignore “the audience,” if there is one.

If you haven't told anybody, all the better. Don't until you complete discernment.

You'll set off a flood of opinions that won't be neutral and won't help you to safely and calmly explore all of the complex feelings you're having.

You're living in an emotional windstorm and everybody is going to have an opinion not only on what you should do, but what they would do in your situation. Or what they did do in your situation.

Only they aren't in your situation, you are

Unless they are Marital First Responders, from Bill Doherty and the Doherty Relationship Institute they are ly to make matters worse, instead of better. 

If you find yourself pulled by family, friends, clergy, divorce professionals, even an individual therapist who have only heard your side of the story, you may be getting well-meaning but competing advice, and you may also be getting more confused. None of it is “objective” unless they are trained professionals who have done a thorough assessment of your relationship.

It's a big decision: whether to give it one last try to make it work or whether to divorce. And it's a decision only you can make, and it's an important one. 

No one wants to do half-hearted couples counseling: not your couples therapist, you or your spouse

Neither do we. Discernment counseling isn't  marriage counseling. We make sure that if you do decide to go to marriage counseling, it isn’t a waste of your time and money. dragging your feet, not really wanting to be there, half-hearted attempts wasting…

We emphasize the importance of each partner recognizing their own contribution to the problems, and considering all of the possible solutions, not just marriage counseling. Even if you do decide to divorce, knowing what part you’ve played in your marital troubles will be very useful to you in your future relationships.

  • Explore how you got to this point in your relationship.
  • Evaluate objectively whether past counseling has been helpful or detrimental.
  • Examine all options about possible next steps:

Path One:    Stay the same- Do nothing and decide later. (most people hate this path)

Path Two:    Make an informed, ideally mutual decision to divorce…a constructive divorce; you may then seek out divorce professionals to work with, such as divorce mediators; 

Path Three:   Decide on a reconciliation plan to wholeheartedly work on renewing the marriage. It's a long term six month commitment, but a fully committed one.

In Discernment Counseling, you don’t have to be sure you want to remain married. 

You don’t have to be convinced that you want a divorce.

There is no pressure to commit to any given path.

Many people need the time, space, and an objective, supportive therapist to provide a place to thoughtfully consider all of their options.

And it's time limited. It lasts from one, to a maximum of five counseling sessions, meeting both individually and as a couple during each session.

The goal is to reflect upon, and consider the best course of action for you:

Discernment Counseling is  done by an elite group of professionals with advanced training in couples therapy.

Many have been approved to conduct his work by the Couples on the Brink Project, the group that originated this groundbreaking approach.

Discernment Counseling helps the couple, individually, to decide if counseling is really the way to go. 

Not surprisingly, marital therapy at that point, is of no help. This leaves the “leaning out” spouse even more convinced that divorce is the only viable option.

For this reason, Discernment Counseling can save thousands of dollars spent in marital counseling that is destined to fail.

Discernment Counseling is considered successful when partners have clarity and confidence in their decision. Once you've gained clarity and direction, you can decide with confidence on your next step. To learn more about this method of working, read this article Wall Street Journal.

At Couples Therapy Inc., we start all Discernment Counseling with a State of the Union Assessment, prior to the start of the 1-5 sessions. This way, we are fully informed about the state of your marriage currently, and can help you more effectively. Think of it as “pre-discernment counseling.

Couples Therapy Inc is devoted to helping couples in all phases of their relationship. With two dozen clinicians across the USA and the world, we are specialists in helping troubled marriages in over 30 locations.

Will this approach work for your and your partner? If you’d some help knowing how to speak honestly and directly to your  spouse, give Cindy a call at: 844-926-8753.

Contact Us to Find Out​​​​

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8 Ways To Grow Your Gift Of Discernment

For Discernment To Give Godly Counsel

Do you have a spiritual gift of discernment and would to know how to grow and develop it more?

The Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to grow in the gifts God had given to him, and the same is true for us today.
‘Do not neglect your gift…’ (1 Tim 4:14)

Knowing and Growing in the Gift of Discernment

A prophet visited our church in Auckland, New Zealand. He pointed me out in the congregation and said, “You have a gift of discernment.”

A few years later when we were living in another city, the same prophet visited our church there. He again pointed me out and said, “Has anyone ever told you that you have a gift of discernment of spirits?” I said, “Yes, you did several years ago.”

We all had a good laugh—but he remembered neither the earlier prophecy nor me. He ministered throughout New Zealand and overseas and had prophesied over hundreds of people in the interim.’[1]

A short time after this prophetic confirmation, I began to struggle in church life. I had not been taught the principle of honouring leaders and accountability in the use of my revelatory gifts.

I thank God that He allowed a time of trial to teach me and bring me through repentance to a place of fruitfulness in the use of my gifts. [2] Discernment is a powerful gift, and a good gift from the Father! (Luke 11:13) Through good stewardship, we can reach our potential and our gift can be used to bless and grow the church.

Here are 8 ways that you can grow your spiritual gift of discernment of spirits. And yes, some of these I have learned the hard way—through trial and error!

1. Source It

True discernment comes from intimacy with the Father.

It is vital that we understand the difference between discernment that is from the Holy Spirit and suspicion, which can masquerade as discernment, but is actually sourced in our own human nature.

This is a danger that can trip even mature discerners up. The best means of preventing this is our intimate relationship with God.

When we get to know our Father more intimately, we gain first-hand experience of His love, and that helps us grow in our gift of discernment.

2. Plant It

‘Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.’ Ps 92:13

The Biblical context for growing in our gifts is the community of a church (1 Cor 12).

As with all prophetic people, discerners need to be cared for and pastored in a church environment.

Just as plants need the right environment to grow, we need to be nurtured in order for us grow and sharpen our discernment gift.

When we are planted in the life of a healthy church, we can flourish and grow in our gift. However, we must remember that it will not always be smooth sailing in community life—even in the healthiest of churches.

3. Submit It

It is vital, and a matter of protection for others and ourselves, that we operate in our spiritual gift of discernment with accountability, and under God-given leadership.

It is important that we encourage our insights to be weighed up (1 Cor 14:29). As the Apostle Paul said, ‘For we know in part and we prophesy in part.’ (1 Cor 13:9)

The discernment that we receive is incomplete without the insights of others, who will have different pieces of the puzzle and complementary gifts. (1 Cor 12:12-27)

Feedback is also a great tool to help us grow in our discernment.

4. Purify It

It is possible for the expression of a discernment gift to be affected by our response to negative experiences that we have had in our lives.

I had prayer ministry to help me break free of fear associated with early experiences of demonic encounters. I also received ministry in relation to difficulties with authority. As a result, I have a much more useful gift.

I have also had to grow a great deal in my character—a journey that is ongoing!

As we develop in our character, in wisdom and holiness, our gift of discernment grows and becomes sharper.

5. Study It

Another vital source to help us develop in our spiritual gift is to grow in our study and understanding of Scripture.

Find out what the Bible has to say about the gift of discernment:

  • Read examples of people who encountered unseen spiritual realities—how did they respond? What did they do as a result of their experiences?
  • How and when did Jesus use the gift of discernment to minister to people?
  • What does the Apostle Paul say in his epistles about how spiritual gifts operate in the context of church life and ministry?

6. Develop It

As with other gifts, discernment can be developed and strengthened.

The ability to receive a revelation from God is only one aspect of this spiritual gift. Other aspects include:

  • Having the wisdom to know what to do once you have received the discernment,
  • How and when to share your insight
  • How to weigh up what you have received against scripture
  • Procedures for submitting an insight, and so on.

Seek to be trained or mentored in the context of Christian community, where you have safe people who can give you feedback and encourage you on the journey.

Look for good training, along with books and other resources on the topic of spiritual warfare and related areas.

7. Use It

Don’t hold back. Even if you are starting out and tentative, God can use you powerfully. Use your gift of discernment to help guard and grow your church.

If you discern warfare or have a warning, remember that God’s heart is always to redeem and restore. Seek the Father for a promise and His prophetic outcome.

The gift of discernment can also help give you insight as to how to respond and pray for breakthrough in any situation.

It is only through stewardship and use that we can grow our spiritual gift of discernment.

8. Persevere With It

In the development of every spiritual gift there are times of trial.

In some testing times, God may be allowing us to lose confidence in our own ability to perform in our gift. For example, we may have a period when our discernment becomes cloudy, or we may make an assumption that turns out to be in error.

During these times He is calling us to become more dependent upon Him, and to grow in humility.

You may have true discernment but have been misunderstood or feel as though you have been set aside for a season.

These are times to persevere, and not to allow offense or discouragement to divert you from your calling.

Wilderness seasons are allowed by our Heavenly Father to help us grow in our character or to direct us into new areas of fruitfulness.


Are you sensitive to what is taking place in the spiritual realm? Have you ever been adversely affected by a negative atmosphere?

You may have the spiritual gift of discernment.

The gift of discernment of spirits is a powerful weapon in times of spiritual warfare, and can be of great assistance when ministering freedom to individuals.

And yet many who have the gift of discernment have difficulty knowing what to do with what they are feeling or sensing.

‘Unlocking The Gift Of Discernment’ incorporates wisdom from Enliven Blog as well as additional valuable material to help you grow in your gift of discernment.

To view ‘Unlocking The Gift Of Discernment’ in our e-store, click here

Related posts:

A Checklist For Developing Your Spiritual Gifts

3 Levels of Discernment and Signs of Each

8 Signs You May Have The Spiritual Gift Of Discernment

[1] This is quoted from my book, ‘Grow Your Prophetic And Prayer Gifts‘
[2]I tell the full story in ‘Prophetic People In A Changing Church.’ For a brief testimony check out the Enliven Publishing ‘About’ page.

© Helen Calder 2010

Enliven Ministries: In the David McCracken Ministries family

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