Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

–2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV


“Scott, maybe the hard thing for you in this situation, is to NOT do the hard thing.”

My wife’s words hung in the air as I pondered again the question, “What would God want me to do?”

For about a month I had been stuck on a decision that was looming in front of me. The deadline was now just days away, and I had flip-flopped a few (dozen) times about what would be the best thing to do. The decision didn’t directly impact other people; it was just something I needed to decide, and I was having a hard time hearing God amid the “noise” of daily life.

I would talk it over with a friend and decide, “Yes, this is what I need to do.” And then I’d read a passage of Scripture and think, “But this seems to suggest doing it another way!” Then one Sunday, after hearing a message about Paul’s plea for God to take away the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), it seemed clear that what I really should do was something altogether different.

Finally, I had a good decision made with good intent rooted in Scripture.

My “mistake” was telling my wife that night as we got into bed what my “final answer” was. After a moment of silence, she asked, “Can you tell me a little more about what has drawn you to that decision?”

So, I started explaining that it seemed like the hard thing that Paul had to endure led him to trust God more, “So I just need to do the hard thing.”

“And what does doing the ‘hard thing’ get you? What would it mean for you to not do the hard thing?” she asked.

“I feel like it would be giving up.” I answered.

“Giving up what?”

The answer in my head came so fast it surprised me. “Giving up the opportunity to do something hard for God.”

And in that moment, I imagined not doing the hard thing, but this time I imagined God’s face looking on me, and in my imagination, I saw a face of compassion and mercy.

Author and spiritual director Alice Fryling writes about using our imaginations and feelings as part of our means of knowing God well:

The goal in focusing on feelings is not to wallow in them. Nor is it just to clarify thinking. The goal is to notice and embrace the presence of God in this experience. When this happens, the peace that comes “transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7 NIV). In other words, we cannot think our way into God’s peace; it’s beyond understanding. The Bible also says that the love of God “surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19 NIV). No matter how much we know, God’s love is deeper, so sometimes the route to this peace-beyond-knowing is through our feelings.*

 The feeling of giving up seemed weak to me – and I didn’t want to stand before God as a weak son, but as a strong and capable son, the son who makes his father proud. Leaning into my feeling of weakness opened the door for me to “notice and embrace the presence of God” when I felt like I was letting Him down. In that moment, doing the hard thing or not doing the hard thing was no longer my main concern, for making Him proud or not making Him proud was no longer the main goal. Being with Him – spending time in His presence – was the main concern. That realization made the decision a no-brainer! **

Are you currently facing any hard spaces in your life? What would it be like for you to sit quietly and “notice and embrace the presence of God in this experience?” What might God be inviting you to do with Him in the hard space?


* Alice Fryling, Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 63-64.

** I chose to not do the thing that I originally thought was harder – I realized that God was not asking me to do that hard thing.

1 Comment

  1. Marshae

    Hey Scott,

    Was looking for blogs in my niche and came across your post. I’ve never just sat in the quiet to hear him. LOL, I think im a little bit impatient, to just sit, I gotta work on this. If I had to think about it, it happens like in the shower thinking, or when I’m near water or out in nature. When going through hard times and not being sure, I’m like you, let me see where the Word may lead me to. It still one I’m figuring out, because He doesn’t speak like we do, its a balancing act I’m still learning. Thank you for sharing your experience. I enjoyed the blog post.


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