Spiritual discernment, whether it concerns a personal matter or a corporate matter, is an opportunity to experience God’s grace. I am not certain a person can effectively reject God’s grace, but I know from personal experience that it is possible to resist it. When the human will is in opposition with the divine will, God gives us the freedom to resist. We seem to exercise that option on a fairly frequent basis.
I’m thinking about the patriarch, Jacob. His name meant "supplanter." He cheated his brother out of his birthright and had to flee for his life. This became a pattern in Jacob's life. Every now and again, Jacob would have an encounter with God. Each time, he seems to have resisted less and less until, finally, years later, he was compelled to return to his family home and face the brother he had wronged. Even on the way back, he sent his family and herds on ahead and spent the night alone on the bank of the River Jabbok, wrestling with the angel of God. After that experience, Jacob was physically wounded and had a new name, Israel, which means “to wrestle with God.” Read the story in Genesis 31-33.
Discernment is often a wrestling match with God – our wills pitted against the divine will. Ultimately, I believe God’s will is going to be done. So, that’s why I hesitate to say that we can reject God’s will. To say that we can reject God’s will suggests that we can defeat God. Yes, God allows us to resist and we see how often asserting our will has taken us and the world in which we live in a direction other than the one God has in mind.
A clergyman I know, The Rev. Danny Morris, wrote a book years ago about the will of God. It’s title is Yearning to Know God’s Will. He told me that his original title was Yearning to Know God’s Yearning, but the publisher didn’t think people would understand what the book was about. The book is about discernment and Danny wanted people think of God's will as the yearning of God’s heart for us. So, to yearn to know what is in God’s heart is another way to think of discernment. Perhaps it will help you to be less resistant today in your discernment if you think of it as seeking to know what good things God yearns to give to you or the group of people with whom or for whom you are seeking spiritual guidance.
The prophet Jeremiah described God’s yearning this way: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). The less we resist, the more we discover the goodness God is seeking to bring about through our lives.
Some say that Charles Wesley’s most famous hymn during his lifetime was “Jacob Wrestling” (Also known as “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown”). It tells the story of Jacob’s wrestling match with the Angel of God. In Wesley's view, Jacob resisted as long as he could and finally understood in that encounter how much God loved him. The original text had about a zillion stanzas. Here are just a few.
Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
whom still I hold, but cannot see;
my company before is gone,
and I am left alone with thee,
with thee all night I mean to stay,
and wrestle till the break of day.
I need not tell thee who I am,
my misery or sin declare;
thyself hast called me by my name,
look on thy hands, and read it there.
But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
Tell me thy name, and tell me now.
Yield to me now, for I am weak
but confident in self-despair;
speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
be conquered by my instant prayer.
Speak, or thou never hence shalt move,
and tell me, if thy name is Love.
'Tis Love, 'tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear thy whisper in my heart:
the morning breaks, the shadows flee.
Pure universal Love thou art;
thy mercies never shall remove,
thy nature and thy name is Love.