Decision Making & Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way

Approach listening and responding to divine guidance as a co-creator with God in shaping your life. With practical spiritual exercises to help you understand yourself and your specific situation, as well as to strengthen discernment in daily life.

Nancy L. Bieber

5½ x 8½, 208 pp | 978-1-59473-289-8

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Stay spiritually grounded and open to divine wisdom as you shape your life.

“To make wise decisions, we need the aid of that wise and loving Spirit whose wisdom and light exceed our own. With the Spirit illuminating the complexities of our decisions, we can see and understand more about ourselves and our choices.”

—from the Introduction

Spiritual discernment is the traditional name for listening and responding to divine guidance. In this book you will approach decision making as an active participant, a co-creator with God in shaping your life. Drawing on twenty-five years of experience as a psychologist and fifteen years as a spiritual director, Nancy L. Bieber presents three essential aspects of Spirit-led decision making:

  • Willingness—being open to God’s wisdom and love
  • Attentiveness—noticing what is true, discerning the right path
  • Responsiveness—taking steps forward as the way becomes clear.

With gentle encouragement, Bieber shows how to weave these themes together to discover the best path for you.

Each chapter is enriched by practical spiritual exercises to help you understand yourself and your specific situation, as well as to strengthen spiritual discernment as a daily way of life. An appendix includes a detailed guide for using the book in group study.

“Prayerfully and skillfully facilitates the readers’ recognition of ‘truths (they) already know ... hidden anywhere in life,’ thus opening us to the heart of discernment as the process of living the values of our lives.”

Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, author, Discernment: A Path to Spiritual Awakening; co-director, Companioning the Dying: Opening Fully to Living

“Weaves practical insights for cultivating discernment with page-turning stories and repeatable practices. [It] will create ... healthy decisions that are the ripe fruit of ongoing practices for discernment.”

Kent Ira Groff, founding mentor, Oasis Ministries; author, What Would I Believe If I Didn’t Believe Anything? and Facing East, Praying West

“Essential.... Very practical ... useful information.... Superb for those interested in Christian spirituality and particularly issues of guidance and discernment.”

Englewood Review of Books

“A brilliant lead and many lessons.”

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, founder, Center for Action and Contemplation; author, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See

“Compelling and beneficial ... filled with insight and wisdom, as well as practical practices in discernment. This is a volume you’ll return to often.”

J. Brent Bill, Quaker minister, retreat leader and photographer; author, Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment

“Offers readers clarity and practical tools—just what we yearn for when facing uncertainty and change.... It will reassure those seeking to understand their own experience of being led by the Spirit.”

Eileen Flanagan, author, The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make a Change—and When to Let Go

“Balancing self and other, honoring self and other, embracing self and other is a great challenge for many of us. [This book] helps us take up that challenge in a manner that moves us further along the path of godliness. Read this book. And, more importantly, practice its method.”

Rabbi Rami Shapiro, translator and annotator, Ecclesiastes: Annotated & Explained; author, The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice

“I loved this! A priceless book for living a spiritually centered life. User-friendly and reassuring ... the practices offer gentle guidance for making any decision, large or small. A must have for everyone on a spiritual path as well as anyone supporting that journey.”

Kay Lindahl, author, The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice; founder, The Listening Center

Introduction 1
1. Beginning the Journey: Navigational Tools 11
2. Seeing Clearly: Fostering Lucid Self-Perception 21
3. The Gift of Humility: Building Healthy Self-Esteem 45
4. Freeing Your Potential: Taking Action 67
5. Building Bridges of Trust: Reengaging in Relationships 95
6. Grace: The Art of Forgiveness 123
7. Know Thyself: Coming Closer to God through the Transition of Divorce 147
8. Moving Forward: Growing into the Next Phase of Life 175
A Prayer for Renewal 185
A Final Note: If You Are Considering Divorce 186
Appendix I: Group Formation and Discussion Guide 189
Appendix II: Using This Book in a Group Setting 193
Suggested Rituals to Incorporate into Group Sessions 200
Suggestions for Further Reading 203


What motivated you to write this book?
For many years I have led groups focusing on how to make wise decisions, how to notice Divine nudges, how to know yourself well so you can find your way through life’s complex minefield of decision making. I am also a psychologist and spiritual director, meeting with people one-to-one at important turning points in their lives. All these experiences taught me how essential this “sacred art” is—and how many of us are confused and overwhelmed by the complexity of the decisions we must make. The book rose from my deep desire to share what I knew to be true, hoping it would be of service to others.

What is the difference between decision making and spiritual discernment?
The difference is that spiritual discernment adds an important dimension to our decision making. Good decision making uses our thinking and reasoning, our feelings and all the actual circumstances of our lives in coming to a conclusion about a particular decision. Spiritual discernment includes all that, but also brings a special kind of attentiveness in which the Spirit illuminates all facets of our decision and provides light so we can find our way through the complexity and confusion.

What have you found challenging about making your own decisions? What has been difficult as you have discerned your way?
I often find myself caught between thinking and feeling. I know I need to pay attention to all parts of myself and my life circumstances, but things get so easily muddled. The three-strand process in the book has been helpful in my own decision making. Weaving together the strands of willingness, attentiveness and responsiveness helps me focus clearly. I know how important it is to be spiritually attentive in my decision making but sometimes it is hard to make space in my life for that.


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Part One: Willingness

  • Consider the three strands that we braid together as we make decisions. Are there other words you would use instead of willingness, attentiveness and responsiveness? Which of these themes is strongest in your decision making? Which is hardest for you?
  • Can you recall a “survival decision” you’ve made, such as those the author describes? What about “fulfillment decisions”?
  • Are there any “decision clusters” (small decisions that cluster around a strong value you hold) that you can identify in your life?
  • To what questions in your life have you responded with a wholehearted “yes”? How has that “yes” shaped you? Have there been many times you said “maybe”? How have those times of sitting on the fence shaped your life?

Part Two: Attentiveness

  • What methods for paying attention or listening that are suggested in chapters 3 and 4 are new to you? What are the “tried and true”?
  • There are things in our lives that can hook us or things to which we are attached. How can we distinguish between a healthy closeness and an unhealthy attachment?
  • When faced with a decision to be made quickly, a person’s initial response tends to be either a feeling or a thinking response. Which is your typical first response? What kinds of decision making bring forth a feeling response? What kinds of decision making call forth a thinking response?
  • If you are working on making a decision (large or small) as you read this book, what have you learned about yourself and your situation that can help you gain greater clarity?
  • The author emphasizes that noticing God’s nudges is something we can do better if we quiet ourselves. What helps you quiet yourself so you can be attentive?

Part Three: Responsiveness

  • Egos need to proclaim themselves, and be recognized and accepted by others. Self-identity is an interior sense of self that isn’t based on other people’s opinions or acknowledgments. Do you agree with this explanation of the difference between ego and self-identity?
  • The author says there is always a step to be taken. She suggests that our “step” may even be how we respond to times of waiting. Do you agree? Have there been times when you felt there was nothing to be done?
  • Have you experienced the difference between “waiting for” and “waiting while” that the author describes? What was happening in the waiting time?
  • Have you found “trail angels” along your path? What did they look like and what gifts did they bring you?