Discernment and Listening to God

September 29, 2020  - By Jessica Mathisen

Well-Watered Women Blog - Listening with Discernment

The Vulnerability of Suffering

My husband and I were married in the summer of 2015. In the summer of 2016, I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. These are benign tumors of the uterus that cause painful periods and heavy bleeding. This came as a shock to me, as I had always considered myself to be a relatively healthy person. However, this diagnosis sent me down a path to finding and discovering anything I could that would make me feel better and prepare my body to one day be able to carry and bear children.

When winter 2017 came, we decided that it was time to try to conceive. I’ll never forget the first period that came on Christmas. I had naively expected it wouldn’t take “that long” to get pregnant. Boy was I wrong. For almost two years, we would continue to try to conceive.

During this time there were many hills and valleys. I remember experiencing such a deep depression and discontentment as I watched friend after friend conceive and give birth with seemingly no issues. It seemed grossly unfair. Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed. I often felt as though I didn’t have much to live for if I wasn’t going to be physically able to bring a child into the world. My heart hurt with the anguish, and I wasn’t sure I could bear the burden of disappointment. 

Starving for an Answer

As month after month went by, my depression turned to desperation. My husband and I didn’t believe it was best for us to pursue medical intervention. I decided I would do what I could by stringently monitoring my eating habits. As a result, I lost a significant amount of weight and was not in a great place physically. I was under the care of a naturopathic doctor at the time, and I went above and beyond her recommendations. I believed that if I followed certain steps I would earn my desired result. 

But the truth was, I was merely surviving physically—and spiritually too. Because I was so desperate for relief from the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain I was experiencing, I latched on to a number of teachings that were not biblically sound.

This started off small enough: I began following some new accounts on Instagram. Then I began to follow the accounts they recommended, and so on. There were so many “new ideas”  I was learning, and I thought I was being enlightened. I entered into a world of unbiblical teaching that, unbeknownst to me at the time, is rooted in the prosperity gospel and New Age philosophies. 

God’s Word says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” While I thought I was receiving new insights and revelations, God had already given me everything I needed in his Word. 

Adding to the Gospel

The prosperity gospel says health and wealth are promised to us. It teaches that God guarantees to heal on this side of eternity and that we should never live with suffering because suffering is never from God. The beliefs of the New Age say that we only need to speak the things we desire into existence and they will manifest at the right time. If we don’t see the answer to such “prayers,” perhaps we do not have enough faith.

But God’s Word says we will have suffering and troubles in this world (John 16:33). It says that suffering makes us more like Christ (Romans 8:17), and God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

At this time, I remember feeling so lost and confused. How was I to know the truth when I didn’t see the answers to my prayers in the way that I wanted God to answer them? How was I to believe that God was for me when I didn’t have the desires of my heart? My mom always says, “Hindsight is 20/20.” As I look back, I can clearly see my descent into unbiblical theology. 

Critically Thinking with the Holy Spirit

The Bible says that Satan is often disguised as an angel of light, which means his tactics aren’t always glaringly obvious (2 Corinthians 11:14). However, if we are deeply rooted in the Word, we will be able to know the truth and be set free from the lies of the enemy (John 8:32).

When I was in the midst of infertility, I was in such a dark place. I was desperate, and I found resources that filled me with false hope as they “empowered” me. If only I would pray a certain way and have enough faith, I would get what my heart so desired. But when I was walking in this belief system, I made a new god for myself—the god of self-help and instant gratification. Why wait when I could just say the word and get what I so badly desired?

Praise God for his unfailing love and compassion to those who love and fear him (Romans 7:25). I now know that I was filtering my theology through my experiences instead of filtering my experiences through my theology. The Holy Spirit showed me that my feelings and experiences will change with each passing day. But the Word of the Lord stands forever, and the character of God is unchanging through the ages (Isaiah 40:8; Hebrews 13:8).

Is This True?

The God of the Bible is just, wise, kind, compassionate, and faithful. And as the vinedresser in the garden prunes back the branch to bear more fruit, so the Lord prunes us in order that we may truly know him and bring glory to his name as we fulfill the Great Commission (John 15:1–2). This pruning often involves suffering, and it is not a punishment, but rather a demonstration of his great love. How grateful I am to now know the true love of my Heavenly Father, who never changes.

Sisters, as I walked through this journey of being deceived by false teaching, a still small voice in the back of my mind prompted me to question, “Is this true?” Some part of me knew the content I was taking in didn’t seem right; it felt off.  The Holy Spirit revealed God's truth to my longing heart, even when I was blinded by my desperation.

The teaching was so very close to the Word that at the time, it just didn’t seem to be a big deal. But to malign the Word of God and take verses out of context to make them fit your ideas is in fact a very big deal. We must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture and test everything we read and see against the Word. If something seems off, chances are—it is.

Whole Heart, Whole Mind

For a while now, I have been praying for the Lord to help me love him with my mind (Deuteronomy 6:5). After all, as Jen Wilkin states in her book Women of the Word, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” God has made increasingly clear to me the importance of loving him with my mind in order to be able to fight off the sneaky lies of the enemy.

As the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the lies I had been believing through these false teachings, he led me to unfollow a few social media accounts, stop listening to certain podcasts, and engage with the Word in a deeper way. I grew in asking questions as I read and also consulting commentaries for wise guidance as I studied.

We need not live in fear, but we must live wisely and continually ask the Holy Spirit to give us discernment. This is essential as we press on in a world full of “influencers” who may or may not represent the true Gospel. Let us hold on to the Word of truth, knowing that our God will never fail us. 

Your friend, Jessica

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  1. Thank you for this powerful word! For one, as someone who has been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, I can relate to the content but more importantly, it is a clear reminder of how careful we must be in what we let into our eye-gates and ear-gates. Everything must be filtered through the lens of Jesus Christ.

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