What My Son’s Special Needs Teach Me about Spiritual Discernment

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My son

My son

“Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NRSV).

My son has special needs. However, when I say “special needs,” I don’t mean he’s been diagnosed with anything. He just has special needs. For example, my son is a very picky eater. He won’t try anything new. He’s very particular when it comes to textures. He only eats things he knows.

He’s also a late talker. He says many words and phrases spontaneously, but he is still learning how to fully communicate his needs. As a result, I’ve become an expert at intuiting my son’s needs. Most of the time, I know the meaning of his grunts, cries or gestures. It’s almost as if we have a special language only the two of us understand. We have a special connection. However, his inability to verbally express himself is frustrating at times.

The other night was one of those times. My son woke up whimpering, and I didn’t know what was wrong. His whimpers soon turned into tears. I became frustrated because I didn’t want him to wake his baby sister. It was around three in the morning. So before he could wake up the baby, I walked him into his room. He cried out, “Mom.” My son doesn’t call my name often – I can count the number of times on one hand he’s said “Mom” – so I knew something was wrong. I put him back in my bed. At that point, I was even more frustrated because I was tired, on edge because I didn’t want him to wake the baby, and I didn’t know what was wrong. In that moment, I took a step back and quieted myself. I started to rub my son’s belly and back. I rubbed his belly for about 10 minutes and then stopped. When I stopped, he grabbed my hand to put it back on his belly. It turned out, he had a tummy ache, and it prevented him from sleeping peacefully. I rubbed his tummy for 15 more minutes, and he slept well the rest of the night.

This incident with my son made me think about the things of the Spirit and how God tries to communicate with us. So many times, when the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something we are too busy, distracted, tired or just plain deaf to receive what the Spirit is saying. Our “knee jerk” reactions to things the Spirit uses to teach us also prevent us from fully discerning what God is trying to tell us. However, if we’re going to learn how to discern the things of the Spirit, we have to learn how to quiet ourselves, take a step back and learn how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Here are a few tips to help if you are trying to discern what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you.

Pray – Everything starts with prayer because prayer opens the line of communication to God.

“So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me’” John 8:28 (NRSV).

Read and Learn the Word – The Holy Spirit will never speak something that is contrary to the Word of God. That’s why it’s so imperative you learn the Word of God. Also, most of the time the Spirit uses scripture to relay messages. The Spirit may use the stories of Joseph, Daniel, Esther, Lydia or whoever as an example for you. However, the text will apply to your situation. You have to know the Word in order to discern what the Spirit is saying.

Meditate on the Word – You may not know what the Spirit is saying right away so wrestle with the word for a while. Oftentimes when God wants us to learn deeper spiritual concepts, He will reveal things slowly. The Lord will make us meditate on the Word for a while so we can grasp the entire revelation, bit by bit and piece by piece.

Quiet Yourself and Your Environment – There are so many distractions in the world. If you want to hear from God and learn how God speaks, quiet all of the other “voices.” Turn off the television. Turn off the cell phone. Turn off the electronic devices. Sometimes God speaks in a still, small voice. You won’t be able to hear it if you don’t turn down the noise around you.

As is the case with me and my son, patience and experience is the best teacher. If you develop your relationship with the Lord, you’ll be able to discern God’s voice more clearly in no time.

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