Big, tough decisions are all around us and some of us, unfortunately, have to make them more frequently than others. Its stressful to think of all the “what-ifs” and invent a billion scenarios for each choice just to discern which path is best.
Personally, I think one of the hardest parts about making a tough decision is the bombardment that comes along with it. Family and friends all try to weigh in with their opinions, thoughts, and experiences. While we know that they only do this out of love, their comments, combined with your own fears, anxieties, and questions, attribute to an ever-growing pile of ‘stuff’ that piles up in your brain. As the pile grows higher you feel less and less confident in what is best.
You may stall, putting off the decision for as long as possible (which by the way, IS a decision). You may begin to get defensive or edgy with the people in your life who offer their words of wisdom. You may even begin to feel like you CAN’T make this decision and that someone else should do it for you.
What I would like to talk about most in depth is how to best make decisions with a Biblical frame of mind. Without offending your friends and family. Without feeling petrified to move forward. And most importantly, without leaving God out of the picture.
The most important thing to remember is that making a godly decision requires you to talk with God. Prayer and time in God’s Word are the key to successful decision making. Though your friends and family may feel like they know what is best, only YOU can make this decision. Please don’t misunderstand. Seeking godly advice from wise people is never a bad idea. But when it becomes your only source of wisdom you completely leave God out of the equation. In the end, an opinion is an opinion and God’s Word is His Word. It can be hard to set this boundary. Whether you are very dependent on others’ advice or if you believe it to only hinder your progress – establishing a healthy line is necessary and can be very freeing. Simply explain to advice givers that you are seeking wise counsel and that you are spending time in the Word. I have found that when the advice gets to be too much a simple “thank you but I would most appreciate your prayers” or “that is something I will take into consideration but from here on out would you mind just praying for me on this issue” can move mountains. You must understand and remind yourself that your friends and family fire advice at you not because they find you inadequate or unable, but because they love you and wish you only the best.
When faced with a tough decision I begin with the following steps and use them as my baseline. These have brought me closer to God in the last year more so then almost anything else. They have also allowed me to feel more free to establish boundaries with my family and my husband’s family. It’s a hard rock to hop and I still catch myself feeling awkward or even rude when further clarifying boundary lines. Allowing these lines to be built, however, has increased my confidence in my ability to discern God’s will for my life as well as allowing room for the very necessary development of my bond with my husband and our ability to be a team versus two people tied together on the same boat ride.
Begin with a conversation with God. Before – Anything – Else – Talk – To – God. Sometimes something major will happen in our lives and we instantly make a decision. It could be out of fear, guilt, or whatever, and then we don’t have the opportunity to discern God’s will, let alone be in a quiet place and come to Him in prayer. Sometimes we will call our friends and family to proclaim our problem, then become frustrated by the advice and opinions that flood in. The best course is to wait, talk to God, and only then, proceed.
Seek Godly advice. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14) This has become key in my life. I will admit I am not wise. I have not been a follower for very long and I get overly cautious when proceeding with bigger decisions, which in the end only makes it harder to make the decision later. By seeking out people who have been dedicated Christ followers for many years and who have far more ‘life’ experiences, you can be better at ease with what your heart is telling you to do. I personally seek advice from non-family. Whether or not your or they want to admit it, family members’ judgment is biased and can be laced with things other than what God is actually trying to tell you. (Such as their hopes and dreams for your life etc.) This is not to say that you should simply disregard the advice of your family, only that it shouldn’t be your primary source of wisdom. Perhaps there is a pastor, small group leader, or older member in your church who can meet with you. Even reading blog posts or books on whatever it is you are going through can be incredibly helpful. We are lucky to live in a very connected world and there are a lot of talented and committed Christians out there whose calling is to help others through the hard stuff.
Ask for prayer. Prayer is powerful, and I’ve seen it do amazing things. The Bible tells us that there is power in numbers. “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:19-20. Your friends’ and family’s advice may be overwhelming, but their prayer is not. Ask for specific prayers. Pray in groups. Coming to God, in such a personal way, is powerful for you and for them. Sometimes it can even lessen the intensity of their advice giving when they know you are actively seeking God’s will and can join you in that pursuit through prayer. Prayer is DOING something and when they feel like they are doing something to help you through this process, they will likely feel like much more at ease instead of helpless.
Be in God’s Word. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Scripture is God’s means of communicating with us and it is absolutely essential to read the Word often. Without knowing God’s commands, instructions, promises or reputation we are truly unable to hear God speaking into our lives. Fill your mind with God’s Word and reference it often when you need to be reminded of the love and promises of God.
Establish healthy boundaries. Explaining to your family that their prayers and thoughts are more appreciated than their opinions can be a hard thing to do, seemingly impossible in some circumstances, but will ultimately allow for an easier means of honest communication later. Ephesians 4:29 states that the words that leave your mouth should only be used to build one another up. Keep this in mind when you talk to your loved ones about what you need. It can be easy to tear one another down, but if you talk with love and without anger you will be able to begin to build the bridge to healthier relationships. “Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14)
A few more things to consider as we wrap it up. To a believer, God promises to guide His children and to do what is best for them while also bringing glory to Himself. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Is it impractical to think then that this decision making process may be presented to you as an opportunity to best glorify God? Say you turn to Him when you are faced with this problem and others see you turning to Him. Say you ask for prayer and continually pray for His guidance and the ability to discern His will. Would this not be most glorifying to God? Would you not draw attention to the workings of a great God? In some situations you may even be faced with having to decide between two good things. Say a new higher paying job and your old job but the ability to spend more time with your family. I think in these types of decisions God is not present in just one path nor is one path ‘better’ or ‘perfect’. Instead, I think they are grand examples we can use to showcase our faith and be living examples of the truth that all things are done for our good and His glory. He has already predetermined the history of the world – feel comfort that He has providence and your life is in His hands.
Remember always that you are a loved, cherished child of God. He sacrificed His Son to have a relationship with You. You are special and unique in the eyes of the Father. No matter the stress and anxiety of decision making He will never leave or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6) and will continue to guide you toward becoming more like His Son, Christ.
“God will instruct me and teach me in the way I should go. He will guide me with His eye.” (Psalm 32:8)
As always, Jared and I are praying for all of you and hope that this article may help you in some way, to be closer to your Maker.