Decisions, Decisions: How to decide?

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Making a decision can often feel weighty, kind of like the scene towards the end of the movie, The Last Crusade, when Indian Jones must decide which cup is Christ’s cup.  The knight says, “Choose wisely.” For one choice leads to life and the other, to destruction. How do you choose?

Decision-making can be agonizing! There can be times of anxiety, wondering, and deliberating– which can fill our days and nights with indecision. Most likely our decisions are not as major as Indiana’s, but they can still can rob our moments, and take up unwanted residence in our mind and thoughts until there is no space for anything else.

The fact that decision-making is often dictated by what seems easiest, what others want, our current circumstances or how we feel, doesn’t help in making a good decision. So how do I decide on a major, a career, what to do with a summer, a child’s future, or whether I should change jobs or move? How can I make a sound decision?   Is there a way to decide that leaves me feeling more… well, decisive?

Hand it over

It is easy to get caught up in making the “right” choice. We feel the pressure to “choose wisely” as the knight urged, in fear that everything could go completely wrong. For our choice could ruin everything! The best way to make a decision is to look at it differently. Instead of picking or choosing, it is better to start with “handing it over.”  In 1Peter 5, it says,

Cast all your anxiety on the Lord because He cares for you.

Instead of worrying, or obsessing over the details (which comes a little too easy for me!), I verbally and mentally picture myself handing the decision over to God and moving on. I might say, “I hand over the summer to you.” Or, “I hand over my child’s future to you.” I continue to do this when it comes up in my mind, instead of praying worried prayers with all the details of what I want to happen. (You know, when you pray about this and that, repeatedly.) Often I practice this for a period of time before making the decision, seeking God over the answer.

There have been some tough decisions over the years! There was the decision to live in my sorority house for three years to build into the relationships there. There was the decision to join a ministry full-time instead of attending graduate school. Choosing to go overseas for a year was faith stretching. There was the decision to place our four boys in public schools. Making everyday choices about how we use our money and time is always present. One of these difficult decisions happened a few years ago. With four growing boys and often having large groups of students into our home, I felt the need for more space.  My husband was content with the room we had, while I was ready to move. We were split, both having legitimate reasons and desires for what we wanted, which began to lead to tension and stress. What were we to do?

Opportunities of Trust

DSC_06691. God as my provider

This time was a big struggle for me. However, it became an opportunity for pressing me into God, trusting Him, and remembering what is important. I was reminded that God is my provider and accomplisher.  Psalm 88 says,

The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.

Just because one choice feels difficult or challenging, it is not a reason to cast it aside, which is my natural tendency.  It may be the very thing God uses to stretch my faith, which causes growth and dependence on Him. I can trust that He has good plans for me and I can trust Him as I make these kind of decisions. Even if I cannot see the future, I can trust Him with the next step.

2. God’s ways are the best ways.

Decision-making is an opportunity to remember God’s ways and values. I want His way to lead me. It is all too easy to be influenced by the world and its values, like a chameleon changing color with its surroundings.  I want God’s reality to the center of my reality. God’s view of success, significance, and relationships is often different than what the world advocates. I need to pause, look at His word and remember what is good and has lasting value.

3. Keeping an eternal perspective

The decision also helps me remember what does matter the most in the grand scheme of things.

Lord, make me know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight. Surely, every man at his best is a mere breath.  Psalm 39:4-8.

I want these few days to count for things that are lasting and eternal. Remembering my limited days can help me to choose wisely. Sometimes I hear people talk about making a decision based on an “open door” or a “closed door.” This may at times help with the process, but often we are called to wait and even go find a different door to open. The decision becomes an opportunity to align my ways with God’s ways and for keeping an eternal perspective.

The process regarding moving, made us look to God as our provider and even reevaluate what is important. What do we value? What does God value? A couple of things my husband and I valued was not having more debt, and not just “moving up” in the world and acquiring more “stuff,” which seems to be a norm in our culture. We all have opportunities to trust God with what is next. Can I let go?  Can I let go of the world’s idea of success or significance?

Reading the Signs

Some decisions have greater ramifications and take much more thought, time and prayer. Reading the signs can be a helpful way of coming to a decision as we keep in mind God ‘s provision and values.  Some signs to consider:

Prayer: Pray about the options. Start with “handing it over,” for a period of time.  Take time to seek God and not “the answer.”

God’s word: How does God’s word lead me? As I think of Him as provider, in what ways can I trust Him? As I think of His ways and what He values, where does this lead me?

Advice from others: Seek advice from a variety of people. Don’t just ask people who you know will say what you want to hear.

Circumstances: Circumstances can help guide us but they can be misleading. The lack of something can mean we need to trust God to provide for us, not run in the other direction. There are times I have had to trust God for a lot of money to do what I thought he was calling me to do. I am amazed how he has provided, even though when I said, “yes,” I had no idea where the money was coming from!

Desires: What are my desires? How does this fit with everything?

Pro-Con list: Write down your pros and cons for the different options. Of course, not all things are equal, so this needs consideration. Just because one thing has six pros and three cons, the three cons may actually weigh heavier.

These things are like signs that help point us in the right direction. As my husband and I looked at the “signs,” it seemed like a “yes” to moving forward on the new house.  Along the way, we came across some obstacles, and with each step, we handed it over. At one point, I started to feel sick to my stomach, like something was not right. Our offer for the new house then was rejected, so we could not go forward.  My husband also had felt uneasy about the whole thing. Fortunately, we both were pretty sure we were not to move after all, but to stay put instead. As I look back, I think the process did help me to look to God for what seemed impossible.  It also helped me to learn to listen and wait for His leading.

Decision-making can leave us indecisive. I know this is profound. Of course, we want to “choose wisely,” but often for me, I come to a decision as I hand it over to God and seek Him instead of the answer. We all share these perplexing times, which are really opportunities– opportunities to grow our trust and help us to follow Him. It is exciting to think that one choice could actually open doors to things much greater and more significant than we could ever dream.poppy

 Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others

What decision do you need to make, or are you avoiding to make? Begin practicing “handing it over.”

Take time to read Philippians 3, and look at the Apostle Paul’s outlook for the goal of life.

What is a step of faith you can make which would actually cause you to trust God for its fulfillment?

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