By Erik Dunkin
I remember being a young college student paging through the course catalogue, feeling like I was signing my life away to an unknown direction. In those moments, I thought my entire world hung in the balance. What classes should I choose? Will I regret my decision later?
But for all the stress caused by the forks in the road I navigated at age 19, I now realize those decisions pale in comparison to the one’s I’m making at age 29. Instead of decisions getting easier over time, they just keep getting harder!
When I was young, I decided on schools, classes, or jobs — all of which I would only hold for a relatively short period of time. But later, I decided on a girl to ask to marry me. That’s a lifelong commitment! Last summer, we decided to buy a house. (I still can’t get over the fairy-tale feeling of owning a home. Though, the constant house projects are definitely real.) These days, we make daily decisions that affect the future of our children.
No matter where we’re at in life, big decisions are part of the gig.
Rightly viewed, we should be thankful for the opportunity to make such decisions. We are blessed to live in a time and place where we can often decide where we want to live, or what job we’d like to apply for. But for all the privilege we have, the number of options can make us feel anxious and unsure.
So how are we to move forward with big decisions?
Here are five tools to help think through it.
1) The Bible
God’s authoritative and trustworthy instruction is the first, and most foundational element necessary for making decisions, no matter their scale. And though the Bible may not give us the specific answers we want (if only we could all have our own personalized burning bush!), it does allow us to know God’s general will for all people in all places.
People give us feedback about who we are. When our efforts collide with the real world, we begin to learn what abilities and skills we possess, and which ones we don’t. We can then talk to people to find out what they observe about us. They can tell us how we’re perceived. They point out our blind spots, telling us things about ourselves we’ve never known.
Bouncing our ideas off others also allows our motives to be exposed for examination. If we are doing something for selfish reasons, a loving friend can tell us so. For this reason, inviting the input of trusted friends, family, and Bible-minded people can be a huge asset to the decision-making process.
Prayer is a constant surrendering of the decision to God, continually placing the outcome in his hands. Prayer is a way of reminding ourselves, through conversation with God, and it is his will we want for our lives, not our own.
4) Silence and Solitude
There is a time for listening to people, and then there is a time for people to close their mouths and let you try to figure this thing out. But because people are not usually into the whole not talking thing, you need to get away from them for a while. Indeed, our world is filled with noise and hurry. In light of this, its important for you to get away for a time simply to get calm and quiet. Solitude is necessary for you to truly discover your own desires and motives.
While in solitude, consider praying over Psalm 139. Ask God to search your heart. Ask him to clarify your desires. Ask him to speak, or to give you a strong conviction of clear direction, if that is his will.
5) Freedom in Christ
If you have sought truth from God’s word, counsel from God’s people, prayed extensively, taken time alone, yet you still do not have a clear sense of direction, then guess what? You have freedom in Christ! This means that, in the absence of crystal clear direction from God, you are free to make a decision as you see fit. You can act according to what you desire to do in the situation.
In the grand scheme of our lives, God is more concerned with the process we use to make decisions than the results of that process.
If we seek God daily, desiring to know him through his word, his people, and prayer, then surely he will figure out the details of our decisions.
But if we act in isolation from his truth and his people, then even the most outwardly pleasing decisions may be the result of disobedience. For this reason, I encourage you to embrace a Godly process for making decisions, and to leave the results in the hands of our loving and generous God.