Learning to Make Decisions
By Peter Amsterdam
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Have you ever been faced with important decisions and needed explicit direction, only to feel as if God was in silent mode?—Right when you would most like Him to give a precise answer to help you to make an important decision? I know I have, and during those times it’s been a spiritual struggle. I so much wanted the Lord to make the path clear, but He, in His wisdom, chose not to give a direct answer. Instead, I needed to forge ahead to do the pick-and-shovel work of investigating options, seeking godly counsel, weighing the open doors of opportunity before me, praying desperately, and most of all, committing my ways to Him. I had to trust that He would direct my path in the manner of His choosing.
At times like these, a direct revelation is most welcome, and there is nothing we would like more than to have the Lord point to the best of several options and save us from the often agonizing process of weighing options, pros and cons, and taking the responsibility for making a decision when we’re not sure how things will ultimately play out. Often the Lord does confirm His will with a direct word of prophecy as a sign of His grace and favor, and this can be tremendously encouraging and empowering. At other times He expects us to work through the process of analyzing the situation and options to make a final decision, which generally proves to be a learning and growth experience.
We can find ourselves doing a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual wrestling at times like those, not unlike Jacob’s experience wrestling with the angel throughout the night.1 But if we have done what we could to pray and follow God to the best of our ability, we can trust that whatever the results and eventual outcome of our decision, it will ultimately work for our good.2
An important aspect of God’s plan for humanity was His endowment of free will, which allows us to make choices and decisions of our own volition. As Christians who want to glorify God through our lives, we want to learn to make decisions based on godly principles and choose the best options out of the many that we may be confronted with on a daily basis. Considering options, weighing advantages and disadvantages, using our God-given wisdom, and measuring situations by God’s Word are all part of loving God with all our minds, hearts, and souls, in obedience to the first and greatest commandment.3
Even when we don’t receive a direct revelation from God to guide our decision-making, we can still be encouraged that He has promised to guide us as we commit our ways to Him and seek His will through all the methods at our disposal. In fact, even when He does give a revelation, it is still wise to test the decision to discern if it is God’s good and acceptable will.4 We can measure such decisions by asking questions, such as: Does it align with His Word? Has He spoken through specific scriptures? Has advice been sought from godly counselors?
Part of the stress and turmoil we often face in times of decision-making is the fear of failure, the fear of missing God’s will, or the fear of making a decision that will unforeseeably have a negative impact on ourselves or others. When it comes to those important decisions that will define the course of our future, or at least our immediate future, we learn through experience that an unwise decision can result in having to backtrack or live out the consequences of an ill-advised decision. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and desires, our decisions lead to unexpected negative outcomes and consequences, and we find ourselves living with these.
Because God has designed us as agents with free will, we have the capability of making independent choices, and by the same token, we are personally responsible for our decisions and their outcomes. Taking responsibility for the outcomes of our decisions is an important part of the process. We also have to trust that God has promised to work everything together for the good of those who love Him, no matter how things seem to turn out initially. He can even take our mistakes and the times when we seem to have messed up our decision-making coordinates, and redirect our course in ways that will be beneficial and lead us to His ultimate destination.
Unexpected bends in the road and unintended outcomes are part of life, no matter how wise our decisions. Even when we make right decisions, there is no guarantee of smooth sailing for the duration of the journey. We will often continue to face pitfalls or setbacks along the way, and these are part of the human experience and often serve to strengthen our faith walk. As our heavenly Father, God knows that learning to make decisions and take responsibility for their outcome, and all the lessons we learn on that journey, are part of our spiritual growth and development.
He has promised that as we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him,5 and that as we commit our ways to Him and acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths and cast our lines in pleasant places.6 We can trust that He will never leave nor forsake us, even at those times when it seems that He is silent and not providing the direct guidance we are seeking for a decision we are making. Sometimes one of the reasons that God seems to be silent at those crucial times of decision is that He has left the decision up to us and wants us to make wise and godly decisions and take responsibility for subsequent action and outcomes. God created human beings with the capacity for human volition, which includes choosing among options, and the ability to take the steps that move us toward fulfilling our choices.
Adam and Eve, the first human beings, were faced with decisions in the Garden of Eden from the start. God had created them as rational beings in His image, and immediately placed decision-making in their court. Adam was tasked with the responsibility of naming all the living creatures, and there is no indication in the Bible that God told him how or what to name the animals. God committed this task to him, knowing that the rational and intellectual qualities He had gifted him with would enable him to make wise decisions. Of course, by the same token, self-determination also gave him the freedom to make wrong decisions, as we see by Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God’s commandment. Their decision to eat the forbidden fruit stood in opposition to God’s express will and resulted in the fall of man and all the associated negative outcomes.
The fall gave entrance to sin, and sin created a rift between the Creator and His creation. Thankfully, Jesus paid the price for our sins and enabled us to be reconciled to God and to enter into relationship with Him. Not only are we reconciled, but through our personal choices to love Him and accept Jesus’ sacrifice, we have been set on a pathway to intimacy with God. The marital metaphor used in the Bible to describe the spiritual relationship between Jesus and His church represents the union of heart, mind, and spirit that Jesus seeks with each of us. As we love God and grow our faith through studying His Word and living according to its precepts, that relationship takes us on a journey filled with options and alternatives, many of which will represent good and godly possibilities.
Part of the journey to intimacy with God and living a God-filled, productive life is learning to make wise and godly decisions that will continue to grow our relationship and enhance our faith and fruitfulness as we trust in His ever-present providential care. As we commit our ways to Him and seek to please Him and do those things that are pleasing in His sight, we can have confidence in our relationship with Him; we can know that He will be present with us through all the decisions, small and great, that we face throughout our lives.7
Now may the God of peace … equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.—Hebrews 13:20–21
Originally published April 2014. Adapted and republished August 2017.
Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
1 Genesis 32:24–30.
2 Romans 8:28.
3 Matthew 22:37–38.
4 Romans 12:2.
5 Jeremiah 29:13.
6 Proverbs 3:6; Psalm 16:6.
7 1 John 3:21–22.