The (Unnecessary?) Agony of Decisions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt my church I pray with people. A person can come to the back near the end of the service and ask for prayer, and we pray together. I’ve noticed a very common prayer has to do with decisions. A person stands at a crossroads and wants to know which path to follow.

We’ve been doing that in our life, too, my husband and me. We’ve had some decisions to make about where to live, what to do–big decisions. And yet, the more I think about decisions, the more I think most of us fail Decision Making 101.

First, we usually start with the assumption that there is both a right and wrong answer to every decision we make. Sometimes this is true. Should I cheat on my husband? That decision has some definite right and wrong answers. But we’re not usually asking whether we should sin or not. The question has to do with God’s plan–God, what do you want me to do? Should I choose door A or door B?  Or maybe we should admit it–the real question is God, which path will give me the most successful, least painful outcome?

Honestly, God has used hardship in my life. Often. I have made decisions–and not sinful ones, just regular day-to-day decisions–that have led to hard consequences. And it’s easy to think that means I made the wrong decision. A good decision results in a good outcome, and a bad decision has a bad outcome. So we ask God to help us make the decision with the best outcome, even though He might want the bad outcome because there are lessons to be learned. His views of success and mine aren’t always the same. So it’s not easy to know even in hindsight whether we did the right things or not.

Also, I get the feeling most of us have this idea that God has it all planned out, and if we make the wrong decision, we mess up the whole plan. If I move to the country and I was meant to live in the city, God has to rewrite the entire script. In truth I suspect my decisions, even the huge ones, don’t cause God to scramble and rearrange history.  I can’t unravel the tapestry by living in the wrong place or taking the wrong job or going on the wrong vacation, not when they all have the same moral weight and aren’t sinful. He will weave our current circumstances into the tapestry regardless.

Sure, we can ask God’s direction. And sure, we can look for answers. As my husband and I make decisions here in the future, we’ll look to godly people for advice. We’ll weigh pros and cons. We’ll talk to God and see what he puts in front of us. But in a lot of cases, there won’t be one solid winning path. Then we simply walk forward and remember God is with us always.

Takes some pressure off to know I don’t have to read God’s mind to stay in His will. I have to love Him, obey His commands, and simply keep moving. A wrong step can’t destroy the fabric of the universe.  And sometimes what seems like a wrong decision in the eyes of the world may be exactly what God wants to use to grow me closer to Him.

So. There’s my views on making decisions, in a nutshell. We have to seek God’s direction. But seeking it and finding that He still gives us space to choose–that’s okay. Not every decision has a clear winner. God can use any decision we make to help us, to help the people we love, to help people around us. And that’s a relief. God doesn’t want us to agonize and second guess every time we have to make a decision. Now to put that into practice…

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