Now, before I proceed with the thoughts for this post, I must confess something. I have adapted this post from notes that I had written in the back pages of my Bible. However, I did not note the source; I believe that I had written these notes down while I was watching a sermon on YouTube, but I am not sure of the exact one. I apologize for this!
But having said that, what should we think about when we are facing a hard choice? Here are some tips that I hope we will all take into account and apply:
1. Clear the pathway of sin or bad attitudes
In my life, I have noticed that when I come across a trial or difficulty, my sinful thoughts and selfishness are often brought into my view. Sometimes a friend or relative will notice my fault and mention it. I may be reading a Bible passage and what I am reading strikes me, prompting me to say "This warning is about me!" Or I may just be going about my business and suddenly a thought comes into my head saying "You have forgotten this Biblical idea" or "You need to repent of your attitude in this area, Christian." Listening to this kind of spiritual prompting is essential to the Christian life, because our faith is a journey of constant growth, and not simply the result of a one-time conversion.
May our attitudes be like that shown in Psalm 139:24: "See if there is any wicked [some translations may say "hurtful" - makes sense, as many times our attitudes can hurt others even when we don't even realize it] way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Big decisions often require at least some introspection, and this introspection may lead us to realize that we must change our ways in order to better please God. A friend of mine has told me that we all need these moments. She even seeks out this conviction and asks God for it. This courageous attitude of hers is a good one, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)
2. Neutralize your desires
I see nothing wrong with asking God for anything you desire, of course, as long as your desires are not evil and you are asking with the right motives. (Side note: if you are struggling with evil desires and impure motives, feel free to ask God for help with these in prayer!) When it comes to decision making, I think you are perfectly within your right to say to the Lord, "Okay, God, this is what I want to do. I want to do this thing very badly, and I believe it would be a good thing to do." But please don't forget to have the attitude that also says, "Thy will be done, Lord. You know better than I, and I can trust You." Submit to the will of God, and ask God to give you peace about whatever result comes your way.
3. Be aware of pressure
In one of our recent talks at CBT, we discussed the issue of peer pressure - what happens when your peers want you to do something or even perhaps live their lives through you. Some peer pressure can be good, prompting you to do something good that you didn't want to do out of fear, pride, etc. But peer pressure can be harmful, too. Others will have their own views on a particular issue in your life or they will try to tell you what decision you must make. They will "know" what you must do, and sometimes they may even say that God is "telling you" through them! Please, do not use my words as an excuse to ignore the advice or input of others. After all, "Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed." (Proverbs 15:22) All I am saying is that another's opinion is not necessarily right. If something is right, it is right because it is right, and not because others believe it to be true. Certainly, be willing to listen to others with an open mind and heart. Sometimes their views may confirm that your plan is correct! But remember to keep God at the centre of your decision making. In the end, your choices are between you and Him, and He is the One you must ultimately please, even if other people will disagree.
And you must beware internal pressures, as well. Our choices may be influenced by so much within our own active, confused, human minds. Fear can be a big motivator for a certain choice. This could be the fear of loss, rejection, or criticism. Anxiety is another factor; this is one I struggle with oftentimes. When faced with a big decision, naturally-born analysts like myself will try to place choices onto mental Pro/Con charts. We become like Public Relations staff, analyzing every facet of a decision from every possible angle. "What will these people think of this? How will this look? Are we really making this decision with the right motives? Are we REALLY pure-hearted when we do this?" Our intended action may very well be right. And our motives may very well be pure! But the anxious thoughts I've just listed can torment us until we finally make our decision. Not only can this make us dread big choices, but fear and stress can also cloud our judgment. Remember this: "Cast all your anxiety on Him [God], because He cares for You." (James 5:7) And "Peace I [Jesus is speaking here] leave with you; my peace I give to you. .... Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:27)
So be careful and selective of whom you listen to. Try not to stress about your decision. And ask God for wisdom and peace, and don't constantly fall back into doubt and overthinking when you've made the right choice (James 1:5-8).
4. Be persistent in prayer
A few months ago I posted a snippet from a website about this very subject. Read it here. Remember what I have also said throughout this post about praying to God and asking Him for help. If you do not get an answer right away to your problem, keep praying! I've had to wait many times for answers to prayers for things very important to me. Sometimes I only had to wait a few days. But other times I had to wait for months. And some answers I have been waiting for for YEARS and they still haven't come yet! Do I get discouraged sometimes? Of course, yes.
But this does not mean that God is not listening. Throughout my times of waiting for answers, I have learned many lessons about myself and grown (including trying not to be so worrisome, as described in Point #3!). The time of waiting can be a time of conviction and growth; don't waste it. Keep praying through it because in these times God is shaping us up to become better Christians. Let God work with you. And you know, He may just be shaping you and working the circumstances to bring your desired answer to pass! All it took was a little time and some patience, faith, and prayer on your part. I have seen this happen in my life a number of times, and these kind of answers to prayer encourage me when I encounter difficulties later.
What does this have to do with decision making? Very rarely are big decisions made clear right away. So if you have been praying for months asking God, "What should I do with this? How should I approach this?" Don't worry if your plan of action isn't made clear right away. Keep praying.
5. Rest in God's promise
Read the Bible regularly when you have inner turmoil. Of course, you've heard this before, and I'm sure that you have applied this principle many times. But it is worth repeating. Remind yourself through the Word how God loves you, He wants to use your times of hardship to help you grow, and He will help you if you ask Him and keep His will in mind.
Whatever decisions you have to make in life, God be with you! We are in your corner, and may you always go to the Lord for your answers to life's tough choices.
~ Christian Basar