Making Difficult Decisions
Daily life presses us to make decisions. Many are fairly inconsequential, but some have far-reaching ramifications for ourselves and our loved ones. Choices regarding employment, marriage, and a place of residence will greatly impact the story of one’s life. The local church to which a Christian joins himself may, over the course of a life time, be the difference between making it to heaven’s rest or falling short of it (cf. Hebrews 4:1). Just think of the spiritual peril one would have put himself in by deciding to become a member of the church at Laodicea and allowing himself to be influenced by their attitudes (cf. Revelation 3:14-19). Other significant life decisions may relate to choosing friends, disciplining children, and participating in civic or social activities.
Such decisions are important. The thoughtful, mature Christian will see the significance of these decisions, but he will not allow the difficulty involved in making them to detract from the joy he has in Christ. I have observed (and the Bible reveals) that there are three practical steps successful Christians regularly take when faced with difficult decisions.
#1 – They pray. God is ready and willing to hear the requests of His children (1 John 5:14-15). The apostles relied on Him in making the difficult decision regarding who would replace Judas (Acts 1:24). No matter what hard decision confronts us today, we may still “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
#2 – They consider the best and worst scenarios. When faced with the choice of living or dying, the apostle Paul recognized that either scenario was good and would please him. To live on was needful for others and would mean increased fruit for his labor, but to “depart and be with Christ” would be “far better” (Philippians 1:23). Sometimes in life the “worst that could happen” is something we could tolerate if our attitude is right. If we, like Paul, believe that the most important outcome of any decision is how it affects our relationship with Christ and His cause, then we will realize that all the alternative outcomes of some decisions are acceptable.
#3 – They determine the pros and cons based on Scripture! God’s word is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). It is the most practical tool there is for making life’s decisions. In it God has provided for the Christian “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). While a few decisions Christians may face are not specifically addressed in scripture, many are! Those that are not specifically addressed are often addressed in principle. The wise decision-making Christian will take all of the truth that applies to his situation and use it to make his decision. He will not make a decision based on what feels good to him or what he likes best. Rather, he will rely upon God’s word to make the determination. Specifically, before a decision is made, he will have considered (1) whether or not any option he could choose would hinder his obedience to Christ and (2) whether or not any option he could choose would adversely affect the spiritual condition of others. Even a choice which would not lead oneself into sin may be “a stumbling block to those who are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9, 13).
Sadly, there are not a few Christians who fail miserably at making difficult decisions precisely because they do not follow these steps. Often it happens that these individuals will seek advice from others for making tough decisions. When you ask them, “Have you prayed about it?” the answer is, “No, I didn't think about doing that!” Ask them, “Have you considered what God’s word says about it?” and you might hear, “Oh, I didn't even know the Bible said anything about it!”
Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” The wisdom of an all-knowing God is at our disposal to help us make difficult decisions. We must trust in Him and avail ourselves of it.