Decisions. What was one of the best decisions you ever made? Was it to marry your spouse or move to that place or buy that house or take that job or attend that school or try that sport or say hello? On the flip side, what was one of the worst decisions you ever made? In either case, reflecting back on that time, how did you make that decision? If you’re like most people, chances are that you don’t really have a solid answer to that question. Maybe it was a gut feeling or a recommendation from a trusted person, or it was about money or the wisdom you had gained or ignored from prior experience. Maybe you prayed and then decided to take a leap of faith.

Most of the time, we don’t really consider all the factors that actually come into play when we make decisions. There are lots of them. Whether you have to decide where to go for dinner, which job to take, or whether or not to take grandma off the ventilator, decisions involve multiple layers of reasons and considerations. While there are times that it may be crystal clear what God wants you to do, there are many times that it’s less obvious.

So you lose sleep. You debate. You flip coins. You eat whole bags of M&M’s. Decisions are complicated, even for people who are trying to follow God. And they can be paralyzing too

What if there were a better way to make those big decisions?

But for the times you don’t know what to do, what if there were a better way to make those big decisions?

The bad news is that when it comes to decision-making, there is no absolute formula to follow that will determine what you should do. But what you can do is dig into the factors that are coming into play, affecting your decision-making. Of course, God will never desire for you to do something that goes against what he says in his Word.

Four Factors to Consider When You Have a Decision to Make:

  1. Your Emotions:  Are you tired, hungry, angry, or upset?
    As Elijah ran for his life from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, there was a point that he pleaded with God to be done with it and take his life. God’s response? An angel told him to eat and take several naps, which he did, enabling him to think more clearly and continue his journey (1 Kings 19:1-9). There are times when we’re facing a decision but not in a condition to make a good one. A wise mentor of mine once told me “nobody makes good decisions in the dark.” It may be time to pause like Elijah, to grab a bite to eat, get a good night’s sleep, and wait for the morning. Sometimes you are unable to wait for the perfect time to make a decision, but even in those circumstances, you can take care of your body and mind so that you re less driven by impulse and blood sugar and more able to think clearly.
  2. Your Direction: Are you running from something or running to something?
    After he murdered an Egyptian for not treating his people right, Moses ran to Midian to escape Pharaoh (Exodus 2:11-15). He spent the next 40 years of his life herding sheep—not because he wanted to but because he had to. Of course, God used all of it (as he does). But too often we make decisions because we’re trying to avoid pain, a person, or feeling a certain way, rather than because we are being led in a direction. Be cautious of making decisions as a means of escape.
  3. Your Reasons: What makes each choice appealing—really?
    Proverbs 20:5 says “The purposes of a person's heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.

    Each of us has the power to create reasons. We can come up with good reasons to do just about anything—from eating chocolate donuts to bungee jumping off cliffs.

    But if you ditch the surface-level response and look deep inside yourself, what is really driving you? What is the real reason you are leaning towards that choice? If you take that job, is it more about the money than the work you’ll be doing? Are you afraid of looking stupid or being talked about by family members? Do you really love him or really just love the idea of being married?

    Open your heart and be honest with yourself. And seek out some trusted counsel who will also tell you like it is and what they see. Proverbs 19:20 says “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.

  4. Your Assumptions: Is it possible that both choices are good?
    Sometimes we view life as having a single path of “right” decisions, like a connect-the-dots game. We become deathly afraid of making the “wrong” decision—choosing the “wrong” college, “wrong” job, “wrong” house, etc. And we think the indicator of this is that things will turn bad if we do. But that’s not the case at all.

    When Jesus speaks of the wide and narrow gates in Matthew 7:13-14 (“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.")

    He was not saying “there is one path for your life so don’t mess up” but that rather that his path will often be the harder one. Sometimes you will have two good choices, two ways to serve God, two equally suitable jobs. In that case, pick one. And if things don’t turn out perfectly, that doesn’t mean God wasn’t in it.

Far from being sources of anxiety and sleepless nights, decisions are amazing opportunities for us to celebrate the gift of free will and the many things that influence our thoughts and actions.  It’s here, in the space and complications of choices, that we have the ability to dive deep into how we tick, who we are, and who God is calling us to be.