The Problem with Decisions
Do you find it difficult to make good decisions or choices for your life? They are both a cause and effect of living and can sometimes be hard especially when they may alter our world. The problems arise not so much from the actual decision-making process but the fear of living with the results of the choices made. For as the author of, The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst says, “Today’s choices are tomorrow’s circumstances.” And this is where the real problem arises when we are forced to make decisions.
Some decisions in life are silly and really not of any great consequence or at least not that really affects anyone besides us; like whether we order the chicken salad or the quiche for lunch. Some decisions, however, have a bit more lasting result even though they seemingly may just affect our self. This would be like yesterday morning when I spied the ginger snap cookies sitting on my desk and decided they would be excellent with the rest of my morning coffee.
One cookie, however, led to two, two led to three, and well you get the point as by the end of the day there were no more ginger snap cookies. The consequences of my little food adventure yesterday appear to have led to tighter pants today. Now we can say that this still really only affects me, however, if I ate like this on a regular basis it could eventually affect not just me but those around me if my weight and ultimately my health got out of control. Yes, all of that might sound extreme but the point is that even small decisions can change tomorrow’s way of life.
Decisions that Affect Others
This doesn’t even touch on the giant decisions we must make in life. Decisions that will most assuredly affect not only ourselves but those around us in ways that we might not even be able to fathom. These major decisions can be costly financially, emotionally, and relationally and it is the decisions of these types that we most often struggle with when the horizon becomes littered with the issues before us.
Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying that one’s philosophy is not best expressed in words but in the choices we make. Our decisions shape our lives and sometimes the lives of others. The process of decision making doesn’t end until we die and the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility, no matter what our influences at the time may be. It is said that when a decision needs making, we should first ponder; then if its trouble we need to delegate, and if the decision creates doubt then mumbling might be the key.
How do you handle the decisions you have to make in life? Do you ponder, delegate, or mumble? When decisions greater than what to eat for lunch arises what do you do? If great trouble appears on your horizon do you find yourself in prayer and listening for God? That is what Joseph did and it worked.
The Decisions and Lessons Learned from Joseph
We don’t know a lot about Joseph, and he disappears from the scriptures after Jesus turns 12. But if we look closely at Joseph, we learn the art of listening and obeying. Joseph had a difficult decision to make as he learned that the woman, he was engaged to marry was pregnant and he wasn’t the father. Her explanation sounded crazy and a bit over the top and so he decided that it might be best that he just quietly dissolve himself of her. He wanted to do the right thing because he was a righteous man and held no desire to disgrace her publicly. Joseph just needed the problem to quietly fade away and not involve him.
Have you ever wished a problem or decision you had to make would just disappear and quietly go away leaving you out of it? This is especially desired when none of the choices offered sound like a good option. Sometimes though we must choose what is right over getting approval or worrying about what other people will think of our choice. And this is where we find Joseph. The angel of the Lord visits him and confirms Mary’s story, so Joseph changed his plans and obeyed God even though the consequences of public opinion were dismal.
Joseph made his decision after talking to God about his problem. He obeyed God rather than choosing the route that most people would choose. Even though it is likely that many people disapproved of his decision he moved forward with what he knew was right. It is important that we, like Joseph, choose to obey God rather than seek the approval of those around us. Joseph listened and heard God’s command and then using his courage acted and obeyed to do God’s will.
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.Matthew 1:24 (NLT)
Decisions Should Always Begin with God
When we face a difficult choice, we, too, need to turn to God first because it is only with His guidance that we can make the best decision even if what is best isn’t easy. God often shows us there are more options available than we think but we won’t see them if we don’t know Him. When our decision affects the lives of others, and most of our decisions will touch someone else’s life, we must seek His wisdom and be willing to follow through no matter how difficult the answer may be. Life comes with built-in difficult decisions to make. So, when they arise, we need a plan of action to follow to consider the best choice. This always begins with talking to God first.
So just how should we go about choosing the right answers for difficult decisions? If you google this, you will derive at approximately 232,000,000 choices. That is a lot of reading and probably will make the decision process more rather than less complicated. Researchers have determined that our decision making is closely linked to our emotions. So, much so that when a person is injured where the damage is to the orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain just behind the eyes, that the decision-making ability totally disappears because the emotional part of the brain is damaged. Therefore, these people can’t decide on even the simplest of things like whether to wear a red or blue shirt.
The 4 Step Decision Making Plan
Most of us don’t make decisions solely based on emotional responses as this can lead us into problems and so a battle often surfaces between our rational self and our emotional self, as we try to finalize our choice. This is why a plan should be in place for us to follow when the difficult or not so difficult decisions crop up in our lives. There are many opinions on what this plan should entail however, I personally like Lysa TerKeurst’s suggestion and it only holds 4 steps rather than the 7-steps traditionally associated with decision making.
But no matter the system we use we should all begin with God in order to make the best choice. So, after first coming to God to talk and pray about the decision you are facing, ask yourself these 4 questions.
- Is this decision choice spiritually the right thing to do by God?
- Can I physically do this decision choice?
- Is this decision choice financially possible at this time in my life?
- Can I emotionally handle the stress that this decision choice might cause?
Terkeurst suggests that if you cannot answer yes to all 4 of these questions then you are most likely not choosing the best choice. However, this should not give a license either to delay making a decision because even that decision is a decision. As Andrew Jackson said, “Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go on.” And for believer’s what makes the decision making a bit easier is knowing that even if we make the wrong choice it is not eternally fatal.
Moving Forward Like Joseph
So, won’t you take the lesson of Joseph and apply it to your life? Realize that sometimes plans change and the easy choice isn’t always the right choice. But no matter the decisions or choices that must be made they all should begin and end with God. Won’t you find your convictions in knowing that if you take the time to consult and pray about situations with God first, you have taken the initial step in the right direction of making a well thought out decision?
Allow your motivation to stem from this knowledge knowing that if you look to God first and seek His help, He is ready to help you see His way of doing things. Take the time to steep in the fact that you can surround yourself in the comfort of knowing that mistakes will happen, and bad choices may come around despite careful planning but even your bad decisions will not end your relationship with God. Your future is secure not because of what you do but because of what He did, and He continues to stand ready to offer His help to turn things around for the good of all that love Him according to His plan. (Romans 8:28)
I wish you and yours the Merriest Christmas and pray that Christ holds center court in your celebrations.
Love in Christ,
No decision is an isolated choice. It’s a chain of events.Lysa TerKeurst
What are Your Thoughts?
Do you find it difficult to make decisions? Does your decision-making process begin and end with God? Share your thoughts on the lessons learned from Joseph and how sometimes the right decision isn’t necessarily the easy one?