Posted: 24 Aug 2017 05:47 AM PDT
Not being sure how to decide between two or more legitimate life options is a common human experience. It is part of what it means to be a finite creature in a finite world mysteriously governed by the infinite God. Whether it is a student trying to discern what college to attend, a young man trying to know which girl to pursue for marriage, an adult who has been presented with a variety of employment opportunities or a seminarian wishing to know how to discern his calling, most of us find decision making to be a platform for anxiety in our hearts and minds. Of course, we should always go to God in prayer, asking Him to shut all the wrong doors and open the right door. This step should never be neglected. However, are there any biblical principles that God has given us to help us carry out the decision making process?
When I was a seminarian, I was faced with the possibility of accepting a call to a pastorate in several different churches in a similar geographical location. I knew that I couldn’t accept all of them but was wrestling with how to discern between them in order to know which–if any of them–was the one that the Lord wanted me to take. In the course of a conversation I was having with a professor about the challenge of it all, he said, “Nick, you’re like a kid in a candy store. It all looks good, but you can’t take it all home.” That statement certainly helped settle my mind for a moment. However, I still found myself at a loss about how to know what to do. This professor then said, “I would encourage you to take a sheet of paper and put all of the pros on one side and all of the cons on another. Then seek to narrow it down from there.” That also helped immensely. In the end, I didn’t take a call to any of those particular churches. However, that process fundamentally helped shape the way in which I seek to help others think through how to cut through the multiplicity of major lawful life decisions with which they are faced.
There are also a number of questions that we derive from God’s word that help us discern what decision we are to make in any given life situation. In his excellent little book Discovering God’s Will, Sinclair Ferguson set out the following diagnostic questions to ask when we are confronted with numerous life decisions:
Answering these questions honestly when we are faced with a decision upon which we have already set our heart is not always easy. In fact, we are sometimes (often?) biased in our own assessments. It may help us to sit down with a pastor or mature spiritual mentor to help us discern how we have answered these questions. As we do so, we will find it a good but easier to rest in the decisions that we make, knowing that we have sought to honor God and be a blessing to others in those decisions.
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