Hard Decisions: from a Christian Perspective
Kids want to grow up fast because they think grown-ups get the fun of making all the decisions, such as, “Is there going to be dessert tonight?” or “When is bed time?” And it’s true, as adults we get to make decisions, but it is also true that we have to make decisions. Little do kids know that along with the “fun” decisions come a whole host of hard decisions, not to mention the painful ones that keep us up at night.
So the question is, how do we make those difficult decisions that we come face to face with in life, and how do we make them from a Christian perspective?
Well first of all, what does it mean to have a Christian perspective? It means I look at life from the perspective that there is a Christ who has come to rescue me, and his name is Jesus. But Jesus is not only the Christ; he is also my Lord, my Master, my King. I am not my own man. I am not the captain of my own ship. I have a King and I belong to him. And lest we think of that as a negative, we need to keep in perspective that this King is good and gracious. He is a king of precious promises.
So the simple answer to the question of how to make hard decisions from a Christian perspective is… to make decisions from a Christian perspective. Sorry for the obvious statement but that is where we need to begin. We are called and invited to make decisions in connection with King Jesus, and to do so involves dependence, humility, courage, and joy.
Notice what Jesus promises in John 14:13, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”
Some years back I was really wrestling with a difficult theological question and its practical applications.
How was I going to make these decisions? I started by calling people, seasoned pastors and professors, asking their advice. And that is a healthy thing to do, for one answer to our question is to follow the instruction of Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (NKJV).
The frustrating thing for me however was that for every answer I found in one direction, I found another answer telling me to do the opposite.
The truth is, as much as I was able to know my own heart, I wanted to do what God willed. I didn’t have an agenda, but I also just didn’t know what the right answer was. And I can remember sitting in my study feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, and saying, “I wish that I just had a phone in my office that was a direct line to God so I could call him and he could let me know what I should do.”
But then I remembered the promise of the King, “Ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.” And that is what I did. I dropped down and prayed. I sprawled out face down and helpless on my carpeted floor and I prayed.
And then I knew what to do. I really did. I was so at peace with what I was supposed to do next. My only question was, “Why did it take me so long to get to my knees?”
Now that is not to say that God will give us an immediate answer every time we pray, but it is a reminder to me as I write this and I hope to you reading that we are invited to start a search for answers in dependent prayer.
But as I mentioned before, Christian decision making also takes humility. In Luke 18 we find a parable of two men praying two completely different types of prayer, and we can do the same when we are looking to make a decision. The one prayer approaches the Lord with a list of what we want to do. The other comes humbly asking the Lord what we should do.
Regarding this question, Romans 12:1-2 gives us critical advice: “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good pleasing and perfect will.”
As we humble ourselves in submission to the Lord and allow him to wash clean our corrupted thinking with his truth, then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is for us.
And how is God’s will defined? By the words good, pleasing and perfect. Remember that, especially when you are faced with the reality that God’s will is not necessarily the easy answer. Christian decision making also involves having courage to do what is right. Watch yourself when making a decision that you are not simply drawn to the easiest choice. As we read in Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous… for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Finally, lest we think that in decision making we should always do the very thing that we don’t want to do because that must be from God; Christian decision making involves joy. A professor in Seminary helped me make a difficult decision about which ministry call to take by asking me what I thought at the time was a crazy question: “What do you want to do?” Well I always thought that what I wanted to do must be the wrong thing. But that is not true. God very often puts the desire on our hearts in the first place, seeking to lead us in a particular direction. Like a good shepherd, God loves to lead us in joy.
Perhaps Solomon has the best advice on how to make a difficult decision from a Christian perspective (even if he didn’t always take his own advice). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).
Rev. Roger Viksnes is senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Brethren Church in East Hartland, CT.