Where should I go to school? Should I take this new job? Should I pursue marriage? How many kids should we have?
There are countless decisions we encounter throughout life. Some are big; some are small.
Regardless of the size, Christians can often be confused about God’s will for their lives. Perhaps even the thought of making decisions stirs up anxiety and paralyzing fear.
How should we think through the decision-making process? While every question can’t be answered in a blog, there are three basic principles that can guide us. Knowing God’s will starts with Scripture, includes desires, and ends with resting in God’s kind sovereignty.
His revealed will can be found in the Bible and is not hidden from believers. God has been kind to give believers specific directions concerning life and godliness. If someone is looking for inner direction without listening to God’s directions in the Bible, it’s like they are looking for eyeglasses already on their nose. It does not make sense to ignore what God has already spoken in an effort to obtain special knowledge of his secret will. Kevin DeYoung writes, “Expecting God to reveal some hidden will of direction is an invitation to disappointment and indecision.”
What are some of the specific directions God has given in his Scripture? The Bible is clear that holiness is a part of his will for every Christian’s life (Hebrews 12:14). God’s will for every Christian is to grow in godliness (1 Thessalonians 4:3). One very practical question for making decisions is, “will this cause me to look more like Jesus?” If the answer is “no” to this question, God is guiding you away from that direction. If the answer is “yes,” God has given you some strong measure of direction on the matter.
It might be helpful to eliminate choices during the decision process. For instance, the Proverbs address the issue of work ethic and time management (Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:4-5; 12:27). The question should be asked, how could I work to the glory of God in the current situation I am in? This type of question seeks to apply God’s revealed will and therefore glorify God in everything (1 Corinthians 10:31). God certainly honors this obedience and fills the believer’s heart with joy instead of gloom. Instead of being reactive and waiting for God to give an inner sense, it would be more biblical to begin obeying the commands found in the Bible, which God has already revealed.
After assessing the facts of Scripture, how should a believer make decisions between multiple good biblical choices? Perhaps there are three promising job opportunities that all meet the biblical criteria. Perhaps there are two potential mates that are pursuing Christ and have great personalities. One helpful question at this point is, which do I desire most?
The Bible addresses how the desires of the heart fit into the decision-making process. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This verse teaches that desires are, in fact, an aspect of God’s guidance. There is an “inner sense” that God sometimes gives concerning decisions in life. However, this inner sense is formed by the truths of Scripture. If someone is delighting in God, then their desires will certainly be shaped by God and his words. In this way, a person can have the freedom to act as he desires if he is walking with Christ daily. There is a freedom God gives to those who love him, and God leads them by the desires he gives them. One should not be afraid to act if the desire is informed by the Bible and flowing from a heart that is seeking Christ. You can pray, “God give me holy desires and establish my steps as I seek your will.” God leads his people by giving desires as they delight themselves in him. It has rightly been pointed out by DeYoung that even the apostle Paul made decisions this way in Acts 15:28 and 20:16. This is a freeing reality, and it can help immensely to know that God often wants his people to act on the things they want.
What if we don’t know what we should do? We must prayerfully trust God to guide us even when we are confused. Making decisions in life cannot be addressed without mentioning the sovereignty of God. Romans 8:28 is important in understanding how God directs the circumstances and decisions of life for the good of his people, “We know that God works all things together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” Learning that God sovereignly works even the smallest decisions out for the good of his people is a big relief. We can be confident that God will work all things together for our good if we love God.
Paul gives us a beautiful passage in Ephesians 1:3-14. In verse 11, he says that we have an inheritance with the God who works all things according to the counsel of his will. This is comforting and reassuring that God’s loving guidance surrounds us at all times. If I have a clear sense of my long-term destiny, then that will affect the way I live and will influence how I evaluate the events of my everyday life. If a believer is delighting himself in the Word and beginning to obey the Scriptures in any given issue he encounters, then he can feel freedom under the sovereignty of God to act according to the desires God places in his heart.
This is also encouraging because even if he does not feel any overwhelming desires, he can trust that God will order his steps for his good. Proverbs 16:3-9 tells the believer to commit their work to the Lord, and then their plans will be established. Desires do not have to be present in order for God to be kind to his people and guide their steps.
What decisions in life are you facing? Where do you need to turn to the Lord, knowing he cares for you and will guide you as you act in faith? Whether your decisions are big or small, God can guide you through it all.