I have always found it fascinating to watch college students as they begin the process of graduating and moving on to real life.
This period of time can be a real faith struggle as they make big decisions on careers, who they will marry, where they will live, etc. The most common frustration has to do with “the will of God.”
I have seen so many college students who sincerely want to do what God wants them to do. They want to marry who God has picked out for them. They want to choose the job God intended for them and the job they can best serve God. And yet they are frustrated because God hasn’t “shown” them what choice to make. It is as if they are waiting for a Harry Potter owl to deliver their letter from God saying: Marry this person. Take this job. Pursue this graduate degree.
And while we more mature and sophisticated adults look at this and say, “Awww, that’s cute” I wonder if we have ever really grown out of this.
Exiting college comes with a whole lot of big life decisions, so the experience is exaggerated. But how many of us pursue “God’s will” waiting for God to tell us exactly what to do when we face a big decision.
Early in my spiritual walk, one of the people I read a lot advocated “conversational intimacy” with God. It was his contention that in every single decision we make, small or large, we should be asking God and waiting for God’s answer.
This drove me crazy because I never experienced this. It left me feeling like an inferior Christian because I didn’t know God’s exact opinion over every single aspect of my life.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of “conversational intimacy.” I think we hear from God, just in many different ways. I try my best to pay attention to God in my every day activity.
But it has never been my experience that God speaks to every single decision in my life. God is often “silent.” And I think this is the experience of most people, and assuming God speaks directly to every decision leaves us feeling spiritually inferior.
There is a fear underlying this perspective. It is a well-meaning, good intentioned fear, but it is a fear none the less.
It is the fear of making the wrong decision, the fear of “not getting it right.”
We worry God has some sort of master plan which we will miss out on if we make the wrong choice. Or we worry God has a preference between our options and will be upset if we choose the wrong one.
But look through the story of the Bible. How many of our “faith heroes” made solid choices all the time? In fact, most of the stories of these heroes is God redeeming their bad choices.
This may sound like heresy at first, but I don’t think God is as concerned with our individual decisions as we think.
We are human, we make bad choices. We choose the wrong thing all the time.
Perhaps God is more concerned with the TRAJECTORY of our life than each and every decision.
Because when we make decisions, we are moving forward. And God is concerned much more with our growth than with our “getting it right.”
God gives us reason and intuition and community to help us make sense of our world and make informed decisions.
But here is the thing: If we are searching and praying and discussing our decisions, we are doing so because we want to live into the life God wants for us. By pursuing God in the big decisions, the trajectory of our life is moving toward God, even if we make the “wrong” decision. We are orienting ourselves towards God, and that is what matters in the long run.
Based on this, I think there are three things we can do to make better decisions:
1. Rely on the Spirit. When we face a big decision, we need to leave room for thought, reason, and discussion. We need people speaking into our lives, and we need space to pause, contemplate, and maybe even try out new ways of thinking, living, or being.
2. Make a decision. While the first step is crucial, we can be tempted to let it cripple us. We have to eventually take the leap of faith and make the decision. Even if it is the wrong decision, we step forward and we trust. Which leads us to the third step.
3. Rely on the Spirit. Once we make the decision, we then turn back to trust and reliance on God. We trust God will act when we move forward. We learn to adapt. We learn to be ok if we fail. We allow God to work in the decision we have made and trust that he will mature and grow us because of our desire to move forward.
Making decisions this way does not guarantee we will always make the right choice. But making decisions this way teaches us to trust. It orients us towards God, and helps us be more aware of the trajectory our lives are heading.
There is no way to ensure we make the perfect choice every time. And God does not expect this of us. What God wants is our trust. When we begin to learn the balance of trust and action, we begin to head in the ways of Jesus.