How To Decide

When I was a child, my dad prayed over a coin and then flipped it to decide if our family should keep going to a certain church. It came up whatever side he chose for “Yes” surprisingly often. That’s the only time a coin flip for an answer has ever seemed to be that clear in my experience.

I have long struggled with making decisions, especially godly decisions. It’s not that I don’t want to make the godly decision; I do, but which one it is isn’t always obvious. “Jesus, take the wheel” is a lovely sentiment, but it’s hard to live out. In my experience, Jesus doesn’t want to take the steering wheel of our lives. (A friend sent me a picture recently with a wheel flying off a car, captioned “Not that wheel, Jesus!”)

Every day, from when we wake up until we go to bed, we are faced with decisions. Can I press snooze again, or do I need to get up right away? Should I have eggs for breakfast, or cereal, or perhaps granola? Some decisions are automatic: Brush our teeth, go to work. I believe God cares about every aspect of our lives, and Jesus taught the we should always pray and never lose heart, but I don’t think God expects us to seek divine guidance for what we should have for breakfast.

However, many of us will pray about more difficult or life-altering decisions, such as where we will live, or who we will marry, whether we should apply for or take a certain job, or which charitable organizations we should support.

It’s a good idea to look for guidance from God on these major decisions; after all, we all hope that our marriages will be “’til death do us part.” Moving is expensive, and changing careers is hard. The trouble is, God hardly ever weighs in on these decisions the way I would like. I wanted a physical sign that said “Take the Job,” or “She’s The One,” or at least a well-timed thunderclap.

But if well-timed thunderclaps are unlikely to come, or suspiciously consistent coin flips, or physical signs with our answers, how do we find out what God wants us to do?

Sometimes, there will be a principle we can follow, like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or “love your neighbor,” or “Do not covet,” or “Be on your guard against every kind of greed.” Sometimes the principle will just be, “Make wise choices.” Sometimes it will be obvious. Sometimes it will be between two excellent choices and we will have to decide which we want more because it will not be obvious that either is more godly.

I believe God has empowered us to make our own decisions. In “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany,” the great astronomer Galileo said, “…I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use…”

So unless there are some extraordinary signs and wonders, most of us are called by God to make most of our decisions on our own, with the help of trusted friends and mentors.

This column appeared in The Herald-Palladium on September 7, 2019.