Making the Best Decision in a Sea of Good Choices

It’s a case of too many choices, and it can lead to paralysis.

Have you ever taken a four-year old to a toy store and told them to pick one item? Hours and much frustration later, you leave with something randomly pulled from the shelf and tear streaks on your little one’s face, neither one of you happy.

We live in a world of abundance, of options, and many of them good. God-honoring. With so many possibilities, it’s easy to become paralyzed.

Some become so flustered, they jump on the easiest or loudest option. Only to find themselves stuck in something that doesn’t quite fit or wasn’t God’s will.

So how do we choose? Is God all that concerned with these minute details of our lives, or is He simply pleased when we’re seeking to live for Him?

Yes and yes.

Sometimes His guidance is quite detailed and clear. There’ve been numerous times when God’s nudged me to write that article or approach that person or start that ministry. There’ve been other times, many, when He’s simply nudged me forward. And then there were many other times when God asks me (often, via divine silence) to wait.

So how can we tell the difference? When bombarded with options, and most of them good, how can we possibly, confidently, determine God’s will?

In Philippians 1:9-11 Paul told the Philippians he wanted their love to abound in knowledge and discernment so they could approve (or test) those things that were excellent. Not just good or beneficial, but excellent.

Chuck Smith says, “Good enough is often the greatest enemy of the best.”

Daily, we’re each bombarded with a plethora of “good.” There are more ministries than we could possibly serve in. More causes than we have dollars to support. More options than we may feel equipped to sift through, knowing that to choose one is, in essence, to say no to another.

And so we wait. Pray. Seek wise counsel. Pray again. Wait some more.

Sometimes waiting is good. Necessary, especially if we take that time to draw near to God and grow in Him.

And yet, that waiting can feel incredibly uncomfortable, not because we’re in a hurry for hurry’s sake but rather because we fear we’ll miss something if we don’t act right now.

But God’s rarely in a hurry, and if something’s that crucial for us to jump on, He’ll let us know. He longs to lead us even more than we long to be led. That’s where trust comes in, and our trust often grows in the midst of uncertainty.

Other times, God presents us with numerous excellent options, and like a loving and gracious Father, smiles and says, “You choose, my love.”

And still other times, though many good choices might confront us, only one of those is God’s best for us. I’ve been praying over some options, a future direction. This spring, I’ll complete a Christian ministry degree, I’m asking: What now? Do I find employment in a church or a nonprofit? Full time or part time? And how would either impact my current responsibilities and marriage?

In determining which is which, here are some questions we can consider:

  1. Which best fits my unique personality?
  2. Which am I  uniquely equipped for?
  3. What best fits my availability (without causing undue stress)?
  4. Which would most bless those I love?
  5. Which would most fit the message God has given me?

I’ve found, if I’ve prayerfully weighed the above questions and still feel uncertain, I’m likely in the “wait” phase and am struggling with surrender or I don’t like the answers God’s revealed.

What about you? How do you discern the best from the good? How do you move forward (or wait) with confidence? Share your thoughts, stories, and suggestions in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another.

You might also enjoy:

When God Says Wait

When God Says Stay

When God Says No

Courage and Calling by Gordon T. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

When–and How–God Guides

It’s a question that dominates the thoughts of believers worldwide: How can we know if this thing, this opportunity, this action or whatever, is God’s will? How can we discern His voice among all the other “voices” bombarding us each day? I believe learning to discern God’s voice is a process that comes from drawing close to Him, saturating our minds with Scripture, and following with surrendered obedience. I believe the more we respond obediently to God’s voice, the more we’ll be able to hear Him in the future, and the more we disobey or disregard His leading, the more dull our hearing becomes.

But He does speak to us and guide us, because as my guest, Mary Bowen reminds us, “God wants to lead us even more than we want to be led.”

A Door Wide Open

By Mary Bowen

“He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all his own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow him because they know His voice” (John 10:3-4 NIV).

Our Florida rental had been trashed! In shock I clutched the phone tighter as my stomach turned. The realtor’s words hit me hard; something precious had been desecrated. Our classy little ranch with the screen porch and landscaped yard. . . for eighteen months our cozy nest during my pregnancy, then home for our beloved baby daughter. After moving back to Atlanta, we had rented it out for two years.

Before I could fully process what all this meant, the realtor who told us this devastating news gave us hope. She said she was looking for a “fixer-upper.” I caught my breath. We had just finished praying together on the sofa for a buyer! After accepting her offer in a happy daze, my husband and little daughter joined me in another prayer. “Oh, God, thank you, thank You!” We were free now to consider a job opportunity in Virginia.

It was part of His go-ahead.

Soon after that, God floored us with another confirmation. A young man taking a course in Atlanta the next week “happened” to visit our Sunday school class. He’d come from Abingdon, the very location we were considering! Over lunch he told us all about this charming historic community and the church he loved so much. It was as if God had sent him to confirm again where He wanted us.

A third reassurance was our leading in house-hunting. Though we had several weeks in which to look, I felt an urgency to go one particular weekend. We found out why when the realtor told us that desirable rentals were disappearing fast. She showed us a house that fit us perfectly.

Our prayers for guidance were answered with multiple confirmations. There was no doubt where we should move. We fell in love with Abingdon’s friendly, relaxed culture, absence of traffic, and especially Abingdon Bible Church. Our four years in Abingdon, Virginia were among the happiest of our lives.

Looking back now, I can see why God worked so dramatically. I liked being back in Atlanta after all the challenges in Florida two years before. Another out-of-state move seemed as much fun as climbing a mountain barefoot. Because He is gracious and kind, God wanted to reassure me with all those signs pointing the way.

We may not always get so many clues about the next step. Nevertheless, God wants to lead us even more than we want to be led. (Prov. 3:5-6).

When facing a decision or attempting to discern God’s will, four indicators can help us discern what to do:

The Bible

Advice from other Christians

Circumstances

and the Holy Spirit.

The psalmist compared Scripture to a lamp that illumines our path (Ps. 119:105). He declared, “You guide me with Your counsel” (Ps. 73:24 NIV).

Other people’s godly counsel also guides us. “Wisdom is found in those who take advice” (Prov. 13:10 NIV). “Plans fail for lack of counsel” (Prov. 15:22 NIV).

God used providential circumstances to guide my family to move, along with promptings from the Holy Spirit. Called “the Counselor,” He guides us into all truth (Jn. 16:13).

We’re most receptive to God’s guidance when we’ve surrendered our will to His. We can trust God to lead us step by step.

***

Mary Bowen writes and edits for Grace Ministries International in Marietta, Georgia. For many years her articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies. She has worked as a reporter and freelancer, and served as an editor with the North American Mission Board.

Let’s talk about this! What steps do you take when trying to discern God’s will? First, can I ask–are you taking time to listen? For me, this is often the biggest issue. It’s hard to hear God’s voice when my mind is racing from one thing to the next, when I’m wrapped up in my to-do list. Intimacy with Christ takes time, time of listening, of quieting myself in His presence. This is one of my favorite verses, and may God help me to live it out:

“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’ (Psalm 27:8 NLT).

Forced to Choose

sorrow-and-worry-692910-mIt’s a choice I never wanted to make. It tore me up, tore my daughter up, and I’m pretty sure, it tore my husband up as well. But when a situation arose where I had to choose between my husband and my child, I knew there was really only one choice I could make. For if I followed my mother’s heart, the one that longs to buffer my child from every pain and surround her with nothing but abundant blessings, I honestly believe I would’ve robbed her of that which blesses her most–parents with a healthy, united marriage.

It was 2012, and my daughter and I were content. Happy. We lived in a great cul-de-sac filled with involved parents and great kids. The kind of neighborhood where parents kidsplayingfelt safe allowing their kids to play outside on late summer nights. We were involved in a growing church, had our hands in meaningful ministries. Our evenings were filled with family dinners, lots of hugs, and plenty of laughter.

Only my husband wasn’t happy. Not fully. Long story short, things outside our home had become toxic, and he was ready for a change. For peace. When his boss offered him a transfer to the corporate offices in Omaha, he saw his chance.

But this chance came at a price. We’d have to sell the home we loved, one we’d spent a great deal of time and money-making our “own”. We’d have to leave our church and the connections we’d made. Worse, we’d have to uproot our high school daughter. Surviving high school is hard enough. Her trying to navigate the inherently awkward halls as a newbie? The thought made me ill.

I’ve seen her weather enough broken friendships, unexpected rejections, and cliques to know this was going to be tough. Painfully tough. I worried about lonely lunches and even lonelier weekends as she waited, and waited, and waited to establish safe, lasting friendships. In fact, I worried myself sick, and prayed for a solution. One that could provide a much-deserved blessing for my precious husband while allowing our daughter to finish high school in Kansas City.

I knew if I complained or fought against it, my husband would stay. Because that’s how he is, always putting others first. But I also knew how much he needed this move, how much he deserved it. And I trusted if I put my husband first, God would bless our daughter for it.

So we went, and I’m pretty sure the summer that followed was the toughest our daughter had ever faced.

And I wondered why? Why did what was good for one have to come at the cost of another?

It didn’t. It just took time for us to catch sight of God’s blessing. Which is what this move has been–a blessing. For all of us. On New Year’s Eve, as I listened to giggles rising from a basement of teens, I thought back to our move and all God has done since078. God has returned to us all we lost in Kansas City triplefold. And our daughter? She didn’t really lose anything. Her truest friends held on, and they remain close to this day. But now she has many more friends to add to her circle. Great friends. Christ-centered friends.

In short, this move turned out to be exactly what our daughter needed.

Because when we do things God’s way, everyone wins.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this.

But… before we do, I want to invite you to pop on over to a new blog I joined with some of my sweet writer friends, Faith-filled Friends. We started this blog so we’d have a place to talk about our books, our characters, our fun research outings, and all the other things that make us smile. This month, we’re hosting a launch give-away. Join the conversation and get entered into the drawing for some great books and precious jewelry. 🙂 And make sure to subscribe, because you never know when there’ll be other gift baskets to win.

Then, join the conversation at Living by Grace as we chat about making difficult choices. Can you relate? Have you ever felt as if God were asking you to choose between a child and your spouse? If so, what did you do, and what was the result? Why do you believe it’s imperative, not just for us, but for our children as well, to put our marriage first?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

Choices–One Man’s Near Death Encounter

Today, my guest, James Willcox, author of Choices,  tells us of an encounter he faced that radically changed his view on life. Although you and Iimag001 likely won’t face a life or death experience, God gives us each the same choice: to live or die. There is only one way to truly live …

What will you choose?

***

Prov. 29:25

The fear of man brings a snare,

But he who trusts in the Lord shall be safe.

         Fear…does it move or paralyze us? The choice is always ours. Do we need fear man? Not really. Do we need fear God? For sure…if we fail to accept Him. Unfortunately, we usually fear man the most. No one wants to be rejected. Yet, when we seek after the things of God and not the world, we often fear rejection by others.

lighttunnelOn September 21, 2011, I had a life threatening heart attack. While still at home, I had a wondrous encounter with the Lord! Death was very near. At first, it terrified me! Suddenly, I found myself enveloped in a soothing light that is beyond description. Next to it, extending into endlessness was blackness beyond imagination. Every object I now saw was either white or black. Jesus asked me…“do you want to live?” Immediately, I answered “yes.”

You see, I was in an extreme drought stricken part of my life. This condition was due to family situations, business conditions, and other factors that, from time to time, we all face. For several months I had been asking God ‘why’ He continued to let me live. Interestingly enough, when first confronted with death, I still wanted to stay here.

The pain in my chest was excruciating! This rancher was now leaning against the tire of a tractor. For a moment, I reasoned if I were to lie down, I would feel much better. Something deep inside told me ‘no.’ To voluntarily do so would be giving up and result in certain death.

The car was about eighty feet away and getting it was one of my jobs that morning. This journey took me through ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death.’ During this walk and for a short time afterward, I have no memory of chest pain. As I proceeded toward the car, the darkness tried to penetrate the wondrous light that protected me. At one point a voice spoke…“What if you fall down?” It was Satan himself who asked the question.

My response…“if I can’t help it, I needn’t be worried.” God’s safety was already surrounding and indwelling me.

Reaching the car, I leaned against it. Jesus again asked me if I wanted to live. Somehow, I knew my answer needed to be delayed. I now found myself in a unique room. It was rectangular, had a hard wood floor, a door with Jesus standing behind it at one end and the other end open to the world I knew. Colors could be seen out the open end but everything else was white and black. Having no desire to try and get to that familiar world, my focus became centered on the door to heaven and the figure behind it. I knew I could choose to go through that door and would be welcomed, leaving everything behind, including my troubles. Perfect peace dwelt deep within me in that amazing setting and it seemed as though time itself were standing still.

Have you ever been asked a question thinking there were only two possible answers? From a human perspective, that’s the kind of question I reasoned had been set before me. It wasn’t long before I knew it was time to answer Jesus’ question. Being led by the Holy Spirit, I suddenly realized there could be a third response. It was time to exercise my faith, knowing I would reside in absolute safety regardless of the outcome. My answer to the most important question I had ever been asked was, “You decide. It’s up to You.” Instantly, I was back in the world I knew, the chest pain once again overwhelming.

Our local hospital is a small, rural facility, not equipped to handle a major heart attack victim. A Flight for Life helicopter took me to a hospital one hundred miles away. Given the way our medical system works, I should have been taken to a hospital about half the distance. God went before me and prepared the way for emergency triple bypass surgery that same afternoon. Even though I had a major heart attack, there was no damage to the heart muscle. PTL!!!

Today, although life is still hard at times, I constantly abide in God’s comforting love, peace and safety. It’s my prayer that you openly seek God, bask in the safety only He can provide, thereby avoiding the snares of man.

James Willcox is a lifelong rancher in southern Colorado. He and his wife, Bobbie, have been married nearly forty four years. They have three adult children and enjoy being grandparents. James knows first had that God does give people second chances and is very aware of His love for us. Visit him online.

imag002About his book, Choices:

Does God really give us the freedom to make our own choices?

Even though Jim and Rick are lifelong friends, their lives have taken very different paths. Jim, as a devout Christian and follower of God, has spent countless hours trying to lead his best friend down the path to salvation. When Jim and Rick are involved in a terrible accident, the depth of Jim’s faith as well as the depth of his love for his friend will be put to the ultimate test.

Jim and Rick see and experience many incredible things as they discover that which awaits believers and nonbelievers alike. Follow these two friends as they realize the eternal consequences of their Choices.

***

This past month, during my morning Bible reading time, God has been sharpening my focus on those things that are eternal, encouraging me to not let my heart become dulled by the concerns of this life but that I would instead keep alert to His mission (and man’s condition) at all times. (Luke 21:34-36)

Because tomorrow is promised to know man.