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).