My decision of which topic to write about next was an easy one to make. I am currently going through a major life decision process. And to me there seems to be no better topic to write about in the midst of this process than, well… decisions.
I’d like to begin by saying that decisions have never been easy for me. In fact, in a previous post I listed decisions among the top three areas of struggle in my life. I’m not talking about the mundane decisions that we make every day – what to eat, what to where, or how to spend you free time. I’m talking about some of the bigger decisions – where to live in the long term, what career path to commit to, or who to pursue in a relationship and potential marriage. And I’ll be talking about these types of decisions from the perspective that I use to make them – the Christian perspective.
If you’re a Christian, the decisions you make should be in line with the primary purpose of life: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When making a decision, if one option is not in step with that purpose, the option should be eliminated immediately. But what if you’re making a decision between options that all seem to glorify God? Then the decision becomes more difficult.
This is the scenario that I am faced with. Every option I can take seems “good” in the sense that I can continue to glorify God. And sure enough, processing through that scenario has been difficult. In the past few months, I have considered several factors involved in my decision, and have used a few resources to assist in the decision making process. These factors and resources apply to just about every tough decision a Christian makes, so I would like to share them with you. In this post, I’ll discuss the factors, and then move to the resources in the next post.
When you have an important decision to make, the factors involved in that decision become very complex. The complexity can cause you to become completely confused about which option is the best one to take. But there are at least a few factors that can help you sort through the cloud of confusion in your mind:
The long term effects – A decision may result in something good for a few months, but then lead to devastation when carried out for years and years. A significant life decision is bound to affect your relationships, career, ministry, and many other important things. While you won’t be able to pinpoint all the effects a decision will bring, you can attempt to foreshadow those effects. If one decision clearly has an undesirable long term outlook, you might steer towards another path instead.
The trump factor – This term refers to a factor that you consider more important than any other factor involved in your decision. Even if this factor points to one direction and all other factors point to another, you will not choose against your “trump factor”. You may not have a factor that trumps all others when making a decision. But if you do, and it clearly points to one option, that option may be the best one to take.
Spiritual impact – In your current situation, you may have significant opportunities to lead others towards Christ in some way. If so, the best decision may be to trust God and take those opportunities. God could be using them for great things now and even greater things in the future. Undoubtedly you should pause before making a decision that will cut off the opportunities that are before you. But you can also assess if making that decision will provide opportunities for you to make an even greater spiritual impact in the world. If it will, leaving the opportunities you currently have may be worth the risk of moving on to something new.
Interpersonal relationships – We were all made to enjoy relationships with others. The trust and closeness needed to build strong relationships take time to develop. If a decision will cause relationships that have built up over time to suddenly break away, there can be significant pain and regret in your decision. Of course, that same decision could lead to new and exciting relationships. But the relationships that you currently have with the people around you are important. This factor cannot be ignored when weighing out all the factors involved in a decision.
Actual vs. potential – When you make a decision, there are usually some things that you know will happen if you choose one option. You can call these things “actual” outcomes. There are other things that you think could happen, but are not really sure. You could call these things “potential” outcomes. When making a decision, separate the actual from the potential. It’s possible that the potential might lead to greater actual results, but it also may be a bad idea to only base your decision solely off potential outcomes. If there is a way you can get a better understanding of what things will be like if you make one particular decision, take action to get that understanding. It can help you compare the different options and the outcomes that each will result in.
Of course, there are more factors you can consider. But these factors have stood out to me in my current decision process. After reading through this list, you might be thinking, “For a post about Christian decision making, it doesn’t seem like you involved God in a lot of it!”
It is true that some of these factors do not explicitly mention God. But keep in mind that for Christians, the #1 factor in decision making is to glorify God. As the Apostle Paul wrote to people in the Corinthian church – who were making some significant moral decisions – “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.
From that point forward, we have freedom in our decisions. Freedom is a great thing, but with the freedom of choice comes the difficulty of choice. The factors I mentioned above can alleviate this difficulty and bring what was once fuzzy into focus.
The decision making process does not only involve sorting through the factors and trying to pick the best option yourself. There are also some key resources that Christians can turn to when making decisions. In my next post, I’ll describe a few of these resources.