Are you facing a big decision or considering a change? Sometimes it is so difficult to know if you are to go right or left or pause or sprint. We often pray and feel like we are mind reading God’s next move for our lives. Or we feel frantic like we need to do something but we aren’t sure what to do. Oftentimes we yearn for wisdom and discernment but don’t know where to start to get it. If you are desiring discernment to make the best move, here are 10 things you can do when deciding direction.
1. Take a spiritual poll.
Round up the people in your life whose spiritual wisdom you respect and pay attention to what they are telling you. Proverbs 19:20 says get all the advice and instruction you can so you will be wise the rest of your life. Proverbs 15:22 says plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors, they succeed. Proverbs 11:14 says, for lack of guidance, a nation falls, but victory is one through many advisors. Proverbs 12:15 says the way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. And Proverbs 28:26 says those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
Over and over again, in Scripture, we’re told to surround our lives with wise counsel. As you discern what it is that God is calling you to do, my encouragement to you is to surround yourself with godly people who seek to know God, grow in God, and hear God. Give them permission to speak into your life. Entrust yourself to their questions, wisdom, advice, concern, encouragement and leading. When you meet with these people, carry a posture of listening and learning. Be willing to process, ask questions, and seek to gather wisdom for your quandary.
If you are making a big decision in life, friend, the last thing you want to do is make it alone. I have a personal rule in my life. I will not make big decisions without wise counsel. All big decisions I am faced with are run by a group of people in my life that I have the utmost respect for; people who I not only admire for their faith and wisdom but people who I trust with my heart and life. You too can take on this rule for your life.
So when making big changes, gather up several people and take what I call, a spiritual poll. Add up what all your people are saying and see this poll as one of the ways God is speaking to you, because God speaks and one way He speaks is through His people. What is God saying to you through them? Pay good attention to that.
2. Weigh your decision against God’s word.
As someone who desires to follow Christ, I try to hold my actions, decisions, motivations, and plans up to Jesus and what Jesus is like. Because I have collided with Jesus over and over again over the years, there is some sense that I can draw from what I already know about Him to cross check a decision. But I also need to keep colliding and growing in God’s word so I continue to grow in God’s character. This helps me to grow into knowing Jesus so well that I not only trust Him as my Guide, but I can almost sense His next move. This kind of knowing of God happens when you and I are in His word, continually spending time with Him.
When you spend a lot of time with people, you get to know them so well that you can guess their coffee order, you can guess what they might say when posed with a question by the person across the table from them, you can guess what opportunities they might say yes or no to. The same is true when you spend time with God. You start to get so acquainted with God that you instinctually sense where He might say yes or no, or right or left, or pause or step back. That truly is the beautiful thing about God’s Word. God speaks through His Word in a given moment but as you collide with Jesus frequently and read the Bible, over time, you build this deep sense of who God is and what God might say and that knowing takes residence in you. This, friend, is why getting to know God’s character on the daily is so very important.
Imagine a husband needing to make a major decision while sitting in the ICU with his wife. She does not have an advance directive and so the love of his life needs him to make a life altering decision that will affect the rest of her days, even her very life. Though it be difficult, this man can make a more peace-filled decision when he feels like he has been in step with her journey. Over all the years he knew what she loved for breakfast, he knew her favorite color, he was there for her when her mom passed, he walked alongside her when they lost their son. He knows what makes her laugh, what makes her weep and that she is allergic to blueberries. He knows how she votes, what her favorite album is and why she likes to write poems about the forest. He knows she loves to write and without writing, a piece of her would die.
Now imagine that man facing this large decision and having to guess what she might think best compared to the man who has been absent. The absent man has been putting his work in front of family for so long that they barely know each other. They sleep in separate beds and talk like they are roommates, a necessity to chat in order to pay the bills and take out the garbage. He hasn’t spent time with her or dated her in so long that she gave up any and all expectations. When he is home, he is so tired that he plops himself in front of a screen and barely takes a minute to look into the eyes of the bride he once couldn’t stop gazing at. Now imagine this man making a major life decision in that hospital for his wife. Who will make the best decision for her? And who will make it with more peace, care and confidence? I would place bets that the man who knows his wife, who has been attentive, who has been present, who deeply understands her, he will make the better decision.
This is how it is in our lives.The absolute importance and necessity of staying in step and present in our relationship with God delivers a “knowing,” a knowing of who God is and what God might say or do or suggest. When we know God like this, in a moment when we are panicking or stressed or pressured or unclear, we have more PEACE and CONFIDENCE than we would have otherwise to make the best decision we can given what we know about God.
So don’t just go play Bible bingo and prop open your Bible or do a Google search on “Does God want me to go left or right” when making a decision. Spend time with Him as a way of life, so much so, that when you find yourself needing direction, you already intimately know the Guide. (And by the way if you need some super fantabulous Bible studies, we have them!)
3. Put someone else in your shoes.
I always find it helpful to replace me in the story with someone else and then give them advice. You can do that too. This decision you are wrestling with… if your daughter or your best friend were in your shoes, what advice would you give them? Say it out loud. I promise you this will be revealing. Here is why:
So often we believe in God’s promises for other people and not ourselves. So if you find yourself encouraging someone else in a way that you are not encouraging yourself, pay attention to that. If you are telling Suzy to take a leap of faith, if you are telling Suzy that God can do the unimaginable in her life, if you are telling Suzy that God can purpose her despite how insecure she feels BUT you are telling yourself all the things wrong with you, all the ways you are not capable, and all the things that suck about you, well friend, you are about to make a decision out of fear and insecurity rather than out of truth and faith. God’s promises are true for you and Suzy. So see what you are advising Suzy when she slips on your shoes. This exercise can be very telling.
The other thing we do when making decisions is that we often jump right into something foolishly because we WANT it so bad but I can guarantee you if Suzy came to you and proposed she make the same decision, you might have some caution for her. What pause do you have for Suzy if she was in your shoes? What questions do you want to ask her about her motives? What wisdom do you feel she needs to hear before proceeding? Whatever you sense to tell Suzy, tell yourself. We shall not make decisions out of fear nor out of foolishness. Practice handing your shoes over to someone else you love and then give them advice. This can be very eye opening and feet revealing 😉
4. Evaluate your discontentment.
Sometimes we feel like we need to make a big change because we feel discontent. And sometimes that discontentment is what I like to call holy discontentment and sometimes it’s just plain, “Girl, you’ve got a bad attitude.” Let’s talk about the difference.
Holy discontentment is this thing that can happen when you begin to feel unhappy, uncomfortable, or irritable where you are. And sometimes God uses your circumstances and how you feel about them to move you out of the place you’re in to a new place you would never have chosen to go. Sometimes God has to pluck you out of one place and place you somewhere else. See, sometimes God knows what’s next for you and He knows that you would never ever leave where you are. You would protest, you would throw an adult fit, you would find every reason to hold onto this thing you want to hold onto. So your circumstances start to arrange in such a way that you begin to feel very discontent like you need to stop holding on so tight and you begin to open your own spirit up to a new move.
But sometimes your discontentment is not holy, sometimes you just have a stanky attitude. It’s you growing contempt for your spouse. It’s you not forgiving your boss. It’s you not owning your choices. It’s you being stubborn and unwilling to change. When you have a bad attitude it’s not so much that you need to change your direction, it’s that you need to change your ‘tude.
Deciphering the difference is crucial. Think about it. If you go and make some huge move because what really needed to change was your attitude, girl, you’re in for a very rough chapter ahead. But if you try and try and try for months on end to change your attitude and you’re still feeling discontent but God is trying to get you to change your circumstances not just your attitude, wouldn’t that be good to know?
The best way to measure the reason for your discontentment is to #1- take a spiritual poll! The godly people that you have given permission to speak into your life, they will be honest with you if your attitude needs to change. Remember if you have surrounded yourself with “yes” people, people who always tell you what you want to hear, people who always say “girl you should do what makes you happy no matter what,” those people won’t be able to help you determine why you feel discontent because those people feel like they have to tell you what you want to hear not what you need to hear. So make sure to find the people who will tell you the truth. Because in order to make your best decision you need the truth. You need to know if your attitude needs to change or your circumstance needs to change. Those are very different decisions with very different consequences.
5. Place yourself having made the decision and then feel it.
When my son was trying to whittle down his list of hundreds of colleges to 1, there was a lot that went into the process. But I will tell you that once he got down to about 5 colleges, the very, very best thing we did was go visit campuses. In fact, we took a road trip with his lifelong buddies so they could all check out some colleges together. On that trip I had a great spiritual conversation with a kid who doesn’t talk about God or spiritual things. Here we were walking around campus and it had been no less than 5 minutes since stepping out of the car, that this kid was like, “No, not it. Let’s go.” We didn’t hop back in because the other boys were checking out the campus for themselves so he and I went on a walk. I simply said to this kid who was surprised by his repelling feelings “You know there’s one way that God can talk to you. His Spirit can meet your spirit and you can get a sense or a discernment. And right now I think God is whittling your list down, bud. God is letting you know that this is not your destiny, this is not your place. God works like this. Did you know that?” This kid was like, “That’s really cool. I like that God can speak to me and I can get a feel or a sense.”
Now of course we can’t always ride on our feelings alone for big decisions, but they certainly should have a say. Putting ourselves in a place and imagining ourselves having made a decision can help us try it on for size. If you are thinking about moving to NYC, maybe try going there for a weekend and praying your whole way through it. If you are thinking of quitting your job and going back to school, maybe try one night class on for size and see how that feels. If you are considering ditching your car and moving to public transit only, maybe you ought to try public transit for a week so you know what you are signing up for. If you are a stay at home mom thinking about going back to work full time, maybe you ought to job shadow or volunteer or take on a temp job to see what part time feels like. You get my drift. Try and put yourself in the place you are considering being and see how you feel.
We went to a lot of college campuses with my son in his decision making season, but when he stepped onto University of Portland’s campus, a strong, strong sense came over him. And no matter what campus we went to, he kept picturing himself at UP. In fact, when all his friends were talking about going to a different college all together, Aidan couldn’t shake this feeling he had about UP, so much so that he set off packing to college alone instead of with his buddies and he hasn’t looked back since. Now of course, his decision was made with more than a sense. There were the 10 things I write about in this 2-part blog, but one of them was to stand in the place and picture himself having chosen it. Some questions you can ask yourself when you stand in a place literally or figuratively:
- How do you feel physically? Emotionally?
- Do you feel God here?
- Do you sense this is your next chapter? Why or why not?
- When you picture yourself there and talk to Jesus at the same time, what do you sense?
God’s Spirit speaks and often our spirit can sense what He is saying. Of course it’s not all feels that make the best decisions, but feelings should be weighed with everything else, as a player on the team, because often what our spirit is feeling, is lended to us from God’s Spirit, especially if we are seeking that. So place yourself where you are considering going and ask God’s Spirit to reveal to you what you need to hear.
Friend, stay in step with me as I pop on here next week for Part 2 of ’10 Things to Do When Deciding Direction’. In the meantime keep colliding with Jesus as you lean into Him for your very best decisions.