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When I was a senior in high school, I had a big decision to make: should I go to the college I had already committed to, or should I completely change direction and go where I felt God was leading? It was a hard decision because it involved money (my parents would lose the deposit money they had put down at School #1) and it involved the unknown (I didn’t know much about School #2).
In desperation one day I asked my mom what she thought I should do. I’ll never forget her answer: “I can’t make that decision for you. You’re the one who is going to have to live with it, so it has to be your decision.”
To be honest, at the time her answer frustrated me, but today I see how very wise she was. My mom knew that where I would end up going to college would be life-changing . . . for me, not for her. In fact, my decision wouldn’t impact her life much at all. She also knew that it was time for me to own my decisions. If I ended up in a place where I was unhappy, she didn’t want me to look back and blame her for it.
What I remember most about that time in my life was wrestling, really wrestling, with making a decision. And if I’m honest, I’d have to say that I still wrestle with decision-making even today. I play around with the possibilities, rolling them around in my mind, questioning the outcomes, wondering what if I do something wrong or, worse yet, make someone unhappy?
I’m kind of a mess.
But you know that already.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking that you are going to have some big decisions to make in the coming years.
Where to go to college?
What should you do after graduation? Work? Grad school? Where? Doing what?
Even, maybe, whom to date and possibly marry.
The decisions you make will only get bigger as you get older, and I can’t make them for you any more. Just as my mom wisely taught me, you have to be responsible for the decisions you make.
But you might be wondering, how do you make a good decision? I have a few guidelines that have helped me through the years. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
Pray. You really shouldn’t make any decision without prayer. Philippians 4:6 (NLT) says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for what He’s done.”
Pretty good instructions for decision making, don’t you think?
Do I always do this? No. But I’ve grown a lot in this area. When I was in my 20s, I thought I had so much control over my life that I didn’t bother God with mundane things like my decisions. But I’ve learned that when I pray, I’m telling God that I really do want what He wants for my life. So now I come knocking on His door regularly.
Listen. After we pray, we really need to learn to step back, take time, and listen to what God might be telling us. He doesn’t speak audibly to us anymore, of course, but He definitely speaks. The more in touch I get with Him, the more I can tell that He speaks to my heart. He prompts me. He guides me. He directs me.
Sometimes He uses other people. As I have conversations with people, sometimes I gain a better understanding of a situation. God definitely uses others in my life to speak to me.
And He uses His word. Part of listening is being in the word, reading what He has to say to us, and heeding His advice.
Finally, and maybe the thing I’ve learned most about making decisions, is to move ahead without fear. When your dad and I were trying to decide how to educate you girls, we felt a prompting to send you to public school, even though most of our friends were choosing Christian school for their kids. We prayed about it and felt strongly that we couldn’t make a decision based on fear. How many times does Scripture say, “Do not fear" or "Be not afraid”? A lot. God is not a God of fear, so if we’re praying about our decision, and we listen for His answer, we should not be afraid to move ahead.
So, three steps: Pray. Listen. Move.
Trust God’s love for you, my dear girls. It is so big. He promises never to fail you nor forsake you. Doesn’t that imply that he will walk with you through your decisions?
Finally, girls, I want to remind you that you are never alone. Sometimes you’ll make great decisions, and we’ll all celebrate together. Sometimes you’ll make a decision that needs tweaking, maybe even completely reversing, and we’ll walk that road with you, too. No matter what, we will be on your side, cheering from here.
P.S. I ended up at School #2. You know the rest of the story. . . .