Life is full of tough decisions.
How do I know if he/she is “the one”? Which college should I go to? What should I major in? Which job should I take? Which church should we attend? Should I change careers? Now that the kids are grown, should we downsize? Is now the right time to retire?
People hate making decisions. Mostly because we’re terrified of making the wrong one.
Choosing thrills us. Choosing scares us. Choosing comes from the core of who we are. When we truly choose, we have no one to blame and nowhere to hide. And that can be downright terrifying.
My wife, Nancy, and I were at a restaurant once, and the waiter responded to every choice we made by saying, “Brilliant,” “Perfect” or “Excellent decision.”
This happened so steadily throughout the meal that I finally asked him if he ever told anyone they made a lousy choice.
He told us that the restaurant managers had discovered diners are so afraid of choosing the wrong thing, they actually print a list of “affirmation words” that the wait staff is required to say in response to everyone’s order.
Think about that. Even a question as simple as, “Soup or salad?” renders us so vulnerable that restaurants have to turn their wait staff into therapists!
In a way, we do the same thing with God. Terrified of making a bad decision, we lay all of our choices at God’s feet and ask Him, “What is Your will for my life?”
But, what if God’s will for us is that we develop the wisdom and discernment to make our own decisions in light of His Word, and the faith and confidence to know He will be there guiding us regardless of which path we choose?
Doesn’t that sound freeing?
God wants us to learn how to choose well. That may be why, when we look at the Bible, there is no chapter devoted to ’How to know God’s will for your life.” Paul doesn’t write about “6 Steps to Determine If He’s the One” or “5 Ways to Discern God’s Best Career Path for You.”
What we do see are statements like this: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you” (James 1:5, NRSV).
Or “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best” (Philippians 1:9-10a, NIV, 1984).
So the next time you face a difficult decision, instead of asking God what His will is for your life, begin by asking for wisdom. And don’t live in fear of making the wrong decision. Even if you walk through the wrong door, as long as you walk through it with the right heart, God’s will will be done.
Remember, God’s will for your life is not about whom, or if, you should marry, which job you should accept, or which neighborhood you should live in. God’s will for your life is that you become a magnificent person in His image, somebody with the character of Jesus. And nothing can stand in the way of that.
Dear God, we know that You are the God of the open door. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for us to grow and serve and make a positive impact on others. Because of Your love, we don’t have to be afraid of failure, nor do we have to live under the tyranny of always making the perfect choice. We pray You will give us the courage and wisdom to walk through whatever doors You open before us. And we pray that through our actions, Your will will be done. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (ESV)
Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (ESV)
How do we determine God’s plans? If you’re searching for more on discovering God’s will for your life, you’ll enjoy John Ortberg’s new book, All the Places to Go … How Will You Know? To dig even deeper with a small group or Sunday School class, explore the6-session DVD Curriculum.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Some decisions seem much harder to make than others. Think back to the last genuinely difficult decision you made and compare that to a relatively simple decision you’ve made recently. What made one so much harder/easier than the other?
Think back to the last “bad” decision you made. What did you learn from the experience that made you a better person?
About the Author
John Ortberg is the senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC), an author, and a speaker. John’s teaching centers around our everyday life with God and how God cares more about who we are becoming than what we do. He has written books on spiritual formation including, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Faith and Doubt, Who is This Man?, and Soul Keeping. Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, John graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in psychology. He holds a master of divinity and doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Fuller Seminary. Prior to joining MPPC, John served as teaching pastor at Chicago’s Willow Creek Community Church. John is a member of the board of trustees at Fuller Seminary and the board for the Dallas Willard Center for Spiritual Formation, and he has served on the board of Christianity Today International. He can be followed on Twitter @johnortberg and on Facebook.