Writings by Cole Huffman

Decisions, Decisions

Every year my counsel is sought by people pondering major life decisions. How do I know whether I should make this move, take this job, marry this person? Is God’s will for me behind Door 1 or Door 2, or does God care one way or other what I decide? Did God put this interest before me or these desires in me? How much is up to me? How much has been ordained by God? What about Jeremiah 29:11? What about Psalm 37:4? What about Proverbs 3:5-6? What about James 1:5 or 4:15? What about Acts 16:6-10? What about 1 Corinthians 16:6-9?

Honest searching in the face of opportunities sought or granted. Most of those grappling with these questions have tender consciences and want to do the right thing before God. They know they live Coram Deo (“before God’s face”) but aren’t expecting God to spell out in the sky what to do. Some know their hearts well enough to know it wouldn’t necessarily make follow-through any easier if He did. See ancient Israel in the pages of the Old Testament: A people with direct, audible words from God and they still disobeyed.

The ones who mull over what they ought to do the longest (and tensest) are usually most interested in obeying God. But I find in most cases the decision they are pondering simply doesn’t rise to the level of obedience-disobedience. If God tells you directly to move to Pittsburgh and you remain in Memphis, you are in disobedience to Him. But obedience and disobedience to God should remain matters of response to what God has clearly revealed in Scripture, not what I think He might want from me or where I think He might be leading me.

Major life decisions frequently have the feel of high-diving. No one wants to belly-flop from that height: make a miserable move, take a fools’ gold job, marry the person of your nightmares. One can jump off the high-dive and still climb out of the pool, but he cannot be “unwet.” Many seeking counsel for decisions are looking for assurance that if they meet troubles or regrets on the other side of their decision it’s not because they flubbed God’s will.

Assurance is rarely frontloaded, however. The future cannot be known until it is lived and God will grow our faith one way or another, wasting no opportunity to do so, even in situations we deem mistaken or failures. In counseling others through their decisions, after we qualify obedience-disobedience considerations and acknowledge the fears-regrets continuum, we weigh possibilities and problems.

Possibilities: What possibilities does the decision open to me? Are these possibilities intriguing? If considering a move or new job: Am I more intrigued by the possibilities of the new place than the possibilities of the old place? I’m not trying to set up an either-or, and anyone can misperceive the possibilities of the new place just as we can undervalue the possibilities in the current place. But a sober reflection upon what really interests me seems to put my considerations on more solid footing. A lot of Christians, evangelicals in particular, have to overcome the idea that God is automatically opposed to our interests or desires.

Problems: What problems does the decision open to me? Are these problems I want to live with? By “want to” I do not mean we desire the problems, but that we go into nothing with illusions—we know we’ll have to live with certain problems in anything. Nothing in a fallen world is without problems. Knowing this is the way of life, what problems do you want to live with? Public office, for instance, comes with withering public scrutiny. Not everyone “wants” those problems. A staff position in a traditionally set church has problems in kind, so too staff positions in church plants. A move to another region of the country will likely involve cultural adjustments or anguished distance from extended family. Do you “want” these problems?

Weighing possibilities and problems takes nothing away from prayer and seeking counsel, nor does it make hard decisions necessarily easier emotionally. Instead it directs what one prays through and how one seeks counsel. It counters the “paralysis of analysis” that sets in on too many decision processes.
Posted by Cole Huffman at 8:46 AM
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