Troublesome Topic: How Can I Find Guidance for Decision-making?

Many of us want to hear God’s voice giving us guidance for decisions we need to make.

We want His guidance about which field of study to pursue when we go to college; but He wants us to glorify Him in whatever field of study we choose.

We want His guidance about which job to take; but He can use a wide variety of jobs to meet our financial needs, and He wants us to make Him look good in that job.

We want His guidance about which house to buy; but He can use any number of houses to provide us shelter, and He just us to make Him the center of our lives while living in that home.

We should seek to glorify God in our use of money and time, in our use of the house and car He provides for us, etc. We should seek to glorify God in all our relationships, and in all our endeavors, including things that seem mundane, like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes.

Many times we ask the wrong questions. We ask, “What will be best for me?” instead of “What will bring God glory?” Or we ask, “What is the ‘right’ thing to do?” implying that everything else is wrong. That turns the question into a moral issue, and questions about what job to take, what house to buy, etc. are not moral issues.

Some Christians want to live a quasi-Christian life and then go to God for answers when we don’t know what to do. We want to treat God like a genie in a bottle; he stays in the bottle until we need help. In reality God wants our lives to revolve completely around Him.

If you are a parent, you will understand how God feels. We love our kids and want to be loved in return. As parents we get bothered if our kids treat us like an ATM machine, a maid, or a catering service. We expect love to be a two-way-street. As our children get older we need to give them the freedom to make up their minds more often, but we want them to keep in mind the principles we have tried to instill in them.

But the reality is that many of us go to God when we need direction for a decision and we beg God for help in making the “right” choice, but we don’t really desire to get closer to Him. We say we desire greater closeness, but we are not willing to do what is needed for that closeness. However, we still want the answer to our request for guidance.

God is all about relationship. We are all about reaching our goals or doing our thing with as little hardship as possible. That is one reason we may hear only silence when we pray.

Our search for direction in decision-making is often miss-guided. We have made ourselves the priority. Instead of seeking God’s glory, we seek an easy life, or success in our agenda. Of course God will not answer our prayers if doing so will only make us more self-centered!

His desire is that we draw closer to Him. That should be our desire too. If we focus on bringing glory to Him, all the other stuff will not seem as important. We will occasionally need to choose a direction, but we will realize that a number of possibilities are open to us and we will simply choose the one in which we think God will get the most glory.

When we just don’t know what to do and we ask for help and don’t get any, just seek to give God glory. That is the key. In those situations we need to train ourselves to ask, “Where would I best be able to glorify God, to grow in His image, and have an impact for Him?”

Examples from Scripture

Consider Daniel and his three friends. They were raised to be good Hebrews, then they were taken into captivity in Babylon. They wanted to continue living in obedience to the Law as recorded by Moses, but it was more difficult to do in this new setting. Notice that what Daniel suggested to the king’s steward was more strict than what the Law of Moses actually stated. He probably realized it was useless to try and teach this Babylonian guy all the details of the Law when it comes to food, so he figured out a way to simplify it. Then they encountered another problem – the steward was afraid it would not keep them looking healthy, resulting in him losing his head – literally. Daniel understood the man’s dilemma and did not want to see him suffer harm, so he suggested a trial period. The text tells us that at the end of the trial period they looked healthier than the rest of the captives. In this way they were able to follow their convictions and keep the steward out of trouble at the same time. My point in using this example is that they did not appear to be given any specific guidance from God on this issue, rather they had to get creative about how to follow their convictions.

Think about Paul’s missionary journeys. We know that, in one instance, God spoke to him specifically through a vision, to go to Macedonia, but in other instances God seems to have let Paul decide where to go next. It seems to me that Paul made those decisions just like the rest of us do—we pray, we get a vague sense that a certain option might be best, then we make the best decision we can. Sometimes we look for any possible sign from God and something comes up that seems to fit our need for a sign. It may not be as clear as we would like, but we take it as a sign. Sometimes those things are indeed signs from God, and sometimes they are not; it is hard to say. My point is that all this is shrouded in a mist because God is letting us make decisions on our own, often more so than we are comfortable with. He does this to grow us, to stretch us.

In giving us the responsibility of administering this world God gives us some latitude in deciding the where, the how and sometimes the what.

Think about how God had told the Children of Israel that they should not choose a king over them—He wanted to be their king. However, He knew that they would eventually want a king, and He let them choose one. He had His servants tell the people what it would be like under a king, but He allowed them to do it anyway. But God did not abandon them for choosing a human king; He kept looking for faithful people through whom He could work. We are often afraid of “blowing it,” but God doesn’t see it that way. It is a learning experience, and as long as we are headed the right direction and are learning things, God is happy. We just want things to go smoothly.

God allows us to choose things like where we live, what kind of career we choose and whom we marry, and He can work in us and through us regardless of those choices, as long as we are seeking Him.

The beauty of this is that you do not need to fear being outside of God’s will by failing to make the one-and-only right choice. You do not need to fear being in God’s “dog-house” for the rest of your life. God can use us no matter where we choose to live, what we do for a job, etc. What He wants is for us to apply His spiritual and relational principles to whatever situation we find ourselves in.

However, we tend to get it backwards: we want to define our priorities, and we expect God to guide us in certain practical things of life, like whom to marry, where to live and which career to pursue. God was very clear about the priorities, i.e. what He wants our life to look like regarding morality, and our relationships with others, but He allows us to decide most of the daily stuff. What God wants is that we give Him glory in all things.

Be in the Word

The other thing we need to do is be in the Word. This one should be obvious, but once again the way we live our lives shows that we do not practice this very well. We are so busy coming and going, earning more money so we can spend more money, and seeking new ways to entertain ourselves, that we, as American Christians, don’t enjoy much time in the word. When we come to times of decision and we don’t know which way to turn, we ask God over and over again for guidance, and are disappointed because usually that guidance doesn’t come. It never occurs to us that God has placed in his Word the principles that should guide the way we live our lives.

In the end we must admit that we are still quite self-centered. We pray over and over again seeking God’s guidance in a decision but in reality we are not seeking to make Him look good in our little world, but to make our life easier or more productive. These requests for guidance are seldom about Him; they are usually about us, and therefore God does not answer them.

Having said that, I need to present the other side of the coin. God does sometimes give us guidance in decision-making.  When He does, we need to see it not as God doing His job or doing what is expected of Him, but as a special favor from “Daddy.” He loves to surprise us with His favors, His extra blessings. And that is how we should see His answers to our requests for guidance.

If we ask for His help in becoming better managers of the stuff He has loaned to us so as to bring Him more glory, He will answer that prayer and we will slowly grow in our managing skills. If we just ask for guidance in a decision, He may or may not give us what we have asked for.

The next lesson is: Guidance in Choosing a Mate