When we got a call from Bill’s mentor that cold, winter day in 1987, I knew things were probably about to change. Don asked, “What would you think about moving back to San Diego and planting a church with me?”
We were living in Massachusetts at the time, enjoying the fruit of our labor at our first church plant. We loved our city, our people, the snow (kinda), good friends, Dunkin' Donuts and life on the East Coast. Why in the world would we move? God.
Why is decision making so hard? Especially the big ones that cost us a lot. Like moving, or taking a new job, or planting a church, or finishing your degree, or staying at home with your kids. And on and on. I mean, I want to do what God wants me to do. I want to please him. But if I’m facing two good choices, what do I do?
Sometimes the right thing to do is obvious. But if it’s not, how will you know what the best thing is, or what God wants you to do? What if you make the wrong choice and mess everything up? What if you a mistake? (Personally, I really don’t want to make mistakes. I hate failure.)
There are a few things that I have learned through 30+ years of being in ministry and raising three kids, who are now amazing adults. And I think they might be helpful for others. We didn’t always do it “right.” But I do know one thing. God is good. And he really loves me. And even if the choice I make doesn’t seem on the surface to work out, he is still good and will make it good. Because he really does work all things together for the good. Just knowing that helps me step out and take risks when I feel like God is telling me to.
My favorite book the past few years has been Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. Her chapter on discernment has helped me and many others that I coach with making decisions. So here are a few questions that you can take to God when you are trying to make a decision. The key idea is take them to God. Take time to be with God, and ask the right questions—lots of time, because it may take awhile. This process will totally help you sort through the issues being considered:
- Direction and Calling: How does this choice fit with the overall direction and calling of God on my life?
- Consolation and Desolation: Which choice brings the deepest sense of life, inner peace and freedom? Is it authentic with who I am in God, or does it draw me away from God?
- Scripture: Is there a certain scripture that God is bringing up to you in regards to this choice?
- Life of Christ: Is this choice consistent with what I know of the mind and heart of Christ?
- Character Growth and Development: How will this direction nurture the fruit of the Spirit in me? What is God doing in my character and spiritual growth, and will this choice continue to nurture this growth?
- Eternal Perspective: On my deathbed, which choice would I wish I had made?
- Community: How does this choice fit with others’ observations of who I am and what God is doing in my life? Am I willing to open up every part of this decision to a trusted friend for their wisdom and insight about it?
Another thing to do that is really revealing and helpful is this: Pretend to make the decision. Say yes to it. Then act as if you are living in that decision and notice how you feel. You can take a couple days to do this. Does it feel right? What are you sensing? What things are you having to face or deal with that maybe you hadn’t thought of?
There are two final questions that I have been asking God lately when making decisions. They have taken me to a deep place with God and myself:
- What needs to die in me in order for God’s will to come forth in my life?
- Is there anything I need to set aside so that I can be open to what God wants?
What is God talking to you about these days? What is he asking you to do? Is it a new role, a new church, or a change of leadership? Is he asking you to stay at home with the kids or go back to work? Maybe he is calling you to something brand new, something you’ve never done before, something challenging.
Whatever it is, I know a couple of things that are true. God is good. He loves you. And he is always challenging us to go deeper and wider than we ever thought we could go.
The good news is, no matter what you decide, he will always be with you in it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jill Randall serves as the Director of Team Vitality for Novo/CRM's ChurchNEXT Lead Team. She and her husband Bill live in Nampa, Idaho. Together, they're equipping leaders around the world to follow God with wisdom and boldness, and pioneering new expressions of Church that will multiply disciples. This post was originally shared on Jill's personal blog.