faith, Prayer, Purpose

Making Difficult Decisions

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”                     —Isaiah 30:21

“I need you to pray for me because I have a difficult decision to make….”

As an intercessory missionary, I can’t count the number of times I have received this prayer request or some version of it. The pressure is on, a deadline looms near, and you have to step to the right or to the left. Which will it be? Do I take this job in the field I am passionate about and earn less money or the one with the corner office, prestigious title and hefty yearly bonuses?  Should we sell our house and build one or take out a second mortgage and remodel? Should I go to college even though I have no idea what I want to do or should I enter the workforce? Should I start graduate school? Should we have another child? Should we change school districts? Should our kids go to public school or private school or (Lord help you) homeschool? 🙂 Do I retire or keep working? Chances are, you are facing some sort of decision right now, and if not, you will.

I’d like to share the advice I give the people who come to me for counsel and prayer. Savannah is starting to make some of her own decisions now that she is able to drive and faced a decision last week. It wasn’t life altering, but she wanted to know what to do. When I have an opinion I don’t hesitate to share it with her, mind you, but she is getting to the age that she needs to be able to stop and listen to what Holy Spirit is saying, especially in the event that I am not around. She and I have this running joke when I am about to give her my “wise counsel” for a situation. I will stop and say “Okay jot this down. Life lesson #274: When facing a decision, you need to….”  Perhaps these “life lessons” will become a book one day. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, let me share some with you here.

1) Get alone with God. This isn’t always possible when a split second decision needs to be made. (which is why I rarely ever make split second decisions) Savannah learned at an early age never to ask me something in front of a friend or put me on the spot. “Can we have a sleepover? Can I go to the movies with _______? Will you bake enchiladas for my class party? Can you chaperone the jr high and high school lock-in? (Unless I have an angel visitation, she knows my answer will always be NO for the last one. Some things you just know 🙂 I never allowed her to put me on the spot because that leaves Holy Spirit out of the decision. Our process is that Jeff and I discuss it, we pray and wait and listen and discuss again. There have been times we did not have peace about something that any other time might have been just fine. Perhaps this time a “no” saved her from a car accident or something worse. My friends who know this about me will often ask ask “Will you pray about______?” instead of “Will you_____?

Go to your secret place where you have your “daily appointment with the King” in prayer and Bible study. Go for a walk around the neighborhood or at the local track. In Coweta one of the most popular places to walk is on the asphalt around the perimeter of the cemetery. (Talk about helping you put things in perspective!) Listen to what rises up in your spirit. Is it a verse or image or song lyric? Did God speak to you through a dream? I am grateful we have a prayer room that is open 24/7. There is always live worship and freedom to pace the floors or sit still and listen or meditate on the Word. If your city doesn’t have a prayer room, I recommend hospital chapels. God has met me in many of them. Journal or draw or play your instrument. Hannah poured out her heart at the altar without speaking anything audibly that could be understood. (1 Sam. 1:12-14)

2) Imagine or consider both scenarios in vivid detail. Think about what it would “look like” and “feel like” to step to the right and take the job or make the move. Then imagine what it would be like to step to the left and stay where you are. Consider the two choices and pay attention to what is happening in your body as you visualize in detail each scenario. Does your heart rate quicken? Is it excitement or anxiety? What is happening with your breathing? Are you holding your breath or panting? Did you get a headache or heartburn when you imagined yourself in one of the paths? Did your stomach tighten up like a rock or was it calm?

3) Follow peace. A friend was deciding between two positions and later told me, “I got in my car and felt that tightening in my gut you talked about. I had to go back into the office and ask them to tear up the contract because I realized I did not have peace about it!” A partner was considering retirement and Jeff told him, “sometimes when the cloud moves, and the grace lifts, you have to go too.” God led the Israelites with a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire at night. It was exactly what he needed to hear. Think about your situation. Has the cloud moved? Listen for His voice and follow peace.