Help! What Should I Do? (5)

So far in this series of posts on decision-making we’ve noted that there are important decisions to be made in the course of our lives, that these decisions are difficult, and that God has given us certain “tools” to help us in determining his will.

I want to conclude in this last, brief post by pointing out how important it is to make these difficult decisions with our faith firmly placed in God.

In a previous post we mentioned how hard these major decisions are because we want to know the future and the consequences of our choices.

But what can often stand behind this struggle is a lack of trust in God. Often we are more interested in having a view of the future than in having a view of our great God. We are tempted to take our eyes off of him and put our faith in ourselves and in the future. We are tempted to think that we know what is best for us going forward.

But that must not be. Instead, when we make any major decision, our trust and confidence must be in him.

God doesn’t show to us the future, even though he could. And that’s the case because he wants us to have our trust in him alone. He wants us to struggle with these decisions so that we might learn to lean upon him and not lean on our own understanding.

And remember what a great God we have! Our God is the sovereign, all-powerful, glorious Creator of the heavens and the earth! Our God is the all-seeing and all-knowing Ruler who holds the whole creation and our lives in the palm of his hand and works all things together for our good and eternal salvation! Our God is a loving Father, who is always for us and will never leave us or forsake us, who holds and preserves us to the end!

We don’t need to know what is going to happen, because we know the One who has ordained what will happen! We don’t need to fear the future, because we know the One who holds the future!

Therefore, when we make any decision, our trust must be in God alone.

When you make a hard decision, trust in God for contentment and peace with that decision!

When you make a hard decision, trust that God will guide and direct your way since he has your life perfectly planned!

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5, 6).

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Other posts in this series:

Help! What Should I Do? (1)

Help! What Should I Do? (2)

Help! What Should I Do? (3)

Help! What Should I Do? (4)

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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Help! What Should I Do? (4)

In the last post on making decisions, we looked briefly at the first (and most important) “tool” that we use when trying to discern the will of God for our lives: the Word of God. In this post I want to mention three other important “tools” that we ought to use as well when making a difficult decision.

First, we ought to lean on other, trustworthy people to help us through this process.

Some of the people that we look to for help might be people that we will never meet or know personally. I have in mind individuals who write books or articles that address certain issues we are facing or help us grow in our understanding of the Bible. Through our reading of solid, biblical, Reformed literature (such as the material the RFPA publishes), we grow in wisdom and are helped in making a decision.

But God has also places trustworthy people in our lives that we can turn to for help. Many have loving parents and grandparents, a trusted friend, a wise pastor and elders, or even elderly saints in your church who can give good advice. Some of them may have gone through a similar situation that we are now facing and can share their experiences. Others may be able to see certain things that we have overlooked and failed to take into consideration. If nothing else, they can certainly pray with us and for us. These others may not be able to make the decision for us, but they are able to help and encourage and guide us in our decision-making. We ought to seek them out, ask them questions, and listen.

In the second place, when making difficult decisions we ought to take into account our God-ordained circumstances.

Our almighty God has given to each of us certain strengths and weaknesses, physically and mentally and emotionally. He has placed us into certain homes and families and ordained certain circumstances of life for us. We must take these things into account also when we make a decision.

A few examples. I probably should not pursue a career as an accountant or someone that works with numbers if I struggle terribly with math and despise algebra. But perhaps it is God’s will for me to become an English teacher if I love to read and have a knack for writing and grammar. It might not be the will of God for me to buy a house and a new car if I am struggling financially. It might not be the will of God for me to run a marathon if I have asthma.

These circumstances may not be the final determining factor. But, when making a decision, consider how the Lord is leading you through the circumstances of your life.

Third, never make a major decision without frequent, earnest prayer.

At any moment and in any place we can come into the presence of our Father and roll our burdens upon him. Obviously we don’t expect some voice from heaven to shout down the answer to us. But we pray that God will still our anxiety and quiet our fears, that he will give us wisdom through these other means, that he will guide us in the path of his choosing, and that he will humble us to follow him. When facing a difficult decision, pray!

*     *     * 

There may be other “tools” that we can use in this process, but I think these are the main ones. When using these means, take your time. Move slowly and deliberately. Don’t make a rushed, hasty decision. Rarely is this the best decision.

But it might be the case that as you work through these issues with wisdom and carefulness, you come to the end and discover that there is no one, definite direction. Perhaps you are left with two options, neither of which is wrong and both of which you could see yourself doing. Then, after praying to God, pick one. Make a decision one way or the other. As one man put it, just do something! And then don’t keep looking back and second-guessing the decision, but go forward confident that this is God’s will for you at this time.

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Other posts in this series:

Help! What Should I Do? (1)

Help! What Should I Do? (2)

Help! What Should I Do? (3)

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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Help! What Should I Do? (3)

In previous posts on the subject of decision making, we’ve laid some groundwork by establishing two basic realities: first, we are going to face important decisions; and second, making these decisions is going to be difficult.

But perhaps that has left you wondering, “Is that all? Is there nothing that will lift the fog of uncertainty and indecision? Is there no way of knowing which path my feet must tread?”

In fact, there are things which can help us in the decision-making process. And that’s the subject of this and the following post.

When we are placed in a situation where we have to make a tough decision, we must do so with wisdom and sanctified common sense. God is not going to reveal the answer to us in some mystical and miraculous way. Although we sometimes foolishly wish he would, he does not whisper the answer in our ear or write it in the clouds. But he does do so through the ordinary means by which he bestows upon us wisdom and sanctified common sense.

The first and most important of those means is the Word of God.

Only the Word of God is “able to make us wise unto salvation.” Only the Word of God is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

The answer seems so obvious, yet it is easy to overlook it. As we struggle with a decision, we might be tempted to search our souls trying to figure out what God’s will is for us without once stopping to consider what the Bible might have to say about the whole matter.

To use an extreme example, some might say, “I really had a hard time with this decision. In fact, I agonized over it for years. But I thought about it and prayed about it, and now I’m convinced that it’s the will of God for me to live openly as a homosexual.” Or, perhaps closer to home, “I’m convinced that it’s the will of God for me to date and marry this man even though he is an unbeliever. We’re in love, after all, and how can you stop love!” Or, “I’m convinced that it’s the will of God for me to take this promotion even though it means moving to an area where there is no true church of Christ.”

Stop and think a moment. Is that how we determine God’s will for our lives? If we really want to know what God will have us to do, then why would we not stop and consider the one place where he has clearly revealed to us his will?

That’s not how we determine God’s will. We know what God’s will is for us, because God has revealed his will to us in the Bible. It is there in the Holy Scriptures that God tells us what we are to do and how we are to live.

I’m fully aware that the Bible does not reveal to us specific answers to the questions we are facing. For instance, you’re obviously not going to find a passage in Ezekiel that tells you what company to work for and the name of the person you will marry.

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that God’s Word must be our starting-point and guide. When we are wrestling with a tough decision, we must first go to God’s Word and determine how it applies to our situation. God’s Word might not tell me which specific career to choose, but it certainly has something to say to me if I am thinking about being an abortion doctor or a professional athlete. God’s Word might not tell me exactly where to go to college, but it has something to say to me if I am considering going to a college far away from any church. God’s Word might not tell me the exact man or woman to date and marry, but it certainly has something to say to me if I am thinking about dating an unbeliever or thinking about marrying one who is not one in the faith with me.

So, when making a decision, the first question we must ask is: “What does God’s Word say? How does it apply to my situation? What guidance does it give?”

And then pray, “God, thy Word has been my guide. Now give me the grace to obey and submit to that Word. Especially when it gives the answer that I didn’t want to hear!”

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Other posts in this series:

Help! What Should I Do? (1)

Help! What Should I Do? (2)

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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Help! What Should I Do? (2)

Last week I wrote the first of a handful of posts on the subject of making decisions and seeking to determine the will of God for our lives. In considering this topic, I had in mind especially high school and college graduates who are sailing on unfamiliar waters. But the principles laid out are for the old as well as the young, as we inevitably come to the crossroads and plead, “Help! What should I do?”

In that first post, my point was simply to state that at some point we are all going to face a major decision, one that we alone are responsible for making.

Before getting to the actual process of how we make a decision (that’s the next post, God willing), I want to point out what it is that causes the decision-making process to be so difficult.

The fact that determining the will of God is difficult hardly needs proving. Most of us have been there and know what it’s like. It’s just plain tough. Inside rages a ferocious struggle: “Do I go with Option A or Option B?” We marshal all the pros, and agonize over the cons. We feel nervous, worried, anxious, scared. We sweat just thinking about our predicament. We cry hot tears of anger and frustration. We toss and turn in bed until the wee hours of the morning. And still we don’t know. “Which is it, A or B?”

The fact is that making big decisions is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do.

But why? Why is it that making these decisions is so tough?

I think the difficulty lies in the fact that we can’t see the future. Or, to put it another way, it’s the uncertainty of it all. If only we could take a peek into the future, then making these decisions would be the proverbial piece of cake. If we could have just a quick glance into the future, then we could see the consequences of our choices. We could see whether our choices were going to be right or wrong, whether we would be happy or miserable. But, because we can’t see the future and we can’t protect ourselves from wrong decisions and bitter consequences, we agonize over what to do.

Some mistakenly think that God will show them the future. They think that God will somehow mysteriously tell them what they ought to do. They think God is like a magic eight ball who will somehow reveal to them in a special way what they are supposed to do in a difficult situation. And until they get that special revelation from God, they are going to sit and wait and postpone every major decision and do nothing.

But God does not work that way. God does not whisper in our ear and tell us what college we are to attend or what major we are to pursue or what house we should buy. And we are wrong to expect that of God. God is too wise to reveal to us the future. Obviously, God could do that, because, as Isaiah 46:10 says, God “declar[es] the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” But God does not do that, and because he doesn’t we can expect that making a big decision is going to be tough.

 

Other posts in this series:

Help! What Should I Do? (1)

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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Help! What Should I Do? (1)

For many, the end of May and the beginning of June means one thing: school is out. The week gone by or the week to come marks the end of the school year and the beginning of three months of bonfires and baseball, swimming and sleepovers.

But for some, this time does not signal a season of leisure without any responsibilities. Some have graduated from high school. Others have received a college degree. And now they face difficult, life-altering decisions.

And the desperate cry is heard, “Help! What should I do?”

This is not just the case with graduates. There are times in the life of every child of God when he is forced to make difficult decisions. We’re not talking here about the small, insignificant choices we make all the time, such as, “What am I going to have for lunch?” We’re talking here about the serious, wring-your-hands, can’t-sleep-at-night decisions.

And from our lips is heard the cry, “Somebody, help! What am I supposed to do?”

In this and a few other posts, I’d like to consider a few guiding principles that help us make decisions and determine what is the will of God for our lives.

To start, I simply want to state the obvious: we must expect that we will have to make major, life-changing decisions.
 
The high school graduate faces difficult questions regarding college:

  • Are you going to go on to college or not?
  • If you are, where are you going to attend? A secular university? A Christian college? A community college?
  • Are you going to attend a college close by or are you going to enroll at a school that is far from home? Are you going to live with dad and mom or live on-campus?
  • What are you going to go to school for? What are you going to major in?

Others face difficult questions regarding their career path:

  • You’ve decided not to attend college, but what are you going to do for a job? You’ve finished college, but what specific line of work are you going to pursue?
  • What are you going to do with the money you’re earning? Are you going to buy a house? Are you going to get a new vehicle? Are you going to save it?
  • Where are you going to live? Are you going to take a job around home, or are you going to move to a different part of the country?

There are decisions that have to be made about relationships:

  • Are you looking to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend? And if so, who are you going to date? What kind of person are you looking for?
  • If you are dating someone seriously, when do you think you are going to get married?
  • If you are dating someone from a different church and want to get married, whose church are you going to join?
  • If you are dating someone from a different part of the country and want to get married, are you going to move?

What often adds to the difficulty of these decisions is that we have to make them on our own. Yes, there are others that can give advice and help point us in the right direction. But usually the difficult decisions are ones that no one else can make for us.

This is a new experience for a young person. When you were a child, your parents made most of the tough decisions for you, sometimes without your even being aware of it. But such is not the case when you reach adulthood. Part of maturing and becoming an adult means being placed in situations where you will be forced to make important decisions. You might be tempted to dump these decisions on your parents or tempted not to make a decision at all so that you can postpone growing up, but you cannot live the rest of your life as a child, bringing every tough decision to dad and mom to make for you.

So, expect to be in situation where an important decision must be made.

Next time, I want to mention a few more things that make these decisions so difficult.

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This post was written by Rev. Joshua Engelsma, pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.

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