One of the great challenges in life is making a decision. When stuck between two legitimate options, people are often unable to simply choose one or the other. This house or that house? This job or that job? This school or that school? These types of decisions are difficult, yet significant.
The question is then changed to one of these: what is the best option? Which is the obligatory thing to do? Which is wise in God’s eyes? Even when these questions don’t settle the issue, the decision can still be very important. Here are a few things to consider when you feel stuck.
1. Long-term consequences
While sin and human failure are built into Proverbs 20:4, it’s not just about the “sinful” among us—it’s about all of us having this characteristic, displayed here in the sluggard:
The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore he shall beg in harvest, and have nothing.
We are all guilty at times of wanting immediate gratification. Our culture teaches us to value this through fast food joints, iPhones, and Vine videos. We become impatient because we’re not required to be patient.
For the sluggard in this passage, his seed must be sown in the colder months. But he does not want to go outside because, well, it’s cold outside. It’s going to be uncomfortable, and he won’t benefit from it for a long while. But if he wants the crop in the summer, he will have to go out into the cold of winter and do the hard work. Otherwise, when summer comes he will be hungry and be forced to beg for food from others. And if they procrastinate the same way he did, they’ll all be hungry. The sluggard in this passage must look toward long-term consequences.
We, too, should think down the road about how our decisions might affect our relationship with God, those close to us, or others around us. Instead of eating the cheese from a mousetrap with no attention to the death immediately following, we should step back and consider an alternate snack.
2. Counsel from others
Proverbs 16:2 takes us to the next consideration:
All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weighs the spirits.
When people do something wrong like steal, they’ve decided within themselves that committing the crime is worth the potential consequences. Our hearts have the tendency to redefine right and wrong based on how it benefits us. This is why we need input from others.
Have you ever had an entire group of people tell you that a decision is wrong, but you decided to stand against them, only to realize that you should’ve listened to them? Scripture makes it clear that we put ourselves in grave danger when we act alone. Obviously, part of that is because of our sinful nature, but we also have an inherent blindness to our own weaknesses or selfish ambitions.
In any situation, we say what we say and do what we do because we believe the truth of our own position. It’s only natural, then, that it’s always difficult to see the fault of that position. That’s why we go to other people. It is vital to surround ourselves with others who can speak into our decisions.
It’s not immoral that we have blind spots, but it is dangerous to be blind to the blind spots. And if you’re someone who purposely avoids feedback because you don’t want your opinions challenged, then you’re definitely someone who needs the counsel of others.
3. Basic values
Finally, Proverbs 16:8 says this:
Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without that righteousness.
One of the challenges for leaders is the constant need to return to basic values. This proverb reminds us that when staring at a pile of money, we should think about what we might be compromising to obtain that pile of money. Simply put, don’t forget that abandoning righteousness is not a good exchange for selfishness. Returning to basic values reminds us of what is most important.
When making organizational decisions, our staff is constantly going back to the key values and goals we hold. We then say that everything we do has to fit these goals. So when writing policies or dealing with students, we are constantly going back to our basic principles. We are always asking, what are we trying to accomplish?
In the same way, a person who is trying to decide between integrity and storing away good for themselves should measure their decision by the more basic value of righteousness. Integrity should never be compromised in exchange for some momentary indulgence. The proverbs are constantly pushing us back to this truth.
Just do something
In Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something, he makes an astute observation about the will of God:
“God is not a Magic 8-Ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him. We know God has a plan for our lives. That’s wonderful. The problem is we think He’s going to tell us the wonderful plan before it unfolds. We feel like we can know—and need to know—what God wants every step of the way. But such preoccupation with God’s will, as well-intentioned as the desire may be, is more folly than freedom.
The better way is the biblical way: Seek first the kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we’re going.”
First, decide between two morally acceptable options, weeding out things that would compromise your relationship with God and have ripple effects on others.
Second, understand that no decision in a fallen world is perfect, so don’t stress yourself out.
Third, remember that God is sovereign and that he calls you to obedience, not omniscience.
In short, just do something. Make a decision and go.