Have you ever tried to write straight lines of text on a marker board (it’s not easy!)? You think it’s good until you step back and look at the board from a distance. Then you can see the lines going crooked, though you didn’t notice up-close.
Sometimes I think I have enough information to make a good decision, but I’m too close to the situation to see it clearly. I need to step back and get perspective from other people so I can see what they see. My emotions and fears and hopes and personality and preferences and theology are all tied up in my up-close perspective, making it tricky to see clearly sometimes.
Here are three guidelines for decision-making:
1. I need to ask people who love me what they think I should do
When seeking out advice for a decision, I need to include people who love me and want what’s best for me. Even if they’re not knowledgeable in the specific area of my decision, they’re knowledgeable about me — they can see things I can’t see because they understand how my personal weaknesses and personality tendencies affect my ability to make a decision. They know my blind-spots well.
After ten years of marriage, I’ve seen first-hand how David’s wisdom and feedback have proven true again and again in helping me see things more clearly than I would see on my own. I also turn to my parents and in-laws when I need advice, because I trust them and I know they have my back.
2. I need to hear them out (I should use “God told me . . .” carefully)
If I’ve prayed about this decision and believe I’ve heard from God, then it may be tempting to use the phrase “God told me . . .” to defend myself when they ask good questions. But using this phrase to shut down unwanted feedback is like saying, “I’m the only one who can hear from God about this,” and “I always hear correctly.” True, I may have more invested in this decision than others and I am able to hear from God, but others can hear from God too and He may be speaking through them about my decision, so I need to hear them out and use “God told me . . .” carefully.
I’ve learned with time that I need to test what I believe is the voice of God, and one way to do this is to hear from other believers who have also been in the habit of listening for God’s voice (especially through His Word). They know what He sounds like, so they know how to help me discern His voice better than I can on my own.
3. I need to compare the advice to Scriptural commands and principles
I also need to find out what ways the advice given aligns with Scriptural commands or principles. Are there any commands or principles my decision would compromise? Commands are easier to catch, but principles are often in disguise, yet they’re woven through Scripture and are an important part of good decision-making. A principle gives me cause/effect information about a decision, helping me predict the end outcome. The book of Proverbs is a good place to start when looking for Scriptural principles. I need to consider these carefully as I come to a final decision.
Andy Stanley has a great DVD called “Discovering God’s Will.” I went through this video and study guide with a small group, and loved the practical advice he gave. Trying to hear from God can be complex, and this study helped clarify some things for me.