Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How To Make Major Decisions

Dear Friends,

Jesse pointed out the wide scar on his throat. Still slightly red from the recent surgery, it was hidden in a natural skin fold and would soon completely disappear. He showed us how he could move his left arm and hand without any pain and we praised God and thanked Him that the surgery had been a complete success. It could have gone either way. Jesse is a Christian friend of ours who was strong and healthy except for a severely compressed nerve in the upper cervical area of his spine that caused pain to radiate into his shoulder and caused muscle weakness and numbness in his arm and hand. His doctor advised surgery but Jesse wasn’t sure it was the right thing for him to do. Surgeries involving the spine can cure and they can cripple, but the upper cervical area is even more critical – mistreatment or botched surgeries can even be fatal. These are never easy decisions and that’s why for several months we had been praying for God to give Jesse the discernment to make the right decision and He did. Now in the healing process, Jesse’s face was lit up in a huge smile as he waved his arm around. He owns an antique store in Ventura and last Friday, we stood with him in the middle of his store praising God and giving Him all the glory!

We make hundreds of decisions every day of our life. Go to the grocery store first or to the gas station. Once at the grocery store, everything we put in our cart is the result of a decision we just made. Every action we take results from a decision and we make these insignificant decisions easily and unconsciously. But in our lifetime, we have also made dozens of extremely difficult and critical decisions that affect our well-being, finances, health and future. Some are literally life and death decisions. Whether to carry that baby to full-term. Whether to have the surgery or the chemo. Some decisions affect our finances and quality of life: the jobs we take, the cities we move to, the houses we buy. And we have all made decisions about relationships. Dating. Marriage. Divorce. With every major decision, we look back and are grateful for the decision we made, or with regret, we wish we had done something differently.

How do you make major decisions? I’ve known those who flip a coin and let fate decide. But we “left-brained” logical types will intellectually examine the choices and make lists of pros and cons while we analyze the risk factors in the options before us. We more “right-brained” folks may just go with what feels like the right thing to do at the moment. But when faced with major decisions, we can’t trust our thoughts and feelings alone. One moment we want to say yes and in the next moment we say no. We may even become overwhelmed with indecision and stuck, unable to move in one direction or the other. Is there a better way?

Our Bible speaks of spiritual discernment in the context of knowing right from wrong and we use that discernment to determine God’s will for us and make the right choice. We start our process of discernment in prayer, and in some cases, prayer and fasting. We seek His help. “O LORD, come to my assistance, make haste to help me,” Psalm 70:1 D-R We ask God to give us the wisdom to make the right choice and the grace to carry it out. We know that God has already determined His will for us, and our prayers are that God would show us the pathway to take, but how do we “hear” His voice telling us which direction to go?

I have found it very beneficial to pray that God would lead me by giving me a peace about the direction He wants me to go in and a clear sense of discomfort about the direction He does not want for me. Here’s a recent example of what that looks like. We have our Wednesday services at Abbey Road Villa but there was another assisted living home in our area that expressed an interest in our holding church services at their facility on a Sunday. So I prayed about it. There are two options. We do it or we don’t. My petition to God was that He would give me a strong, discernable sense of peace about doing this service or a strong sense of discomfort and unease about doing this service. I prayed for many months about this and every time I thought about doing a new service there was a continuous sense of discomfort and unease. That had to be from God because a Sunday service was really what I thought I should do. I mean gosh, I’m a pastor! Church services on Sunday are what we do! But when I made the decision to not have a Sunday service at this new location, God immediately gave me the strong, discernable sense of peace that I had made the right decision. That’s how spiritual discernment works. 

After a period of prayerful discernment, we can make a tentative decision and then look for a confirming sign from God. It can come from/through another person, or in my example, the confirming sign was this overwhelming sense of peace that I had made the right decision. Your confirmation may be that your tentative decision brings great joy and the way forward is supernaturally easy. But if you are still feeling distress or if there is a struggle to implement the decision, you may need to rescind the decision and go back into the discernment process. Then when you know...

Make the decision!! Commit to it and don’t look back. If it was a good decision, praise God for that. If, in your human fallibility, you made a bad decision, rest in the knowledge that you made it in prayer and in good faith. Give yourself grace, move on to do something differently and may God be praised for being a God of second chances!  Amen?

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