In high school I wanted to flirt with a group of cute cheerleaders. But to infiltrate the sea of pompoms I needed to traverse a low hanging rope. It dangled in front of me, and under normal circumstances, seemed simple enough to overcome. “Should I jump over the rope or simply step over it?” I asked myself. Inevitably, I didn’t choose. Without warning, my legs got tangled up and SMACK! I ate the ground hard—a high schooler’s worst nightmare!
My indecision was embarrassing and certainly humorous. Not so funny, however, is the paralysis we often face in making life’s biggest choices. For example, are you stuck deciding whether to spend thousands of dollars studying accounting, art or engineering? Or do you feel knee-deep in mud, struggling to choose between accepting a job near your parents or in another state?
Then there are the indomitable relationship questions. Should I ask out that acquaintance or try online dating? And if you enter a relationship, how would you know he or she is “the one?”
Left untreated, indecision becomes a veritable disease. It camps us at a crossroads when it should only be a short stay. Life is too short to dwell at intersections. We move forward by choosing wisely, not indefinitely.
How can we do this?
First, any questions that contain moral components must align with Scripture. Indeed, God gives us a big yard to play within but it’s guarded by His moral fence. Much wisdom in decision making is found by engaging daily with God’s Word. But what happens when we don’t receive a specific answer from the Lord?
In other words, when all options in front of us are godly, how do we choose?
There’s Always Healthy Pain in Choosing
At the heart of indecision is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). FOMO is a part of us that desires to keep every option available at all times. It’s based on the fallacy that if we simply wait long enough then that perfect person, place or thing will arise.
It’s a lie.
In fact, the words “decide” and “incise” actually originate from the Latin word, “caedere,” which means “to cut.” Making choices cuts off other possibilities. It hurts when doors close.
This is normal.
After graduating college, I searched for my first “real job” for almost six months. When a less-than-thrilling IT position arose, I had to choose whether to commit to this organization or wait for a better fit elsewhere. My student debt loomed over me like a dark cloud. The organization needed an answer soon and the practical part of my brain was incredulous that I was considering turning down a steady paycheck! Eventually I said “no” but an emotional weight was lifted.
It’s healthy for us to make a habit of removing choices. Why? Making decisions is emotionally taxing. “Decision fatigue” is a new psychology term that describes the condition when our brains become overloaded with too many decisions, complex decisions or prolonged analysis. It’s easy for our minds to suffer from paralysis of analysis when we have seemingly endless options.
Over time, I believe the feeling of relief in making decisions replaces any feeling of regret. It was painful (and risky) when I closed the professional door I mentioned. Months later, however, God gave me the perfect job to begin my career.
As we mature spiritually, it can appear the Lord pulls away from us from time to time to let us decide certain things. Often He wants to speak through a blend of our experiences, His Word and others. In these cases, the acronym of A.I.R.E.S. can help navigate the discernment process—a concept I learned from my late mentor, Timothy Nelson.
Who or what is your authority? What person or what knowledge do you rely upon to help you make decisions? What information holds the most credence in your life?
Your intuition is your gut feeling. Some people hold a deep, intrinsic knowledge that a certain decision is the right one. I believe the Holy Spirit can certainly work through our intuition, but we must be careful not to confuse Him with misguided emotionalism.
Reason is logic, but more than that, it’s a thoughtful consideration of the path ahead. Read Proverbs 4:26.
How do your past events inform your future? What has life taught you from your good and bad decisions? What trends do you see in your life?
It’s important to invite outside wisdom into your life—those with similar experiences or those who have walked beside you for a while. Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
Use this acronym as you tackle big decisions. As you work through the steps, pray and look for strands of commonality among each letter. If necessary, repeat the process as many times as needed.
Faith is Required
Whatever you end up choosing, any decision will require some faith (and likely some risk). The Bible states that “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
Also, forget about perfect outcomes because imperfect ones are life’s norm. There is no perfect person, job or place to live. If you make a choice that doesn’t quite work out, even after exercising wisdom, rest assured God will redeem it. In fact, much wisdom is gained from making wrong decisions.
Finally, use tools like A.I.R.E.S, and don’t forget to deal with the emotional loss of making an important decision. “Buyer’s remorse” is a part of life. But oftentimes, the relief and satisfaction in making a choice is greater than any regret.
So, stop flying in circles and un-paralyze yourself. Instead, take a godly risk and land the plane. And don’t allow indecisiveness to cause you to crash land in front of a group of cheerleaders.