Weighing Heavy Decisions: 7 Steps for Better Decision Making
Early in our marriage, my husband and I were offered an opportunity to move from our home in Georgia, where he was born and raised, to a new job opportunity in Virginia. We had a very hard time making the decision. There were advantages and disadvantages to both moving and staying. I made a list of pros and cons, which were roughly equal. We prayed but hadn’t received a clear direction.
Finally, while we were on our official visit to Richmond, my husband and I jokingly talked about “throwing out a fleece,” Gideon-style (Judges 6:36-40). We were in a mall outside of town, just killing time between meetings, and said, “God, if this is what you want for us, let us run into someone we know here.” We were very casual about it, and I don’t think either of us was very serious. Within minutes of making that joke, we ran into (literally– I bumped into him) our deacon from our church back home. He happened to be in the area for a company conference and was just killing time between meetings! We were shocked– and at that point, our decision became easy! We moved to Richmond and spent a wonderful two years there.
But not every decision has such a clear and direct answer. Often, pastors in a replant or revitalization must make difficult choices that directly impact their congregations. How can we determine the best course of action when faced with these weighty decisions? Is there a way to know the “right” and “wrong” answers? What steps can we take so that we can say, as David does, “I sought the Lord, and he answered?” (Psalm 34:4)
Bob’s Big Move
On the most recent episode of the Replant Bootcamp Podcast, Jimbo and Bob discussed decision-making in light of Bob’s recent announcement. Bob will be transitioning off the Replant Team at NAMB and heading to a new adventure, partnering with and working for threeonethree in Nashville, TN. (Don’t worry, though– Bob will still partner with the Replant Bootcamp, so we aren’t losing him!)
In their discussion, the guys identified seven helpful steps to take when weighing decisions. You may not have a crystal clear answer after following these steps, but by leaning into them, you can know that you’ve followed a clear purpose and plan in your choice.
Step One: Pray about the Decision
James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” When praying over a decision, we are not merely asking God to give us a clear answer. We are asking for His wisdom and His guidance. This seems like an obvious step, but I’m always surprised at how often I talk about a decision without actually praying about it. Sometimes, I realize I’ve gotten everyone’s opinion about what I should do without asking God for His wisdom.
Step Two: Spend Time in the Word
When considering a big decision in our modern world, sometimes we forget that scripture still speaks to us. We might think we must read the latest book, blog, or article while overlooking God’s Word. But we must look to God’s word for wisdom and discernment before we seek man’s. While we are not Biblical characters, there are biblical examples we can study for guidance. There are also areas where the Bible gives clear, specific directions that we must obey. When we are in daily study of the Bible, seeking God’s guidance, He may reveal warnings and commands that lead us to a decision.
Step Three: Take Enough Time
There is so much pressure to make decisions quickly– it sometimes seems everyone is pushing for an answer immediately. Too often, we rush to decide out of worry that if we don’t do it quickly, opportunities will pass us by, or people will become irritated. And while there are time limits on many types of decisions, we must acknowledge this truth from Proverbs 19: “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” When we rush into a decision, we risk missing the mark because we haven’t taken the time to examine it honestly.
Step Four: Get Some Perspective
Bob referred to this as “walking around the issue,” and I think that’s the best analogy I’ve heard in a while. See the decision not only from the perspective of the decision maker but also from the perspective of those affected by it. Think about what impact the decision will have in the immediate, but also what the future effect will be. Taking the time to see the outcomes from every angle will inform your decision, but it also shows others that you care about the consequences of it.
Step Five: Seek Wise Counsel
In this step, I want to focus on a specific word: “Wise.” Sure, there may be friends who can offer encouragement and support, but when you have a tough decision, you need to seek out those friends with biblical wisdom to help. When deciding whether to stay in a secular career or go into ministry full-time, a well-meaning friend discouraged us from God’s calling. “You’ll be broke; how can you support your family?” And while this came from a place of love and concern, it did not come from a place of biblical wisdom. Proverbs 11:14 reminds us, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Surround yourself with people who will give you biblical counsel as you weigh your options.
Step Six: Let it Marinate
Take some time to sit with the decision. During this time, just be still. Remind yourself of the truth of Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God.” Stop striving. If you’ve taken all these steps, now is the time to just sit with God and trust that He is God. God is big enough to handle the outcome of your decision. Confirm your decision in your heart and sit with it quietly before you announce it. Let it settle into your soul.
Step Seven: Decide!
We have moved across multiple states three times in our marriage. Each time, we weighed the pros and cons and talked endlessly about whether or not the decision was the “right” one. At a certain point, we had prayed about it, looked at all the angles, read every scripture we could find, and threw out every fleece…But eventually, we had to move, both figuratively and literally. We couldn’t sit still. We had to trust in God’s word in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” We trusted that He had a plan, and we just needed to follow it. Sometimes, we weren’t sure what the future would be like, but we knew our next step, and that was enough.
One Last Note
Pastor, as you weigh decisions big and small, let me encourage you to remember that God has never experienced shock or surprise. God is not floored by this decision, nor is He tying Himself in knots, wondering what will happen. If we believe that God is in control, let’s trust Him to know our next steps and guide them. There will always be unknowns and challenges down the road, but they are not surprises for Him. Rest in knowing that God is ordaining your steps and follow His leading.