Making Big Decisions (Part 1): Overcoming Fear, Confusion, and Indecision

Determining God’s Will

We are a generation prone toward indecision, contradiction, and instability. Instead, most of us need to take more responsibility, be more decisive, and “just do something.” The gospel actually frees us to live by faith rather than fear. Our reluctance to make decisions can often be traced to the misguided belief that “God has a wonderful plan for my life and I need to discover what it is so that I don’t make decisions that mess it up.”  God does not intend for us to discover “His wonderful plan for our lives”—He expects us to live wisely in ways that are God-honoring and faith-driven. He expects us to trust Him while we make wise choices and take calculated risks. The life of faith is never passive—whether it moves or waits—it is active and never motivated by fear or selfishness.

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In his book, Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung identifies three aspects of God’s will: (1) the Will of Decree (Sovereign Will), (2) the Will of Desire (Revealed Will), and (3) the Will of Directive (God’s Guiding Influence). God’s Will of Decree is what He has determined will take place (Eph. 1:11; Matt. 10:29-30; Acts 4:27-28; Ps. 139:16; Is. 46:9-10). This will is unknown to us and cannot be thwarted; what God has determined will always come to pass. God’s Will of Desire speaks of what God has revealed to us (1 Jn. 2:15-17; Heb. 13:20-21; Matt. 7:21; Deut. 29:29). It informs us of “how God wants us to live” and is the opposite of worldliness. It means living according to what pleases God rather than what pleases our sinful flesh. Finally, God’s Will of Directive is the way that God guides us in knowing how to make decisions based on both objective and subjective means. In short, we should ask God to give us the wisdom and grace to live by faith and make good decisions rather than waiting for answers that may never come.[1]

DeYoung writes:

“God does have a specific plan for our lives, but it is not one that He expects us to figure out before we make a decision… We should stop thinking of God’s will like a corn maze, or a tight-rope, or a bull’s-eye, or a choose-your-own-adventure novel…”[1]

We should stop being afraid that we’ll somehow miss God’s best and be forced to settle for less. God’s will does not work that way. Whether it’s a career, a location, or a spouse–God’s will is not a hidden bull’s-eye that we’re trying to hit. He has revealed enough for us to live by faith while taking risks and making wise decisions.

Gerald Sittser:

“The conventional understanding of God’s will defines it as a specific pathway we should follow into the future. God knows what this pathway is, and he has laid it out for us to follow. Our responsibility is to discover this pathway—God’s plan for our lives. We must discover which of the many pathways that we could follow is [actually] the one we should follow; the one God has planned for us. If and when we make the right choice, we will receive his favor, fulfill our divine destiny and succeed in life… If we choose rightly, we will experience his blessing and achieve success and happiness. If we choose wrongly, we may lose our way, miss God’s will for our lives, and remain lost forever in an incomprehensible maze.”[2]

If God’s will is a “corn maze,” then we risk having to live the rest of our lives in misery should we happen to make the wrong choice somewhere along the way–or at least a season of misery until we find the right way out of that particular failure. But, such an approach to life is misguided and causes many unnecessary burdens. One of those burdens is the confusion, fear, and anxiety that come with every major decision. Expecting God to reveal some hidden feature of His will (Will of Direction) often leads to disappointment and indecision–We seek guidance where He has not promised to provide it (because He already has given us the means for making decisions as we live by faith). Instead of trusting God, we wait passively for writing on the wall or an overwhelming sense of peace. We want to have certainty before taking risks or making big decisions.

Yet, these things are never infallible and rarely come. Most major decisions–even clear ones–leave us feeling unsettled for awhile. In waiting unnecessarily, we stumble through one disappointment after another while refusing to make appropriate commitments because we fear being stuck in a decision that we cannot change. The result of such passivity is a lifestyle of distraction and indecision in which we become more fickle and less fruitful. We become frozen with fear and paralyzed by indecision as we experience persistent confusion–as a result we lack clarity and never get around to making the commitments necessary to fully experience the God-given joys of living by faith. While we may avoid taking risks, we often end up losing more than we ever tried to protect. Our lack of faith prevents us from experiencing unforeseen measures of God’s grace.

Whenever we come to a fork-in-the-road where we must decide which way to go, we must remember that “He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him.”[3] God never takes risks with our lives—so we can live by faith and “just do something.” We can make decisions and take risks while trusting that He will either confirm or redirect us according to what He has planned for our lives. He desires that we live by faith rather than remain frozen with fear and paralyzed by indecision–even when we lack clarity, His character should inspire enough confidence for us to “just do something.”

In subsequent posts, I’ll unpack some helpful tips that DeYoung provides in approaching major decisions…

________________

[1] A brief summary adapted from Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something. DeYoung’s book provides the basis for the posts in this series. While most of the material is summarized or expanded from his book, the core ideas come from Kevin DeYoung.

[2] Ibid, 24-25.

[3] Ibid, 26.

[4] Ibid, 26.

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