We know which road Robert Frost took in his famous poem, “The Road Not Taken.”
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.
But the choices we face in real life don’t seem nearly so romantic or easy. In fact, important decisions are often the most anxiety- and fear-producing experiences in life.
Fortunately, we have our faith in Christ, right? Well, that ought to give us more confidence, but seeking God’s will can sometimes intensify the pressure even more. How can we figure out what the Lord wants us to do when He isn’t speaking to us, giving us signs, or causing Scripture to leap from the pages of our Bibles? It’s like God’s will is hidden within some mysterious puzzle, and we don’t know where to find the decoder ring to solve it.
Many of us turn to our feelings – our notoriously unreliable feelings – and choose a direction based on the “peace” we feel about it.
But John Ortberg, our guest on today’s and tomorrow’s programs, says feelings are never how people in the Bible made their decisions. Could you imagine if they did? Think of Moses waiting to risk his life to confront Pharoah until he felt a peace about it, or Abraham agreeing to sacrifice Isaac because it “felt right.” What if Daniel hadn’t defied King Nebuchadnezzar because he wasn’t sensing the right vibe about it all?
Over and over in the Bible, God’s people are called to difficult missions, and they never respond with, “I’ll obey because I feel a peace about this.”
Peace lies on the other side of obedience, not on this side.
God rarely leads His people into easy tasks. It’s okay to admit that we’re a little disappointed by that. Most of us love easy. We want God to give us an open door, so we can easily choose the right job or the right spouse. It ought to be easy, we think.
But God never promises, “I’ll make your life easy.” His promise is, “I’ll be with you.”
And that gets to the core of why the Lord allows us to struggle through the decisions of life. God’s primary focus in our lives is the person we become; it’s not the specific situation that we inhabit.
It’s through the process of making decisions that we grow into persons of excellent judgment and character. It can be painful and uncomfortable, but that’s how we grow.
Maybe that’s why the Bible doesn’t exhort us to seek direction, it tells us to seek wisdom, like in the book of James where it says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (1:5), or the whole book of Proverbs, which is all about wisdom.
The best advice for people struggling with the practical ins and outs of making life decisions, then, is not to expect supernatural postcards from heaven. God can reveal His will to us in those ways if He chooses, of course, and sometimes He may. But, generally, the better path is to seek wisdom through Scripture and through the wise people God has placed in our lives.
And because God’s primary focus for us is the person we become, not the specific situation that we inhabit, the Lord’s will for us is often to choose whatever direction we decide to go.
I can remember in my twenties grappling with monumental life choices of my own. “Should I go to this college or that college? Get this degree or that degree? Take this job or that job?” Those were tough choices for me because I couldn’t tell what the Lord wanted me to do. Now I can look back and see that the Lord was in it all, guiding my steps. And because the Lord’s primary concern for me wasn’t whether I worked this job or that or whether I lived here or there, He used all of it to mold and shape my character into the person I’ve become.
What decisions are you wrestling with today? Are you searching for answers? Do you need a little help knowing what to do? Over the next couple of programs we’re going to talk about how to walk through life’s doors with faith and confidence that the Lord is with you.
We’ll offer practical advice as well as give you a few ideas that will help ease some of the anxiety and fear that may have you paralyzed from moving forward.
John Ortberg is the senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in the San Francisco Bay area.
So here’s the first easy choice that will get you on your way to a new life of decision-making: Tune in for our broadcast, “Walking Through Life’s Open Doors,” on your local radio station. Or join us anytime online or via our free, downloadable mobile phone app.