Christina Fox received her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. She is the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey Through the Psalms of Lament and Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ helps Friendships to Flourish. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and www.Facebook.com/
If you read my post last week on seeking God's will in making decisions, you may remember that one of the steps to making a decision is to seek God in prayer.
Perhaps you are in the midst of a difficult decision right now. If so, this prayer is for you.
Father in Heaven,
I come before you today with my mind swirling with different thoughts and feelings. I have a hard decision make and I just don't know what to do. I feel helpless and confused. I'm worried about the consequences to my decision. I worry about the impact my decision will have not only on myself but on others as well. To be honest, I fear making the wrong decision.
Your word tells me that if I seek after wisdom you will provide it. So I am seeking you, the source and fountain of wisdom. You've written everything you want me to know if the pages of your book, The Bible. I pray that as I read your word, it would shape my wants and desires and longings. I pray that it would impress on me what matters most to you. I pray that as I consider the decision before me, that I would remember what your word teaches about your sovereignty and control over all things.
You know this problem before me. You know how it turns out. That's because you are the Alpha and the Omega. You know the end from the beginning. Nothing happens apart from your will and plan. Not only are you sovereign, but you are good. All your plans are holy, righteous, and good. I can trust that you know what is best for me. When I move forward with this decision, I know that it is your will and that you will use it for my good and your glory.
Forgive me for getting caught up in wanting to know the future and how everything turns out. Forgive me for treating you like a "magic 8 ball." Forgive me for fearing the future and for waiting around in the hopes that the answer will be written on the wall. Help me to rest and trust in who you are. Help me to look to Jesus, knowing that if you gave of your own Son to save me from sin, how will you not also be with me in all the challenges and decisions of my life? There is nothing and no one that can separate me from you; I have nothing to fear.
You are my Rock, my Savior, and my Deliverer. Be with me as I move forward in this time of confusion and difficulty. Above all, may your will be done on earth, and in my life, as it is in heaven.
In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
Have you ever had to make an important decision and felt stuck as to what to do? Perhaps you stood at a crossroads with two paths before you and you didn't know which one to take.
You may have asked yourself questions like: Do I take this job or that job? Sell the house or stay? Trust the doctor or get a second opinion? Serve in this ministry or another? Send our children to this or that school? Have our parent move in or find them alternative living arrangements?
When my thyroid biopsy came back as inconclusive, the doctor recommended surgery. (You may remember me writing about that here). He said it was the only way to know for certain whether the growth was cancerous or not. He gave me numbers and statistics (none of which I understood) and said we could remove the growth or wait and see. But he recommended surgery. I had a decision to make. Do I have the surgery? Or do I test and retest and wait and see? Do I trust the numbers and statistics? Do I trust the doctor?
I don't know about you, but when I have a decision to make, my mind is consumed with it. It vacillates back and forth between the options. It's all I can think about. I worry and fret and mull over it. I lie awake at night unable to sleep. I consider all the potential consequences to the choices. What I want most of all is for a clear answer to step up and knock me on the head. Because what I really fear is making the wrong choice.
And so I wondered, what is God's will in this? What does he want me to do?
GOD'S WILL AND MAKING DECISIONS
Theologians often refer to God's will in terms of his sovereign will and his perceptive (or revealed) will. God's sovereign will refers to the fact that he ordains all things. Everything is under his control, including every detail of our lives. Nothing can or will happen outside of his will. He is never surprised or taken off guard by what happens. Whatever choice we make, we can be sure it is God's will. "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" (Proverbs 16:33). We don't know God's sovereign will. "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 29:29). We don't know his plan for us for tomorrow, next week, or next year. His secret will is not for us to know. But, as believers, we can take great comfort in the doctrine of God's sovereignty. Whatever decisions we make, we can be assured that God will use it for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28-29).
God's perceptive will is his revealed will in the Bible. This is the will that God wants us to know. Everything we need to know for living in this world is written in those pages. There's no missing information we have to seek out in mysterious unknown places. It's not hidden somewhere, like in a scavenger hunt, and we just have to find it. It's all there.
The Bible teaches us what is sinful and what is not. It tells us the purpose for our life: to glorify God. It tells us how to treat others, how to steward what he has provided, how to love our family, how to live and work and rest. Most of all, it shows us our greatest need—redemption from sin—and reveals our great Savior, whose life, death, and resurrection is sufficient to free us from sin and enable us to live in righteousness. God's Word also teaches us about the Spirit, who lives within us, producing fruit of holiness and helping us to daily put sin to death.
When we struggle with making a decision and ask, "What is God's will in this?" often we want to know what pleases him. What he desires from us. We want to know his direction. We want to know if he desires us to choose A over B or B over A. This is an area where we often get stuck when we have to make a decision. What we want is to know the future before it happens. This is an area of God's will we can't know and don't need to know. We need to trust his sovereign will and obey his perceptive will and leave his specific plan for our life in his hands.
"Obsessing over the future is not how God wants us to live, because showing us the future is not God's way. His way is to speak to us in the Scriptures and transform us by the renewing of our minds. His way is not a crystal ball. His way is wisdom. We should stop looking for God to reveal the future to us and remove all risk from our lives. We should start looking to God—His character and His promises—and thereby have confidence to take risks for His name's sake." —Kevin DeYoung in Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will, p. 39.
SEEKING GOD'S WISDOM
So what should we do when we have to make a difficult decision? First, we need to know where wisdom is found. God's Word tells us that wisdom originates in him. He is the source and fountain of wisdom. John 1:14 tells us that God's Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is wisdom incarnate. Isaiah prophesied about him, "And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD." (Isaiah 11:2). Paul tells us that Christ is our wisdom, "And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). He says something similar in Colossians 3:2 "Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." The gospel tells us that we do not have wisdom in ourselves; Christ is wisdom for us. When we don't know what to do, when we fail to do the right thing, when we freeze in fear over making a decision, Christ intercedes for us through his perfect life lived for us and sacrificial death on our behalf. He also gave us his Spirit who is at work in us, helping us to desire wisdom, teaching us the way of wisdom, and enabling us to walk in it.
So when we have a decision to make, we need to turn to God's Word. As we read and study, we can ask ourselves: Is this choice sinful? By choosing this, am I doing something God has told me not to do or failing to do something God has told me to do? Does it conflict with God's calling on my life? Another question to ask is, will this choice bring God glory? Will it honor him? We can also ask ourselves, what does the Bible tell me about Christ, who he is and what he has done? We can be assured that as we study the Word, and as our minds are conformed to it, we will discern what God's will is, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).
Secondly, we should always seek God in prayer about our decisions. We should ask for wisdom and discernment. We should ask that our choices and actions bring him glory. As Paul prayed for the Ephesians, we can pray for spiritual wisdom, seeking to know and understand the hope we have in the gospel, "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:17-20). And, as Jesus taught us, we should pray that God's will would be done.
Thirdly, we should ask others who are wise in the Word to advise us in making decisions. God has not left us alone, he's given us brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ who can give us the wisdom they have gleaned from Scripture. Many older and wiser believers have had to make difficult decisions in their lives and there is much we can learn from them (see also Titus 2). "Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed." (Proverbs 15:22).
I remember a college professor once talking to our class about choosing between A and B. In the example he gave, it was the choice between attending two colleges. He said that if a choice is not sinful, if we have prayed and sought God's Word for wisdom, as well as the wisdom of others, then we just make a choice. We simply move forward. We trust that God will use the decision for his glory. We rest in his sovereign control over all things. We remember the gospel and who we are in Christ, and know that nothing can separate us from his love for us.
In the end, I chose to have surgery. And I'm thankful to report that the growth was not cancerous. Though it wasn't an easy decision to make, the process of thinking and praying through the decision reminded me of my need for Christ, my dependence upon him, and his daily provision of grace for me. I am certain that more difficult decisions loom on the horizon for me, as they do for all of us. But God has provided all we need for the journey and we can move forward in confidence, not in ourselves and our own wisdom, but in the wisdom of Christ, revealed to us in the Word.
There is nothing I enjoy more than hiking in the mountains. I love being surrounded by towering trees, the musty smell of leaves under my feet, the sound of creatures scurrying in the brush. I enjoy the labor of a hike and then being rewarded with an amazing view: the panorama of craggy mountain peaks and the sweeping valley below. It's quiet and majestic. God's handiwork on display.
We recently took a trip to Washington to see the mountains outside of Seattle. The iconic view of the mountains surrounding the city was blocked because of smoke from fires in the north. As we drove farther out of the city and into the mountains, we started to see the peaks rise before us. We hiked beautiful trails, blanketed with wild flowers. One section of the trail had a magnificent view of Mt. Ranier. We marveled at it its snow capped peak, knowing that what we saw would have been even more amazing had there not been a smoky haze in the sky.
Such experiences in creation remind us of an important truth: we are small.
In our daily lives, it's easy to think that we are bigger than we are, that we rule our own kingdoms. The power of man seems invincible. We walk among the Babels we've constructed—every day knocking down the old to build the new and better. We develop amazing technology at a rapid pace, so impressive, we can't even lift our heads to look at creation around us. We boast of our discoveries, theories, and systems, and call others to bow down in worship. With each check mark scratched on our daily lists, we feel successful and accomplished. We look down on those who don't measure up or keep the pace or who aren't as "enlightened" as we are. Every day, we read accounts in the news of some new development or invention, some even going so far as to play the role of God in lives of others.
And in all of it, we forget that we are dust.
David wrote in Psalm 39: "O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!" (vv. 4-6).
Moses reflected on the brevity of life and the eternity of God: "Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night." (Psalm 90:1-4).
Indeed, like the psalmists, we need to remember that we are dust. That we are not invincible. That we are the created and not the Creator. That we do not rule and reign over all things. That we are merely stewards of creation. That we are small.
As it says in Isaiah: "Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness." (Isaiah 40:21-23).
Because we quickly forget, we need constant reminders. We need to be regular students of the Word, reading and studying to know more of our God and the splendor of his holiness. We need to get away from our carefully constructed lives and see the wonder of our Creator in the world he has made. We need to develop a right view of ourselves, as humble dependents, embracing our smallness and responding in worship to the One who rules, reigns, sustains, and determines the length of our days. The very same God who entered our smallness by taking on human flesh, "though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:6-8).
We are small. That is the truth. It is an important truth. We are dependent creatures which exist solely by the grace of our Creator. May our heart's prayer echo that of Moses: "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12).