Godward Decision-Making

Just like that, it’s over.

You cross the stage, finally exiting the roller coaster of the American education system, amazed you made it out alive. Tearful goodbyes, fervent pledges to greet old friends in new places, packing four unexplainably formative years that you loved and hated into boxes bursting at the seams. And then, finally, home. You’re home.

As I stumbled towards the exit gate of the wild ride of upper education, I didn’t expect the decisions I would to make. My friends were no longer a quick walk across campus; should I even make new friends? My church was near my campus; where would I worship? The familiar home where I’d grown up felt small now; where would I live?

Out of one roller coaster and into another. I had my degree, but what did God want me to do next?  

Get Me Off This Thing 

It might not be graduation, but have you ever felt this? Stumbling off of the ride of life through a door, squinting at what looks like the exit, feeling dizzy. It’s paralyzing. 

If not graduation, maybe your “door” was a promotion. Maybe it was marriage. Maybe it was dating. Maybe it was having a baby, your kids moving out, or your decision to retire. You made your life about pursuing that door, and now you’re through. Now what? Where will the baby go to college? What will your kids do? Where will you spend your retirement?

As one Harvard professor writes, “I observed … people habitually acquiring options. They just get so used to the process of acquiring options that they never really execute on this larger vision of what they want.”[1] 

How do we narrow down our next move? How do I figure out what I want? 

Godward Gravity 

Indecision often flows from a lack of Godward gravity. In the same way that gravity orients planets to keep their courses, so our delight in God causes the meteors of different desires to stop streaking across the sky of our souls and settle into orbits around the Son of Righteousness, Jesus.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps 34:7) 
“Seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all else will be given unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)

Delight yourself in the Lord. Seek first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness. Trust in the Lord. And only then does God promise to: give you what you want, “all else,” and a straight path to walk on.

But if the promises are so clear, why are our hearts so muddy? My experience doesn’t always feel like those promises. With Paul, “we do not do the thing we want, but we do the thing we hate.” That is, we’re sinners even when we’re saved, and our hearts often feel like dark wells that we can’t get to the bottom of; who can understand them? We say we want to follow God in a particular decision we’re making as Christians, but the overflow of our wells splashing into our actions shows a different motivation lurking underneath the surface of our confession.

Some of our confusion comes from sin. Others come from our confused subjective expectations. Should I expect a level of constant clarity in my desires through a voice directing me to eat the Cold-Cut Combo at subway? Or does clarity feel more like a tincture in a painting — a confidence flowing through the decisions you make? How do I know what to expect?

Just Nike That Thing

Let’s head back to the rollercoaster, and strap ourselves in. How do we know which path is the one God wants for me? Does God care about the minutia of our lives? Does he want us to be paralyzed so that even our order at subway becomes part of his passion for his glory? 

Yes and no. Yes, God cares about your Subway. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (Colossians 3:18) Whatever means whatever. There are no moral-grey-areas in God’s world. God cares about every stage prop he’s written into the story of your life, and every action you take. But, no, he probably doesn’t give you this information to paralyze your heart, but to free your pursuit.

When you have multiple paths that can glorify God in ways that seem equal, that’s a gift, not a curse. You shouldn’t be paralyzed by a good conscience, but you should recognize the fallibility of it (see 1 Corinthians 4:4). God gives you the gift of seeking your joy in God in good options. “Anything that doesn’t come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23). Faith is in God —you’re free to choose whichever option flows from faith, delightful confidence, in God.

Just as the sun’s light doesn’t eliminate our earth’s life but fuels it, Godward gravity doesn’t destroy our desires for other things. It gives them new life and makes them reflect righteousness—divine Sonlight. 

You and your desires were made to be crucified with Christ, and then raised with a new Godward orientation and delight.

How To Pray 

Will God always give me one subjective type of clarity? Will it be a burning desire? Will it be an audible voice? The Bible promises such a clarity that you’ll have confidence to delight in a given path; it doesn’t specify the nature of that clarity— and Scripture is full of different examples of faithful actions and subjective impulses. What we do know is that when the clarity of Godward happiness is the fountain of the other streams of your desires, you seek his way. As a man delighting in someone he wants to pursue is irresistibly drawn to buy her flowers, our delight in Jesus causes us to freely and irresistibly pursue him in everything we do. We’ve seen that this is simple when the options before you are mutually good things. But we also have acknowledged that our hearts are dark wells; we don’t always have right motives. Therefore, much of our prayer for clarity comes from humbly asking God for help in killing sin and seeking righteousness (cf. 1 Thess 4:11).

Therefore, acknowledge that God alone can give you direction. Commit your way to him. Seek the Kingdom and his righteousness. Bring your uncertainty to him.  Pick up the Sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and kill sin. Then, act in faith and do what you want, as you patiently gather data and wait for that subjective push; He’ll be fueling your new, prayer-shaped wants with his own.

It could take moments, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years (Luke 18:1). The safety of wise counselors (Prov 11:14), listening to different voices in the church (Heb 3:14–15), and killing sin that keeps his voice from you (Isa 59:2)— but above all, plead to God for a confident delight in him. He’ll increase your confidence in what you want. He may restrain a general good with a specific impression (Acts 16:6). He may speak through a prophetic utterance (1 Thess 5:20). He may give you a burning desire to do one good thing over others (Romans 15:20). But, He will definitely give you eyes to see what path to walk, and the desire to walk in paths of righteousness. And He will work all things together for the good of those called to the purpose of magnifying Jesus — for the good of every child of God. (Rom 8:28)

“Until now you have asked for anything in my name. Ask that your joy might be full.” (John 16:24).

  “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him “(1 John 5:14–15).

[1] “Latest College Graduates Enter a More Optimistic Economy,” (http://www.npr.org/2017/05/27/530393095/latest-college-graduates-enter-a-more-optimistic-economy).