Last year, as everyone was locked down at home, and with many having additional time and space to think, my wife Sam said something that really got my attention.
‘One thing that’s going to happen’ said Sam, ‘is that people will use this time to reassess their lives. Many will make big decisions. People will change jobs. Some will decide to move house. Move city. Even move country. Some will do this well, but others will do this badly.’
The conversation felt significant and Sam’s insight seemed prophetic. It made me think how disciples might reassess well during a crisis, so decisions made are good and right, rather than rash and rushed, pressured and poor. There’s no ‘Good Decision-Making List’ in the Bible, but there are some good guidelines to recommend. In fact, the Alpha session ‘How Does God Guide Us’ is a good start. In that talk, Nicky Gumbel shares 5 principles to help us.
1) Commanding Scripture
The Bible is Scripture – sacred writing – revealing God’s message of love to us. As we prayerfully read it, so the Lord guides us (Ps. 119:105). If you’re not regularly reading the Bible, you may well end up making unwise decisions, so read it daily and let it shape all your choices.
2) Compelling Spirit
The Holy Spirit loves to guide and direct. He does this in all sorts of ways – through things like planting ideas in our minds, as well as through prophetic words, pictures and impressions. But all these need testing and confirming. Don’t forget that being called into something (like a new job) normally coincides with being called out of something (like an old job), so test the Spirit’s call at both ends. Certainly never make a big decision on the basis of just one word.
3) Common Sense
This is about using our heads and not just our hearts, and thinking carefully, especially when considering something important. There’s much talk at the moment about being agile and flexible, and those things are important, especially for businesses and organisations who need to seize timely opportunities, but on a personal level it’s wise to take care. While ‘act in haste; repent at leisure’ is not a biblical command, it’s a useful maxim. That’s why many counsel that it’s best not to make a significant decision when you’re fearful or under pressure. So if you’ve felt real stress and strain over the last year, think carefully about any big life decisions, and if you can, put them off until the pressure has reduced.
4) Counsel of Saints
It’s sensible to listen to others. For example, I wouldn’t make a major life-decision (like moving house or job) without first consulting my prayer partners. I’m not necessarily asking for their permission or blessing, but I do want their prayers – plus any advice they have, as they pray. If we all had people around us who want the best for us, and we asked for their advice and prayer, then many unwise decisions would be avoided.
5) Circumstantial Signs
God can guide us in all sorts of ways, and sometimes he gives signs to guide us. He’s not trying to make it difficult for us. In fact quite the opposite – he’s wanting us to pursue him, so we find him. The key then, is seeking him. That’s why Jesus says, in his basic discipleship teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, that we should ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ and then he’ll look after our lives (Mt. 7:33).
So take care not to make bad decisions at this time. To be frank: don’t get divorced. Don’t cut yourself off from loved ones. Don’t leave church. Don’t isolate yourself. And don’t make major life-decisions you’ll regret. Even though the end of lockdown is in sight, don’t rush your decision-making. Use the 5 CS’s here. If you have a clearly tested sense of being led into something new, then of course go ahead, and go into the new thing with confidence and faith.
Most of all, stay prayerful and stay humble. For, as Psalm 23 makes clear, if you stay close to the Shepherd, you have all you need, and he will lead you in right paths, for his name’s sake.