By Peter Amsterdam
April 1, 2014
Have you ever been faced with important decisions and needed explicit direction, only to feel as if God was in silent mode?—Right when you would most like Him to give a precise answer to help you to make an important decision? I know I have, and during those times it’s been a spiritual struggle. I so much wanted the Lord to make the path clear, but He, in His wisdom, chose not to give a direct answer. Instead, I needed to forge ahead to do the pick-and-shovel work of investigating options, seeking godly counsel, weighing the open doors of opportunity before me, praying desperately, and most of all, committing my ways to Him. I had to trust that He would direct my path in the manner of His choosing.
At times like these, a direct revelation is most welcome, and there is nothing we would like more than to have the Lord point to the best of several options and save us from the often agonizing process of weighing options, pros and cons, and taking the responsibility for making a decision when we’re not sure how things will ultimately play out. Often the Lord does confirm His will with a direct word of prophecy as a sign of His grace and favor, and this can be tremendously encouraging and empowering. At other times He expects us to make use of the other ways to find His will (see Making Godly Decisions Part One) as we work through the process of analyzing the situation and options to make a final decision, which generally proves to be a learning and growth experience.
We can find ourselves doing a lot of mental, emotional, and spiritual wrestling at times like those, not unlike Jacob’s experience wrestling with the angel throughout the night. But if we have done what we could to pray and follow God to the best of our ability we can trust that whatever the results and eventual outcome of our decision, it will ultimately work for our good.
Many times when I’ve sought the Lord for His will and direction concerning important decisions, He hasn’t told me exactly which choice to make or what the outcome is going to be. Often He will show me the general direction to go or the first step or two to take, with the instruction to come back to Him in prayer as things begin to play out. In situations like these, there are usually certain things which must fall into place before a final decision can be made. Throughout the decision-making process, while continually praying for wisdom and direction, it’s been in my court to weigh the pros and cons, look at the open and closed doors, seek the counsel of others, and do all I can to work in conjunction with the Lord in order to make the right decisions. While He may not always give a specific answer as to what to do, I can always count on Him to be present throughout the process, guiding and directing as I work through the various options and possibilities until I feel at peace that the decision is in alignment with His will.
An important aspect of God’s plan for humanity was His endowment of free will, which allows us to make choices and decisions of our own volition. As Christians who want to glorify God through our lives, we want to learn to make decisions based on godly principles and choose the best options out of the many that we may be confronted with on a daily basis. Considering options, weighing advantages and disadvantages, using our God-given wisdom, and measuring situations by God’s Word are all part of loving God with all our minds, hearts, and souls, in obedience to the first and greatest commandment. Even when we don’t receive a direct revelation from God to guide our decision-making, we can still be encouraged that He has promised to guide us as we commit our ways to Him and seek His will through all the methods at our disposal. In fact, even when He does give a revelation, it is still wise to test the decision to discern if it is God’s good and acceptable will. We can measure such decisions by asking questions, such as: Does it align with His Word? Has He spoken through specific scriptures? Has advice been sought from godly counselors? (See part 1for more on ways to know God’s will.)
Part of the stress and turmoil we often face in times of decision-making is the fear of failure, the fear of missing God’s will, or the fear of making a decision that will unforeseeably have a negative impact on ourselves or others. When it comes to those important decisions that will define the course of our future, or at least our immediate future, we learn through experience that an unwise decision can result in having to backtrack or live out the consequences of an ill-advised decision. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and desires, our decisions lead to unexpected negative outcomes and consequences, and we find ourselves living with these.
Because God has designed us as agents with free will, we have the capability of making independent choices, and by the same token, we are personally responsible for our decisions and the outcomes of the decisions we make. This is one of the reasons why we need to exercise prayerfulness and use wisdom in times of decision-making. Taking responsibility for the outcomes of our decisions is an important part of the process. We are free to make decisions, but we must take responsibility for how things work out. If there are negative repercussions, we must not try to put the blame on others or blame God for how things play out. The responsibility is our own. We also have to trust that God has promised to work everything together for the good of those who love Him, no matter how things seem to turn out initially. He can even take our mistakes and the times when we seem to have messed up our decision-making coordinates, and redirect our course in ways that will be beneficial and lead us to His ultimate destination.
Unexpected bends in the road and unintended outcomes are part of life, no matter how wise our decisions. We see throughout the Bible how often things turned out differently than people expected or planned. When Moses set out for the Promised Land, he probably didn’t foresee wandering in the desert for 40 years. And yet, he didn’t waver in the wisdom of his decision or lose sight of the final destination; he kept pressing forward despite the obstacles.
Even when we make right decisions, there is no guarantee of smooth sailing for the duration of the journey. We will often continue to face pitfalls or setbacks along the way, and these are part of the human experience and often serve to strengthen our faith walk. As our heavenly Father, God knows that learning to make decisions and take responsibility for their outcome, and all the lessons we learn on that journey, are part of our spiritual growth and development.
I think most of us have stories of the times when we found ourselves at a critical decision point in life, and how the Lord spoke to us, whether through prophecy, a vision, a dream, or some other direct means, and it was so clear and specific that there was no question or wavering about what the right decision would be in the situation. But I’m sure we’ve also experienced those times when it was up to us to work hard at making a godly decision through the other means at our disposal for finding God’s will. He has promised that as we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him, and that as we commit our ways to Him and acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths and cast our lines in pleasant places. We can trust that He will never leave nor forsake us, even at those times when it seems that He is silent and not providing the direct guidance we are seeking for a decision we are making.
Rick Warren expressed this as follows:
Besides Jesus, David probably had the closest friendship with God of anyone. God took pleasure in calling him “a man after my own heart.” Yet David frequently complained of God’s apparent absence:
“Lord, why are you standing aloof and far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?” (Psalm 10:1 TLB) “Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help? Why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22:1)
Of course, God hadn’t really left David, and he doesn’t leave you. He has promised repeatedly, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). But God has not promised “you will always feel my presence.” In fact, God admits that sometimes he hides his face from us. There are times when he appears to be MIA, missing-in-action, in your life.
I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. (Isaiah 8:17 ESV)
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. … For he will complete what he appoints for me. (Job 23:8–10,14 ESV)
Sometimes one of the reasons that God seems to be silent at those crucial times of decision is that He has left the decision up to us and wants us to make wise and godly decisions and take responsibility for subsequent action and outcomes. David Berg wrote about the different options that Christians may face within God’s will, and how it delights God to leave decisions up to us:
It may surprise you to know that God likes you, His children, to make your own choices within His will. I know you delight yourself in the Lord most of all and want to do His will. But when we do, it is His delight to also give us the desires of our hearts, because He’s the one who puts them there when we’re pleasing Him (Psalm 37:4).
It even pleases the Lord to give us our personal choice between several alternative goods, all within His will, if it is our personal desire, even as we would our own children in letting them pick out their own personal choice of a toy, or an outing, or a pleasure, as long as it is safe and good for them. This is one thing people don’t seem to understand about God: He really likes to give us our choice, even as we do our own children, as long as it is not something bad for us, or bad for others.
God created human beings with the capacity for human volition, which includes choosing among options, and the ability to take the steps that move us toward fulfilling our choices. Theologians Lewis and Demarest explain this as follows:
Freedom of the will may mean both power to choose among options and ability to move toward realizing the one chosen. First, human freedom involves a capacity of choice among ends. We accord with God’s revealed values and purposes, for they are for our best. There may be several specific options that do not violate revealed moral guidelines, so we may have alternative choices that are moral. … Second, the human will also includes a capacity for self-determination. Having chosen an alternative, we are not free if we do not have ability to move toward that goal and do what we want to do. We are free volitionally when we have both freedom of alternative choices and ability to attain the selected end.
Adam and Eve, the first human beings, were faced with decisions in the Garden of Eden from the start. God had created them as rational beings in His image, and immediately placed decision-making in their court. Adam was tasked with the responsibility of naming all the living creatures, and there is no indication in the Bible that God told him how or what to name the animals. God committed this task to him, knowing that the rational and intellectual qualities He had gifted him with would enable him to make wise decisions. Of course, by the same token, self-determination also gave him the freedom to make wrong decisions, as we see by Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God’s commandment. Their decision to eat the forbidden fruit stood in opposition to God’s express will and resulted in the fall of man and all the associated negative outcomes.
The fall gave entrance to sin, and sin created a rift between the Creator and His creation. Thankfully, Jesus paid the price for our sins and enabled us to be reconciled to God and to enter into relationship with Him. Not only are we reconciled, but through our personal choices to love Him and accept Jesus’ sacrifice, we have been set on a pathway to intimacy with God. The marital metaphor used in the Bible to describe the intimate spiritual relationship between Jesus and His church represents the passionate union of heart, mind, and spirit that Jesus seeks with each of us. As we love God passionately and intimately, and grow our faith through studying His Word and living according to its precepts, that relationship takes us on a journey filled with options and alternatives, many of which will represent good and godly possibilities.
Part of the journey to intimacy with God and living a God-filled productive life is learning to make wise and godly decisions that will continue to grow our relationship and enhance our faith and fruitfulness as we trust in His ever-present providential care. As we commit our ways to Him and seek to please Him and do those things that are pleasing in His sight, we can have confidence in our relationship with Him; we can know that He will be present with us through all the decisions, small and great, that face us throughout our lives.
Now may the God of peace … equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Genesis 32:24–30.
 Romans 8:28.
 Matthew 22:37–38. And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
 Romans 12:2.
 Jeremiah 29:13. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
 Proverbs 3:6. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (NKJV).
Psalm 16:6. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
 The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 108–109.
 David Berg, “Choice,” 1973.
 Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest, Integrative Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 156–157.
 1 John 3:21–22. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
 Hebrews 13:20–21.