How to be a Wise Decision Maker
Making decisions has always been hard for me. I have often found myself in the middle of the office supply aisle at Wal-Mart agonizing over which pen is really going to serve my needs best, and if getting a higher quality pen outweighs the higher cost. Or sometimes it’s Amazon. I have scrolled through countless pages of iPhone cases, searching for the one that has the best reviews, the best cost, and best eye-catching design. In some ways, living in Haiti has laughably made that trait worse! Coming from a place where the menu is predictable and unchanging week to week to a cereal aisle in America where the options are limitless can be paralyzingly overwhelming at best. I say that partially in jest, but to a certain extent it’s true. My lengthy decision-making can be amusing for some people to observe. One of the first times I came back to the States after moving to Haiti, on a road trip with my parents and sister, I found myself wide-eyed and immobilized by the vast quantity of candy bars to choose from at Quick Trip. I chose one, second guessed my decision, put it back, chose another, put it back, and finally, after a few more candy bar exchanges, decided to opt for the chocolate covered doughnuts instead. A good 10 minutes after entering the store I returned to the car, finding my family chuckling at my inability to simply choose what snack I wanted to eat.
How does one make wise decisions? I don’t mean choosing what shoes to buy or choosing what drink to order at Starbucks. I mean the decisions that have the capacity to change the shape of your life; the decisions that are forks in the road; the decisions that become monuments in your life. I recently found myself in a position of having to make one of those decisions. And the most difficult part wasn’t that I wanted one choice over the other or that one was blatantly wrong. It was that both choices laid before me were good and that God was giving me a choice. He was trusting me with a choice.
Sometimes we come to forks in the road and we know, based on Scripture, which direction to turn our feet. Scripture is the first test and filter in making a decision. 2 Timothy says that God’s Word is profitable, making us complete and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17). We measure the choices we have against the Word of Truth, and if a choice falls short, then it must be scratched off our list of options. Simple.
But sometimes in weighing options against divinely inspired Scripture, we come to find that all the options in front of us align with the words of God. And it is then that we find ourselves flummoxed. How can I be expected to make a wise decision if Scripture is silent on my specific dilemma? How can I know I am choosing the right path if there is not one that is blatantly wrong? Stress and anxiety begin to press in at the corners of our minds, and fear of making a wrong decision can easily overwhelm the heart. And it’s paralyzing! It is in those moments that I find my own heart begging for wisdom, pleading for an answer. But God doesn’t often give audible answers or guidance. He does, however, mold and shape us into people of wisdom and equip us with what we need to make decisions. This is the guidance he “does” in our hearts and lives, the guidance that is perhaps not as clear cut as we would sometimes like, but is nevertheless better for the sanctification of our heart.
While Scripture may be silent on the specific dilemma you and I may be facing, it is abounding with references of what wisdom looks like and where to get wisdom. Proverbs 19:20 says that a person who listens to counsel and receives instruction will be wise. We need to surround ourselves with wise, trusted people and hear the advice and admonition they give – even if we think we know better. Proverbs 11:2 tells us that arrogance and pride has no place in wisdom, but is rather made up of humility. We need to foster a heart of humility. Ephesians 5:15–16 says that a wise person is one who is making the most of their time, taking advantage of every opportunity. We need to open our eyes to see the opportunities placed before us and act on them. James tells us in James 3:17 that wisdom is pure, peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without pretense. This is wisdom and this list is by no means exhaustive. So often, I waste time being frustrated and fearful when faced with a difficult decision, when I should actually be focused on cultivating wisdom and reveling in the freedom and gift God gives in choosing between multiple good options. That He would even deem to give me, the sinner that I am, one good choice is enough to make my heart sing with thanksgiving.
We can also rest in the knowledge that while God does give us the freedom to choose, He also has absolutely determined what our lives will be. I plan my way, but the Lord determines my steps (Proverbs 16:9). It’s not one or the other. It’s both – at the same time. And I know that He will work each step that I take for my ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
The Bible is not silent on what wisdom looks like, nor is it silent on where to find wisdom. James tells us to merely ask – ask for wisdom from a God who delights in generosity and we will receive it (James 1:5)! Proverbs 2:6 tells us that the words of the Lord are full of knowledge and understanding. Paul tells us in Colossians 2 that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Wisdom comes from time and experience, yes, but the best and most treasured wisdom comes from gazing intently at Christ and endlessly studying His Word.
The past several months have given me multiple opportunities to practice this truth and hone my decision-making skills. I pray that as fellow believers and followers of Christ we are able to purposefully cultivate, through the Spirit’s work, a heart of wisdom so that when difficult decisions do arise, we can make them with joy and freedom in Christ.