Decisions barrage college students — all of us, actually — as they explore their lives beyond parental instruction. This article by guest writer Joe Keller appeared first here on The Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission. Here are seven decision-making guidelines.
The university years are filled with potential and opportunity. Students are exploring the realities of their identity in Christ beyond their parents’ instruction.
There’re not playing with Monopoly money anymore. The training wheels are off, and they know it. These are the days that shape a trajectory for the rest of their lives. At times life can become overwhelming.
What major should I choose? Should I take out more student loans? Should I go overseas this summer? Should I get married? What if I don’t get married? Should I create a startup company and surf every day for the rest of my life?
There is no checklist to making the perfect life decision. In fact, in most cases, the decision is made between two very good choices. There is, however, a biblically principled process that can guide everyone (whether you are a university student or not) to navigate through these choices without going crazy.
(Philippians 4:8; Proverbs 4:26)
You make decisions in real time and space. Therefore, you must think realistically about the situation.
Begin by simply defining the decision before you. What is the nature and scope of the exact choice being considered?
Then gather available relevant information to create a full understanding of all the related parts. Don’t rush it. If there is not enough information to construct a reasonable decision, wait and pray until you can.
Once you have everything on the table, begin to form realistic alternative choices based on these facts. Begin to predict what some of those implications could be, instead of trying to solve every problem that might not actually exist; this will give you an accurate context to make a decision.
Know God’s Will
(2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:2-3)
Contrary to what some might think, God’s will is not distant or mysterious. He has given it perfectly and completely in His Word.
The Scriptures contain all things for life and godliness and are relevant to the decision before you. Look at all the passages that relate directly and indirectly to your decision in order to identify the biblical framework for making the decision. As a foundational starting point, consider Mathew 22:37-40:
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. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’
How does your decision reflect your commitment to loving God with all of your being and resources? Consider how this decision impacts those around you as an expression of your devotion to God.
As you consider your decision according to God’s revealed will, you will have a courage and confidence that whatever decision you make is within God’s plan.
Check Your Motives
(Romans 12:1-3; Proverbs 4:23; Hebrews 4:11-13)
Decisions are driven by our desires. What do you want out of this decision? Why do you care so much about this? Is it good? Is it acceptable before God and man? How is it going to help you and/or others mature in Christ?
Consider the meaning and motive behind the decisions you desire as this will help you not just to understand the choices before you, but why they matter in the first place.
Seek Counsel not Consensus
Trusted friends and leadership in your life are a gift from God. They help you consider your situations from different vantage points. Think out loud and honestly with them, and welcome them into your life to bring clarity to your reflections.
Don’t look for people who think exactly like you. Rather, find a few likeminded Christians who can reflect with you on this decision biblically. This is where the leadership in your local church becomes an essential asset to your decision making process. Avoid group sourcing just to support a decision you have already made.
Be Actively Dependent
(Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Peter 5:7)
Thinking through life decisions can bring about incredible amounts of fear and anxiety. The temptation is to overanalyze and micromanage every detail to eliminate any margin for error and negative consequences. The process of making a life decision places your heart in a remarkably dependent place.
Opportunities, resources, relationships, and timing are all factors that shape decisions, but they are not controlling. Rather, they are all under the sovereign control of our God (Isaiah 46:9-10; Psalm 136; Romans 8:28-29).
Therefore, take these moments as opportunities to explore and expand your active dependency upon the Lord. Ask Him for help. He understands your challenges and desires and is committed to orchestrating all things together to make you into His likeness. So, trust Him.
(James 1:22; Philippians 4:8-9)
Everyone wants to get a good deal. That is why we research and read reviews for just about anything we want to buy, read, or watch. In major life decisions, sometimes you are unable to calculate all the variables and implications of a decision, and it is paralyzing.
Most major life decisions are the cumulative effect of many smaller choices in the same direction. Take your confidence in the sovereignty of God, the direction from His Word, and the clarifying counsel from trusted friends and make a decision that is a logical next step in the direction forward. You will find that the same biblical principles that you apply in the small decisions of life are the principles applied to the big life decisions in the future.
So, do something. You might find that walking down a path a few miles gives you a vista to see forward.
(Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
The process is everything, and you all will worship something in the process. This way that you make decisions should reflect a Godward, worshipful context for whatever the impact your life decision makes.
The goal of living well is to delight in the goodness and greatness of God in the everyday moments of life—including your decisions. That goal is met through the power of the gospel and the everyday opportunities to worship God. He has the whole thing under control.
Worship Him throughout the process of making a life decision and continue to do so after the decision is made; you can know that in all things, God is praised.