Decision making is tough. And it’s tougher when you’re told that all your answers are in the Bible. They’re not. Have you ever perused through Scripture, plucking out various Bible quotes, hoping to find an answer you’ve been waiting for? I’m here to tell you that you may never find it there. But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost, nor does it mean that the Bible is good for nothing. It may just mean that God desires a different kind of relationship with you than you’ve been taught to believe. We’re going to explore that relationship in this post.
A Decision Making Society
Eleanor Roosevelt once made a wise comment on our country’s culture:
“With much freedom comes responsibility.”
In a culture that prides itself on freedom, the possibilities are endless. And when the possibilities are endless, the responsibilities are too.
More possibilities means more choices. And more choices means more risk of ruining our own lives. Our fates now rest in our own hands more than ever before, and that’s frightening.
It’s the best of times, and it’s the worst of times. We face decision after pivotal decision. This way, everything becomes our own fault. Your relationship fell through? It’s because of decisions you made. Your career took a nosedive? Maybe you chose the wrong one. You financial plan failed? You must have taken too many risks. Stress and guilt are the high prices we pay for freedom.
Take the freedom to date for example. Dating is a modern invention, though it’s hard to imagine the world of relationships without it. We take a liking to a human of the opposite sex, and we’re free to run rampant with them, live with them, travel the world with them, or just see them on weekends if we so choose. But throughout history, most could never have dreamed up this luxury.
But is it a luxury?
According to a 2013 survey, many young adults in India would say no. Aged between 18-35, 74% expressed that they would prefer to have their parents choose their spouses for them. With the freedom to date comes the responsibility to choose a life partner, and it’s a responsibility that some would prefer not to have.
To the young American, arranged marriage might sound preposterous. But sometimes when I listen in on the horrific relationship complications that my friends and acquaintances face, the prospect of taking away our dating freedoms doesn’t sound so bad.
And it’s no different for career decisions. This is true of the post-industrial age, but it’s become especially true since the monetization of the internet. Not only do we get to choose from careers in medicine, law, or real estate, but now we also have the options of starting Etsy pottery businesses, or worse yet, family Youtube channels.
It used to be that people were born into careers. If your dad was a farmer, you were a farmer. If your dad was a carpenter, you were a carpenter. But now young adults get to agonize over their future careers, searching for their deepest “passion,” wondering whether or not they’ll be “truly happy,” and usually wanting to find a job that allows them to “help people.”
But for the modern Christian, decisions shouldn’t be so complicated, right? We’re supposed to let God direct us. So as long as we’re walking in step with Him, we shouldn’t have to agonize over any big decisions. He will tell us what to do. . . right?
I used to sift through Scripture in search of Bible quotes to give me clear, specific direction. I never found them. And the constant disappointment started to take a toll on my faith.
Clearly, God loves Moses more than me. Because in Exodus 3, He miraculously appears in the form of a burning bush to give Moses some crystal-clear instructions:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” - Exodus 3:1-5
And then comes the life calling:
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” - Exodus 3:7-10
Many of us long for a burning bush kind of scenario. But oftentimes, that burning bush never comes.
So when I failed to receive a specific command from God, I feared that by making my own decision and moving forward, I was somehow disobeying Him. I feared I would end up like Jonah in the fish:
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. - Jonah 1:1-3
Spoiler alert: Jonah ends up getting thrown overboard, and then this happens:
“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” - Jonah 1:17
As I made decisions without God’s “permission” or “calling,” I would sometimes fear a similar fate. But Jonah only ended up in that position because he received a specific and direct command from God and refused to obey it. So what happens when we never receive that command to begin with?
The Humanity of the Bible
The more I study the Bible (for the sake of studying it, rather than to use it as a magic 8 ball), the more I realize God has a heart to partner with us humans and our decision-making abilities. His intent was never to micromanage us.
Take a look at the Bible for instance. Paul tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Yet although Scripture is God-breathed, it would be hard to argue that the Bible is written in God’s unique voice, tone, and style. For these, He allows His partners (man) to take some creative liberties.
The more you read the Bible, the more you’ll see what I mean. I used to think that all the authors of the Bible simply heard God’s voice loud and clear from above and jotted down exactly what they heard. But I no longer think that was the case.
The Bible is an amalgam of various genres, tones, and styles. Some are literary and riveting, others are wise and aphoristic, others are biographical as is the case with the writings on Jesus. And still others are simply letters written from one man to another. One cannot read the Bible and deny its humanity. The Bible was written by different men in different time periods, with different thoughts and worldviews- and it shows.
Some might take this as evidence that the Bible is not divinely inspired. But I take it as evidence that God loves to partner with His human creations.
Atheist Richard Dawkins observes that “much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries.”
The more you read, the more you see where Dawkins is coming from. But in spite of all this, Hebrews 4:12 remains true as ever:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
I think it’s beautiful that God wanted to partner with each author in their limited knowledge and imperfect perspective. God constructed the Bible for humanity, through humanity. And this is just the beginning of His glorious partnership with us.
Decisions in Paradise
This partnership began in Eden:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’ -Genesis 2:16-17
So the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not an option. But it’s important to note that Adam and Eve were free to choose from every other tree in the garden. God didn’t provide them with a curated meal plan. He didn’t tell them to eat from one tree for breakfast and another for lunch. He simply told them what was in bounds and what was out of bounds- what was moral and what was immoral. Similarly, for us, His Word outlines what is moral and what is immoral. And within those bounds of “moral,” we are, for the most part, free to choose.
But the crazy thing about this Edenic picture is that Adam and Eve were free to make their own choices even before the veil fell between God and man. Even then, God didn’t micromanage. He wanted Adam and Eve to make their own decisions. He wanted to partner with them.
In light of this, we should consider the possibility that when we don’t hear from God, when those Bible quotes just aren’t doing it for us, and when we feel like we don’t have the tailored direction we need, maybe it’s not because something’s off. Maybe it’s not that God doesn’t hear our prayers or doesn’t care or doesn’t love us or favor us like He did Moses. Sometimes silence is a gift.
When these thoughts begin to creep in, we should remind ourselves that even in Eden, God had man make their own decisions. It has been part of His plan all along.
The Importance of the Word
Of course, we still need to act with caution and avoid immoral decisions. I’ll be the last person to ever tell you that you should “do what you feel is right.”
This whole partnership thing is not an excuse to exalt our reason above God’s, or our feelings above the Bible’s principles.
That’s why we’re called to know the Word and know it well. We’re called to meditate on it, internalize it, memorize it, dissect it, and etch it into our hearts. In case you think I’m exaggerating, here are a few verses to prove it:
● With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.-Psalm 119:10-11
● The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. -Psalm 19:7-11
● This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. -Joshua 1:8
● The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. -Psalm 37:31
● Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. -Psalm 1:1-3
● All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17
All these verses assert that a firm grasp of Scripture leads to good decision making. So our job is not to go searching for the Bible quote that tells us exactly what to do in our unique situation, but instead to internalize the Scriptures until they become the lens by which we view every decision that comes our way. So while Scripture may not tell us exactly what career to pursue or who to marry, it can give us a whole lot of wisdom in approaching those decisions. Grab a subscription box with printed Bible quotes for some wisdom on the go.
The Importance of Wisdom
Proverbs 4:5-9 says this:
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.
If God were coming to us in a burning bush every day and micromanaging our every move, we would have no need for this wisdom that Proverbs stresses.
But since we have the Bible, and since God desires to partner with us, we must study the Scriptures intently and learn to make wise decisions with confidence.
Of course, we should never be closed off to the possibility of the Holy Spirit communicating something specific to us. It’s imperative that we carve out the time and space to sit in silence and listen for His voice.
But in the event that we only hear silence, we don’t have to feel disheartened. We are still loved. Unworthy as we are, He wants us as His partners, not His puppets. He wants to partner with each one of us, in our unique perspectives and imperfections, to bring His Kingdom to earth. So be empowered today to make Scripture-informed decisions for God’s glory.
Have you ever struggled with a big decision? We would love to hear about it. Be sure to tell us in the comments!
Erica Baker is a blogger and devotional writer, helping churches and faith-based businesses put their ideas in writing.
She is passionate about pointing women to God's Word and empowering them to take fierce ownership of their discipleship to Jesus.