I’m not talking about what to choose off the menu or what show to watch on Netflix—though we should probably spend a little more time with those decisions, too.
I’m talking about the decisions that seem to have significant weight to them.
Perhaps the decision has a meaningful impact on someone else—or lots of someones. Maybe your choice determines the next season. It could be that depending on your decided direction, something dies and something new begins.
You might be feeling a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, or just a healthy responsibility. If you’re not in this place today, you will be.
And when you and I are faced with these big decisions, here’s my hope:
That we would move from…
Worry —> Wisdom
Prayer —> Peace
Wisdom is possible, even when you’re afraid.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
And peace is possible.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Perhaps you’ve heard that before. But what does it look like in real life? On a Tuesday? When your kids are screaming or your accounts are empty or that big decision is looming and you’re not ready to pull the trigger?
What follows are seven (7) ways to pray and listen for God’s direction, followed by one final point that you can’t miss.
But first, an important introductory point.
0. Make the first or fundamental decision, and don’t get distracted by later decisions.
Do you know the first and most important decision? So many people get stuck because they are worried about Decision 32 when they still haven’t made Decision 1. There may be 100 steps in the journey, but you’ll never get there if you don’t take the fist step—and make the first decision.
Sure, begin with the end in mind. But you have no idea what the end will look like! It’s hidden. And you’re co-creating it with a God who’s waiting for you to trust and make your move.
Make the very best decision you can in stage one. Then, evaluate, and repeat for stage two.
And here are seven ways you can make these decisions:
What does your gut say?
Malcolm Gladwell called this the “blink” reaction. In the moment, when you first encounter the options, you have a sense in your gut. And your gut is usually right.
The problems come because…
- We’ve ignored our gut for so long, we’ve lost touch.
- We tend to care too much about what others think and distrust our own instincts.
- We ignore our blind bias.
We all have blindspots. And based on our backgrounds and experiences, we’ve picked up some blind spots along the way.
We probably have a bias against a person or group or path because of pain we experienced earlier in our life. Our blind bias might lead us astray because we haven’t properly dealt with the pain and aren’t aware of how it colors our decision-making.
Thus, it’s important to use multiple tools when making big decisions. Here’s another one:
2. Circling Prayer
This one I borrow from Mark Batterson and his book, “The Circle Maker.” After reading the book, I began the habit of writing down the big decisions I need to make in a journal. Then, I draw a circle around the issue and pray. Every circle is a prayer, waiting on God to bring clarity to decide and courage to act. Now, I have journals that look back on with gratitude. They are full of prayers along my journey, showing me how God has come through and moved me to decision.
Pray. Circle the issue. Circle it today. Circle it tonight. Circle it tomorrow and every day after until you get clarity on the decision or direction.
“Prayer is the difference between seeing with our physical eyes and seeing with our spiritual eyes.” ― Mark Batterson
3. Wisdom of Counsel
Ask for guidance. There are people in your life that have logged more years, have different expertise and unique perspectives. Ask for guidance.
But only ask a few. Too many opinions can be paralyzing. Know yourself, and limit your inputs. Yet seek input, nonetheless.
Lazy people consider themselves smarter than seven wise counselors. (Proverbs 26:16)
4. Fleece Test
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” (Judges 6:39)
I use the “Fleece test” in a similar way to Gideon—when I sense God might be telling me to do something I don’t really want to do.
“Ok, if this is You speaking/leading, you’re going to need to prove it.”
Gideon asked God to do something ridiculous. He put a fleece out on the ground overnight and told God to make it dry even though the ground would be covered with dew. From my experience, God doesn’t always play along with my little “tests”. But, then again, sometimes God does.
Once, when my family was considering whether or not to sell a house, I prayed and told God that we would sell if we got a certain dollar amount out of the house that seemed very unlikely. Until we were offered that amount. So we moved.
I wouldn’t use the “Fleece Test” in isolation (or any test, for that matter). But as confirmation to other data points and your gut instinct, it doesn’t hurt to throw a fleece in the lawn, so to speak.
5. North Star
My friend Liz says that her Grandmother is her North Star. God has used her Grandmother at various times in her life to point her in the right direction. Where there was fear or uncertainly, Grandmother had a word of inspiration, or her presence came at a pivotal moment that gave Liz boldness to act. Sort of like a star in the sky, showing up once in a while to help you get to the next right place.
…the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the [Jesus] was. (Matthew 2:9)
For me, Hilary (my wife) has been a North Star. When she feels unwavering confidence about something, I trust it. Most of the time, Hilary is ready and wiling to follow my vision, support my ideas, and chase down our shared dreams. But sometimes, I’m slow on the uptake and she has to tell me, “This is the way.”
Hilary has a default bias, like everyone else. But when the bias (or blindspot) isn’t part of the equation, Hilary’s track record on the North Star decisions is 100%.
Do you have a North Star Person in your life?
Think CSI or Dexter. When scientists enter a crime scene and measure the trajectory of a bullet, we’ve seen them use a red laser to trace the path of the bullet—from where it started to where it landed. This, too, is a great place to start as you consider decision-making.
Where has this story come from? What has God been doing up until now? How is history our teacher?
What is God doing now? Where are we in this time and place?
Given the line of trajectory, where does this seem this is going from here?
In other words, if God is consistent and telling a bigger story, what might God be desiring to do next? And how can I align my choices?
Leadership Note: This is how I view “Vision”. The future is unknown and our actions are part of creating it. However, God is telling a bigger story and working good from bad in all things. I want to make sure my “vision” for the future pays attention to past and present and draw a line of trajectory toward a better future.
7. Following Favor
“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” —Jesus (Matthew 10:14)
Another way of saying it is,
Go with the people who want to with you.
Usually, when a door closes it’s not a physical barrier but relational one. It might feel like rejection, but it’s not final. It’s a turning point.
Rejection is just redirection. You followed the favor to get to where you where. That’s done now. Time to follow new favor.
If they don’t listen or can’t hear you, don’t be mad. Go to the next town… relationship… business… church… opportunity.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that your approach/message/ideas need to change and adapt for a changing world. But if you’re not being stubborn and your counselors aren’t exposing a blindspot, keep moving.
Follow the favor of God.
After all, it’s ultimately about being the person God designed you to be. And being that person in a living, breathing relationship with God. Your challenging circumstances and difficult decisions will drive you to your knees—and back to relationship.
Recap and Conclusion
1 – Gut-Check
2 – Circling Prayer
3 – Wisdom of Counsel
4 – Fleece Test
5 – Trajectory
6 – North Star
7 – Follow the Favor
“Finally, I learned that we shouldn’t seek answers as much as we should seek God.” ― Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker
And last but not least, remember, the circumstances of your life are being used to make you more YOU! And to help you better connect with God. You were made for connection: to God, self, others.
Don’t miss the lesson within the lesson. God cares more about walking and talking with you than about perfect scores and unflawed decision-making. The Designer wants you to be YOU. Not a robotic religious regurgitator of empty moral legalism or dogmas.
God—The Great Guide—is with you, and for you.
*If you want to book a call to talk with Caleb about spiritual coaching that is helping many busy professionals break from anxiety and overwhelm while making better decisions, being more present, and enjoying their lives… CLICK HERE. The 30 minute call is free.