When In Doubt, Choose Something

Doubt in James

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a special process that aided in discernment? I’d like to have a special prayer that I could pray, or maybe a unique combination of Scripture reading mixed with advice from wise friends. I’d also like to throw out fleeces. I’d like to construct random experiences that I ask God to show himself through, hoping beyond hope that he will tell me what I should do.

It sounds quite animistic if I’m honest.

It reminds me of Mongolia where they have special altars called ovoos—mounds of rocks found on the top of mountains and hills that act as places of worship. It’s on these rocks that they place milk, money, and scarves in an attempt to receive blessing and wisdom and dare I say, discernment, for their future.

These altars come to my mind often when I have a decision to make and I like to joke. I joke that to find God’s will, I should walk around the house backwards three times fast, throwing salt over my shoulder and while this is a sad joke, it hints at my underlying desire.

I want God to tell me what to do. I want to know that my future will be blessed. I don’t want to fail or be humiliated or make Jesus angry.  I want magic and fortune telling.  I want absolute assurance that I made the right choice.

Discernment is always connected to choice and knowledge; it is about being both decisive and wise. Yet, honestly, unless we are about to be willfully sinful, decisions are simply that: decisions based on the knowledge we currently have. They are a point of convergence, from one path to another, maybe right or maybe wrong, certainly different. Each unique choice we make will lead us down a path with its own set of struggles and victories.

As Christians, we spend so much energy worrying about whether or not the choices we make will be the right choice, or if they are in God’s will, but what if we began to view our choices as the means through which we gain wisdom.

In this way, discernment is more about the ability for each of us to course correct then it is about making the perfect decision in the first place.

There is freedom in that.

Where an animist has to pay their dues to gain wisdom, hoping to appease the spirits that are in control, we are told in scripture that, “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)”

This means that we can ask God for wisdom directly and if we are not given any new insight then we can trust that he has already given us all that we need to choose.

And the choice is ours.

Is this man trustworthy, God? Should I go back to school? How should I discipline my children? Where should I move? What should I be doing with my free time? Should I stay overseas? Will my kids be ok in this isolated country?

We can only answer these questions based on the knowledge that we currently have and our knowledge is flawed. In ten years this knowledge will be different, we will know more, we will have gained wisdom through trial, error and lived experience. Yet, living in the conscience of the moment is all that we can do and it is good.

James 1:6 continues, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

When we are consistently second guessing, looking to find the latest, greatest word from God, we miss out on the freedom and ease that the gospel brings to us. We become tossed in turmoil, seeking animistically what has already been given to us: God’s wisdom, freedom to choose, grace to fail and an all-powerful, insanely loving God that works intricately in the world to make it good. 

How do you seek God’s wisdom? Do you struggle believing that God has already provided the wisdom you need?  Do you find yourself seeking the answer over God?

10 Comments

  1. Bayta Schwarz April 29, 2019

    Thank you, Joy! These are really helpful thoughts for someone whose middle name is “indecisive” 😉

    1. Joy Smalley May 1, 2019

      Thank you, Bayta! You and I just might share the same middle name, lol.

  2. Lynn P April 29, 2019

    Thanks, Joy! I love the “without finding fault” part of James 1:5. I always seem to think that God is going to jump on me if I make the “wrong” decision. I needed the reminder that He is “for me.” and that He isn’t trying to hide His wisdom from me, but rather has given me freedom as I seek to do His will. As always, your words challenge and comfort me. Thank you!

    1. Joy Smalley May 1, 2019

      Thank you, Lynn! I love that part too, it brings me peace to trust that God is not going to be disappointed in me if I make a decision that is “wrong”. Bessings to you, Lynn!

  3. Nancy Peckham April 30, 2019

    Thanks, Joy! I love your insights. I look forward to more posts from you.

    Knowing God’s will comes over time: start with the small things, and ask Him for direction. Get used to hearing His voice in your heart. Also, in some decisions, there is no “right” or “wrong” one. God often gives us freedom of choice.

    Love,
    Nancy

    1. Joy Smalley May 1, 2019

      Thank you, Nancy!

  4. Angie April 30, 2019

    “…we are told in scripture that, “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)” This means that we can ask God for wisdom directly and if we are not given any new insight then we can trust that he has already given us all that we need to choose.”

    This is such a great thought as our family is in that section of time where we are headed overseas soon but not soon enough that it feels certain. I keep reminding myself that we are following His leading overseas and it is all in His hands, no matter what happens.

    1. Joy Smalley May 1, 2019

      Hi Angie! Man, you are in the middle of waiting for God to move, aren’t you? That is such a difficult season to walk through as you long to be overseas but are standing in the uncertainty of timing. May God give you hope and strength to persevere in ways that are tangible for you to see. Blessings.

  5. Mel-J. May 2, 2019

    Our decisions, though, don’t impact just us. They impact others. We make decisions for others. My husband and I make decisions for our kids, for example, in their schooling. I agree that we can live in the moment and that it is good; and that when we are in doubt, we just have to choose something.

    It is good that we chose a new school for our son this year (he finished elementary school). Did we have peace about the new school? No. Absolutely not. But we had to make a decision on a school for him to go to. Was it the right school? No. And yes. This has been a very difficult year for him. He has learned to persevere and to work hard. I’m proud of him for continuing to work hard, even though his grades do not demonstrate that. He is not encouraged by his teachers; instead, they see that he is struggling and don’t do anything about it. Do I feel good about the choice we made? Absolutely not. I doubt our decision on a regular basis.

    So I read your article and I ‘get’ what you’re saying. But I don’t fully agree. But I will keep praying that God leads us to make the next decision and pray that I will be confident that it is the right decision, knowing that God has what is best for us.

    1. Joy Smalley May 2, 2019

      I really appreciate what you are pointing out here, Mel, because you are right…our decisions do affect others and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I am so sorry that your son is having a difficult year and isn’t recieving the encouragement and help he needs from his teachers. That is so frustrating and painful as a parent to watch and I imagine it is painful and disorienting as a child to walk through. There have been decisions that I have made as a parent that have caused pain for my kids and I often wonder if the choice was the “right” one. I think that faith is taking that one step forward and trusting that God will intervene and give us understanding about a situation in his timing. I have no doubt that God will provide for both you and your son. Blessings to you and your family.

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