Apr 082018 4 Responses

The Question No One Asks…But Should

One of the truly fun aspects of being a pastor is being able to walk with people through major decisions. It’s something I do every week. From high school students trying to figure out what college to attend to young adults considering job opportunities to more “mature” friends trying to discern if they should take care of their parents at home or take them to a nursing home, I’m involved in a variety of choices every single week.

The most common question I’m asked on a regular basis is “What should I do?” It always follows a scenario:

  • “I have a good job but my friend offered me a job at a company she is starting.”
  • “My husband is cheating on me. I don’t want a divorce, but I feel like I should leave him.”
  • “I told mom I would never put her in a nursing home but she’s becoming too much for me to handle at home.”
  • “We’ve almost got the house paid off, but I heard about this home in foreclosure that we could get a good deal on.”

The details are rarely the same, but the question is always identical. It’s understandable. We are a people fixated on outcomes because it’s in the outcomes where life is experienced. We don’t want to make the wrong decision because we don’t want to live with a bad result.

It makes sense, but the way to get to good outcomes is not by fixating on the outcomes. Ironically, asking “what should I do” is not the best way to figure out what to do.

Forget “what should I do.” Eventually, it can be asked, but it’s not the starting point. Instead, there is another question which I am never asked.

In all my years of being a pastor and assisting others with decisions, I don’t remember a single person ever describing a situation and then saying, “Is there anything in my life which might blind me from making a good decision?”

Our focus should be inward, not outward. We should ensure we are in the best mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual place we can be in order to make a decision rather than focusing on the actual decision to be made. It’s the process, not the outcome, which deserves our attention.

The Wills of God

In Christian terms, the question “what should I do” is often asked as “what is God’s will for my life.” Believing that God is actively involved in our lives and has a purpose for us, Christians seek His will. However, the phrase is often used three different ways.

1. God’s Sovereign Will. This is God’s ultimate plan from the beginning of time which cannot be thwarted no matter what we choose.

2. God’s Moral Will. Some things are right and some things are wrong. God’s Word reveals this to us.

3. God’s Personal Will. God has a specific reason for creating us. He knows our name and includes us in His plan.

The different uses of the phrase “God’s will” helps explain some difficult questions. Is everything that happens God’s will? In one way yes and the other way no. Yes, everything that happens has at least God’s divine permission and plays a role in his sovereign story. Yet, when we disregard Biblical teaching and choose to go on our way, we are stepping outside of God’s will. We are violating God’s moral will.

The Bible has much to say regarding God’s sovereign and moral wills. Yet it doesn’t talk so much about his personal will. There are references and inferences, but every follower of Jesus wishes the Bible would be more definitive about what we should do in specific situations. We want more about his personal will, but God repeatedly revealed to us His sovereign and moral wills. Why?

There’s a simple truth–when we submit to God’s sovereign will and obey God’s moral will, His personal will takes care of itself. We don’t have to fret. We don’t have to worry. We should humbly seek Him and honestly attempt to discern what is wise, but we don’t have to be concerned with destroying God’s plans for us simply because we missed His personal will.

The Main Focus

This is why we should fixate, not on what we should do, but on who we are. We should focus on obeying God’s moral will and that will give us the clear eyes and open heart to discern His personal will. So when someone comes to my office seeking my advice on what they should do, I rarely give them a specific answer. I might have some insight or guidance, but for the most part, I focus more on who the person is rather than what they should do. I try to get their attention toward God’s moral will rather than focusing on His personal will.

If only I could convince myself to do the same. Too often, I ignore God’s sovereign and moral wills while fixating on His personal will. Rather than looking at my heart, I try to manipulate the right outcome. While the desire is commendable, this process isn’t productive. When we continually focus on decisions, we will get a few right and a few wrong. Yet when we continually focus on our hearts we are far more likely to make wise choices.

By taking our focus off of the outcomes, we get better outcomes. Don’t focus on what you should do as much as on who you want to be. Get the who right and the what will follow.

4 Responses to The Question No One Asks…But Should

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