Making decisions can be hard enough without the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with them.
Emotions are a confusing thing. I love the mountain top experiences of conferences or missions trips, but I also have grown to expect the lows that come a month or so later as doubt creeps in.
Most students I encountered at our P2C PLUS student conference were facing decisions: to go on a missions trip, to apply for an internship, join staff, or what to do after graduation. Or it could be decisions about a relationship, navigating family change, or even changing their major, again.
Walking away from folly
I’ve made some serious decisions that were mostly led by emotion: starting a dating relationship, going on a missions trip, and even applying for full-time staff with Power to Change.
There have been moments where I thought these “high” emotions were equivalent to God’s “will” or “call” on my life. And when they worked out for the best it appeared to confirm that. But when they crashed and burned, I was forced to question my own certainty:
Did God really call me to do that?
Did I mess up and make a mistake?
How can I be sure in the future?
Making decisions based on the foundation of emotion is folly, because our emotions change. You may never expect to experience a season of depression or anxiety, but in that season is God “calling” you to stop the ministry you’re doing? Not necessarily. Just because you don’t feel like singing and worshipping God, is God “calling” you to not worship? Definitely not.
I have come to understand that there’s a lot more to God’s “call” on my life than my emotions. Relying on emotions and seeking a peace that only seems to allude me in order to determine God’s call on my life seems like a big gamble—and my parents would agree!
God calls me to……?
God’s “call” is a tricky subject and I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. But someone who has navigated five years of undergrad, gone on two mission trips, graduated and worked full-time, done two national internships with Power to Change, and is about to embark on a new season of life, I’ve had some experience with making big decisions.
The only things that are eternal in this world are God, the Bible, and the souls of men and women. The Bible is God’s Word, and it contains the story of God’s plan to redeem us and instructions for how we should live our lives in order to bring the most glory to God. We can act with confidence with regard to any action or attitude that God instructs for us in his Word. It is in fact God’s call on our lives to act in accordance with his Word. God calls us to do many important things and we can find the answer to those in the Bible. In fact, in 1 John 5:14-15 says,
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
If we ask God according to what God calls us to do in his Word, he will hear us and answer!
So what does God call you to do?
God calls me to:
- be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:8)
- love him and others to the best of my full ability (Matthew 22:37-40)
- share the life-changing message of Jesus with others and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20)
- be a good steward of what I’ve been given (1 Peter 4:10)
- respect authority placed over me by God (Romans 13:1-2)
These are the basics.
But what about the smaller (a.k.a HUGE) choices of where to live, who to marry, or where to work?
I believe there’s greater flexibility and more grace in those decisions than we may feel at first. God desires for us to first be holy, but also happy. And these aren’t contradictory.
God is not seeking greater sacrifice, but greater obedience. – Eric Rose
The Holy Spirit in decision-making
God wants your full and utter surrender of your life to him. He wants you to entrust everything to him, including every minute detail of your life. In return, he has given you himself, the Holy Spirit, to guide and direct you. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16:13), and he fills us with God’s power and ability to live the Christian life with fullness and joy.
Two years ago at the P2C PLUS conference I felt like God was “calling” me to apply to join an international internship team to Peru. I told everyone this is finally what God was calling me to do. I was relieved to at last have some direction! (Yes, an answer to give my mother!)
After I filled out the application it became apparent through a series of events that I wasn’t going to Peru and I felt back at square one. Was I wrong? It felt like God wanted me to go to Peru, but then the direction of my life seemed to change, like, three times since I submitted that application. What was God doing? Was he fully in control like I thought he was?
God was fully in control. And it was his desire for me to serve him as an intern with Power to Change at McMaster University–a location I never imagined I would end up in. My perception on God “calling” me was wrong.
God clarifies his will for our life often after we obey, not before. – Claude Hickman
What bread are you seeking?
God, simply through his Holy Spirit, leads us to make small decisions, step by step, and in obedience we need to surrender and follow him. God desires for us to trust him in the process of decision making instead of worrying about the large end result of our life and the “call”. We place so much extra unnecessary pressure on ourselves worrying about our “life loaf” when we need to trust God with our “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
The Holy Spirit led me to apply for an internship. And then he led me through the process whereby I landed at McMaster. There God gave me new experiences and desires, and through his Holy Spirit led me on a missions trip, and then led me to return for another year.
We place so much extra unnecessary pressure on ourselves worrying about our “life loaf” when we need to trust God with our “daily bread”. – Erin Ford
Six questions to ask yourself
Before I made the decision to apply to intern or a missions trip or full-time ministry, I asked myself these questions:
1. Do I trust the leadership?
2. Is their mission/vision also mine?
3. Do I have desire to do it?
4. Does this opportunity line up with the strengths and experience God has given me?
5. Will this opportunity help me grow closer to God or grow in the commands he gives in the Bible?
6. Is this a logical next step of faith for me to take?
God’s joy and glory increases as our joy in and dependence on him increases. God cares about our happiness and wants us to live full and fulfilled lives. This doesn’t mean that we will get everything we want, or have every desire filled. The joy comes in knowing deep in your soul that Jesus is enough.
No matter what decision you make, know that Jesus is enough for you, and he will continue to lead you through each hoop in life. The Holy Spirit dwells inside you! Trust that he is speaking to you; learn to know his voice and then no matter what you decide, God will continue to work all things together for your good and the fulfillment of his purposes (Romans 8:28).