Not The Way I Saw it Going: On Second-Guessing Decisions

Untitled design (23)

I think perhaps a reader phrased it best a few weeks ago:

“[My husband] and I have wrestled with our “calling” to adopt years ago. We clearly felt it, and we have second guessed it almost every day since then, wondering what were we thinking? Did God really call us to this or were we just emotionally carried away, or as [this post] put it, is it an act of worship? I think in my naïveté, I assume that if I obey what I think God is clearly placing on my heart, he will “reward” me somehow with happiness and not trouble. My very wise husband points out that this is very bad theology!”

I’ve written before about my temptation to think that if I’m trusting God, leaning not on my own understanding, praying for wisdom, and all that excellent jazz—somehow I will be shielded from failure. And of course there’s a chunk of truth in there. Walking in God’s ways unquestionably shields me—us—from so much error, heartache, and, well, stupidity.

But recently I’ve also found myself questioning whether I made the right decision if there is exquisite pain involved.

Of course avoiding wrong and following the Holy Spirit is a little like Aslan pushing forward spring wherever he goes: Things come alive when God is in them. Yet perhaps I’m forgetting that Jesus, my forerunner, walked straight into God’s will—and straight into death.

A friend recently mused to me that he didn’t think God was “having favor” on him because, after he made a courageous decision, so many things were floundering and deflating around him. God must not be in this.

I wondered aloud to him of this whole theology of “closed” and “open” doors that seem to undergird so much of our decision making as Christians. Who’s to say that a closed door isn’t something through which we are to persevere, or work around? Who’s to say that an open door isn’t one through which we should proceed cautiously, or like Christ to the cross, may lead to utter loss and death before it blooms with life? Sometimes I’m so eager for signs, for certainty from God and freedom from ambiguity, that I…might even be making them up, like a thirsty person might conjure a mirage.

It even feels dangerous to me, to sense that God was “in” something—or not in it—based on what I can see. Sometimes verses carelessly extracted—like Deuteronomy 28, promises like “you will be the head and not the tail”; verses about us having authority over all things—perhaps are twisted to form God into some form of cosmic vending machine, rather than Job’s long view of Though He slay me, I will trust Him.

Marriage is maybe one of the easiest examples when. I’ve related how sometimes the vast differences between my husband and I can alienate us at times. But when I step back from whatever that thing is between us, I (sometimes) recognize how myopic I’ve been; how the zoom lens of my eye is hyper focused on the now and the pain or irritation I’m bent on eliminating, rather than twisting back to the striking panorama God’s creating, and has been—even long before our sixteen years together. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. I’m intrigued by Hebrews’ 12 idea of being “unholy like Esau”: forfeiting the invaluable for the immediate.

I love the story retold by Peter Scazzero of a wise man living on China’s frontiers. When a young man’s horse runs away and the village attempts to console its owner, his wise father asks, “What makes you so sure this is not a blessing?” When the horse returns alongside a beautiful stallion and everyone congratulates the young man, the wise man questions, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a disaster?” The son falls from the stallion, breaking his hip. Of course, everyone offers their sympathy–and again, the grandfather: “What makes you so sure this is not a blessing?” Finally, when nomads invade the border, the Chinese lose 9 out of every 10 of the summoned able-bodied men. Because he is lame, the son survives to care for his father.*

What makes you so sure? 

Second-guessing decisions, looking back with what I know now, is unquestionably a step of wisdom. Honest, humble evaluation embraces our capacity to improve, to learn. But perhaps, as my mom used to say, I can’t deal God a card He can’t play. He can redeem even my poorest, most selfish decisions. And I can take His steadfast love to the bank even when decisions I made arm-in-arm with Him feel as if they’re combusting in my hands.

This week, I hope you can experience the settling peace, not of zero regrets, but of a fiercely beloved child with a hope and a future.

This post originally appeared on A Generous Grace, our friend Janel’s personal blog. Check it out here.

More from the Blog

16 thoughts on “Not The Way I Saw it Going: On Second-Guessing Decisions”

  1. I totally agree with your edifying words. I have been saved since 1979 and I still struggle with the will of God and second guess decisions. My family is going through some heavy storms right now and some serious decisions need to be made. We are struggling as to what to do, trying to be sure that the Lord is in the center of it all. At this point of the journey, clinging to the throne and standing on the promises of God, and taking tiny steps of faith toward our answers…hoping God will Bless as we go!!

    1. Looking at the Word, it seems you are in great company with a number of strugglers, Terri! Praying for wisdom and peace in this difficult season for you and your family. Grateful for you sharing your heart, and may He indeed bless as you go forward.

  2. Janel – you said it so well! And bonus! …I’ve been wanting to find that Chinese parable story that I heard in a sermon illustration years ago! Thanks!

    I love that you are questioning the “opened and closed doors” philosophy. Along with you, I believe there is truth there, but it should be handled carefully. I also am VERY cautious with the words “God told me…” or “God showed me…” It is so easy to twist scripture or circumstances or experiences to align with the answer we are looking for, or depending on your personality, to be the opposite of what you were wanting (because God would call you to do the hard thing, wouldn’t He?). It’s so hard to extract our sinful warped perspective from the act of perceiving God’s will for our lives.

    The bottom line is we are sinful, fallible creatures who will never have a perfect understanding of the will of God. We must depend on Him, as you said, to work out everything, including our screw-ups, well intended as they may be, for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purposes.

    Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Amen!!

    1. Phil, I, too say an “Amen” to your words! I completely agree with your healthy reverence of the words “God showed/told me”. Thanks for your insight and encouragement!

  3. Thank you so much for these words. My family has been on a journey for the last 9 months after moving out of state to another. It has been difficult and yet at times I wondered if I had missed God. Now we are making preparations to move again back to the state we left. So I have found myself questioning everything to the point of anxiety, worry, sleepless nights and even physically being sick. After reading this post I know that it was meant for me. Thank you. God is not done with me yet.

    1. Julie, thank you so much for your openness. My heart hurts so much for you as I read this; what a road you’ve been on! Sounds like it’s been an incredibly difficult season, and now you’re facing more transition. I can only imagine the grief there. Praying right now that God would indeed saturate you and your home with deep peace–and provide you even some small, tangible reminders that your names are written on His hands.

  4. Thank you. Abba spoke to me through this. I am at this point concerning many choices I have made over the past 20 years. My life over the past few years has looked like a dream to outsiders, but I am crushed. I feel like I’m losing my faith…like all these things I thought Abba was leading me into were maybe just my imagination because they don’t seem to be working out in fruitful ways. I keep praying that he will show me what the purpose was, but he is silent. Was it really him or just my fantasy ideas of him leading me that caused me to be in these messes that look from my perspective to be unfruitful?

    Thank you for reminding me that he is still bigger than everything and that he is working behind the scenes of my perspective to do great things in ways I may never know. You have helped to give me a bit of much needed hope at a what looks like a season endless drought.

    1. Emily, thank you for expressing with such vulnerability. I can’t imagine what you’ve been walking through as you reevaluate based on what sound like some very painful years. If I’m hearing you right, I’m getting your rawness of heart and maybe even some deep loss and grief, which just makes my heart sore for you. I am praying right now that God will unfold for you just a few intimate, tangible reminders of care, purpose, and hope specifically for you–and that He’ll soothe these tender, scraped places with that peace, vision, and purpose you hope for. Grace and peace, Janel

  5. Theresa boedeker

    Wise words. We need to remember not to let our emotions or circumstances of the moment dictate whether God is for or against us. Behind our decision or not.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top