Sunday 10 January 2016

Passionate Decision-Making Part 2: Common Decision Dilemmas

I wrote this as a supplement to the previous post: "Developing the DMTP". Decision making is sometimes not so straightforward after all, and even after employing our DMPT, we still get stuck. Thus I will address some common dilemmas that we face and also what I think is the purpose of these decision-making situations (in other words, how we can grow while making decisions in such dilemmas).

All Options are Equally Good (at least to your knowledge)
In such cases, we have the limitation of 'imperfect information'. The natural response is to gather more information: wait till closer to date, ask relevant people, seek Godly counsel, sample (if possible). Assuming all these are already done, and yet the options still look more or less similar, I think any option is fine. The whole point of decision-making is to practice our faith and honor God. If we have consulted God and have worn His lens throughout the entire process and employing a developed DMTP, we can be assured that all decisions will ultimately advance God's kingdom and thus "please Him in every way" literally. (Colossians 1:10) At times, on hindsight, we may discover that an alternative option would have actually been better. But there is no way we can actually know that until we carried out the decision, and there are also times when we discover that the decision we made was the best amongst the options. However, since we can't control that, all we can do is be assured and glad that we've have done our best to make our decision and that the rest is God's part.

I also want to add that when we see that all options are equally good, it will be wise to involve our spiritual community. Perhaps based on what we know, the options are the same, but they may be different from our leaders' and spiritual community' vantage point may not. Perhaps they have been through it themselves and thus have the benefit of hindsight. Or that God had told them some things as they prayed and intercede for you. So do approach them, and when you do, don't treat their opinions as mere 'suggestions' but do truly try your best to obey. It is their responsibility and love to look after us after all. God will deal with them if they give crappy/careless advice. If you disagree with what they say, don't ignore or label them, but instead discuss and negotiate. Let them know what we think and why we disagree, help them to understand us, if not for this particular decision, then for future decisions you're going to make. Learn from them through this process. We want to employ our leaders' and spiritual communities' collective wisdom in our DMTP for our own specific situations to make the best and most suitable decision.

Purpose of Dilemma: Being more familiar in continually involving God in our DMTP (as we ponder upon all the options several times) and know where and how to seek and find Godly counsel from our leaders and spiritual communities. 

Need More Time to Decide
Many decisions come with a foreseeable deadline in the near future. Deadlines are important to help us move on in life: if we have infinite time, sometimes we may keep on procrastinating and not start employing our DMTP. The lack of time results in a sense of urgency. Personally, I think that some of such situations is God's test for us: Have we been continually in touch with Him, asking Him for His specific will in our lives? Have we been growing in the knowledge of God and His Word? If we don't, perhaps that's why we feel like we need more time. Jesus has limited time on Earth, but it doesn't seem like He ever expressed any sort of urgency in terms of decision-making (this is my personal opinion.) Going to places as He walked around in towns, He was always stopped by random people to fulfill their requests. But Jesus was never 'rushed' - He always stopped, did all He needed, before He move on to the initial destination. Deadlines thus act as a test and therefore reminder for us to continually seek God daily.

If you're in such situation where you're short on time, apart from using DMTP, you have to also talk to and seek God, not only 'ask' about the decision. What is ultimately God's desire in our lives? To have a personal relationship with Him. Our decisions and DMTP are made not just to honor Him, but also to know Him and understand Him better. Do you notice that sometimes when you feel very urgent/anxious, God doesn't reply at all? My own take is that this happens when God's answer becomes more important than God's answer (you just want a solution, regardless of whose, as long as it's a good solution). In such cases, then we need to come back to Him first, not the situation. Seek Him, seek His presence, His purpose, His desire, and the answer becomes obvious - He may not even need to explicitly tell you, and yet you will know exactly what to do.

Deadlines helps us greatly in framing and prioritizing things in our lives, acting as a 'end-of-chapter' sometimes. Imagine doing Paper 1, 2 and 3 at the same time. Isn't it frightening? (Some of you may one to one-shot it though, I know!) But deadlines help to separate these into parts, such that we can take a breather and improve/adjust in between. At the same time, this divisions also means that there is a limit to 'preparation'. Eventually, what we have been preparing will become useful. Having this perspective prevents us from being lazy, allowing us to improve on our skills/understanding/knowledge and thus become better vessels and children of God, knowing His heart and thoughts and skills. This then helps us to make decisions much more assuredly and also instinctively. 

Purpose of Dilemma: Reminds us of the urgency to continuously seek God for confirmation and also improve on whatever needs to be improved on. Learning to make
 decisions based on our convictions in assurance of God's plan for us and what He has trained us to become.

Unwilling/Difficult to Obey God's Will/Command
This is one of the most common decision dilemmas Christians face, especially for people who are really attuned with God. We all know that God's command and our obedience to it should take priority over our preferences and desires. However, sometimes it is not easy to simply ignore them, which may be wanting to live in material wealth, having particular achievements, wanting to serve God in a certain way etc. Our preferences and desires can also be in the form of how we want God to treat other people, but yet God plans something different for them, such as having them go through a difficult season. (Examples are how Peter did not want Jesus to die - Matthew 16:21-23; or how Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom and Gomorrah - Genesis 18). Regardless of the reason for, or the nature of, our preferences and desires, we can attempt to find/consider if there are any overlaps in our preferences and God's command. God is not an unreasonable angry God, but a merciful, generous one. Romans 8:32 NIV - He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 

Negotiating is different from compromise. Compromise is a lowering of God's standard, while negotiating is trying to find common ground of mutual interest. Compromise mocks God's standards by ignoring His perfect ways, while negotiation is a request and appeal for grace and mercy, not a demand that God must fulfill. At times, our preferences and desires are sin - then there's nothing to discuss, but there are also times where they are not sin and therefore not mutually exclusive. But if you never ask, you'll never know. Even Jesus, the Son of God, also made that plea - He expressed His preferences ("My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 26:39), but was willing to submit to God's command. Moses too: reluctant and uncertain as he was, God assured him repeatedly of His presence and acceded to his requests for signs to give to the Israelites. Ultimately Moses still obeyed after expressing his preference that he rather not. Can we negotiate with this attitude and confidence that God will let us have our preference if it is possible and beneficial for us?

If we understand what is God's will, and yet stubbornly/fearfully/shamelessly continue to delay, then two things will happen. 1) God will wait for you to finally accept. In the meantime, you will feel as though there is a barrier in your relationship with God, and your walk with Him will come to a 'standstill'. The more attuned you are to God, the more you will realize this feeling of 'stoppage'. Eventually, you'll reach a point where you (hopefully) realize that there's no point delaying anymore and are instead convicted by what God wants you to do. If you're in this situation, just stop delaying and obey, for you are only shortchanging yourself. God is more patient than you in waiting for your favorable reply to His will, than you are for His favorable reply to your decision.

The other possibility is 2) He will pass you by, and you'll miss out the blessings He desires for you through making the decision He wants you to. You may or may not be able to figure out what you have missed, but I can fully assure you that you will have great, heartfelt regret for the rest of your life in this matter. This is different from unintentionally/unconsciously missing out because you do not know about it - this is a conscious decision to reject God's desire for you, thereby His love, and by extension Himself. Look at the life of Peter. Upon realizing how he had consciously denied Jesus after all the big words he spoke in Matthew 26:35; that he had lost the chance to be by the side of his beloved master for the last time and thus disappointing Jesus before His death, Peter was so broken that he simply went back to fishing - to life before Jesus came and called him. He could not bear to come to terms with what he has done and what he had not done; it is THAT painful. Jesus knew how badly Peter felt, and thus came specifically to restore him. And in a way that truly restored him: asking him 3 times, to reverse the 3 denials Peter made. God loves us so much He will never let us go even if we reject Him, but the pain that comes when we realize how we spurned Him will be so great we will never forget it. And who can be sure that you won't be so discouraged/broken that you will stop seeking or accepting God any more?

Purpose of Dilemma: Believing that God has our best interest at His heart. That He aims to bless and give us, not to take or shortchange us. That His love is tenacious enough to win our hearts over.

Making a Decision that is Far in the Future
Sometimes we have a decision to make that reasonably far into the future e.g. future career/industry, spouse, joining a ministry for the long term, pursuing further studies etc. Well, since there is a lot of time, it's best to wait for more information to surface. Very often, our next few years is connected to the present few months. And since the future is less urgent than the present, it's probably wiser to divert most of our attention and resources to the present. For decisions far in the future, mostly think about them when got time and spare capacity, otherwise just keep it at the back of your mind. We can attempt to connect current affairs to future decision-making potentials, but it is important to not extrapolate unnecessarily at the expense of today. It is good to do some thinking/research on future decisions a little each day, such that we may be better equipped/informed to make them when the time comes; but we also don't want to lightly make promises/commitments about the distant future, because they may not become practical/possible or something we want to keep when more information is surfaced.

Purpose of Dilemma: Being able to do forward planning while not shortchanging the present i.e balancing current and future needs. Also to learn to hold our future loosely but not irresponsibly.

Made a Bad Decision that is Ongoing
Sometimes we made a decision to commit to something we should not have made. Perhaps a job, relationship, maybe its a particularly negative community/activity/business investment. a 'bad' decision can be from your point of view, from God, or both. (but by right our DMTP should have taken into consideration God's input, thus here I assume it is 'bad' from both viewpoints.) Regardless, now you're in it. What's next? What I suggest is that you reflect on why you were in this situation you're in. Was it temptation? Was it an emotionally rash decision? Was it due to being misinformed? Lack of obedience, or wisdom? Once you figured it out, from there on you have to grow in it, such that you will NEVER make similar bad decisions. 

Next, ask God and figure out what He wants you to learn (on top of what you yourself figured out), from your decision-making to add into your DMTP, and also from your current situation/environment. Sometimes there is something to learn. It could be that you chose a job that was not God's intent, but you're bound by contract for the few years. Or you committed a crime and were thrown in jail. Ask Him what to get out of the entire experience and environment - the decision-making and the consequences of the decision. On the other hand, if the decision you made leads you to an environment where you sin continually, whether alone or being in a relationship/community in which everyone is sinning together, you must stop and immediately get out - however difficult it is. You must trust that God will help you as you stop sinning and repent, and that there will be consequences and punishment if you don't. 
Ezekiel 18:21-24 NIV - But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? “But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.
Purpose of Dilemma: Being able to face the consequences of our disobedience/ignorance and also realize that God still has a plan for us even after we messed up, but that we need to repent and return to His ways.

Decision doesn't really affect/concern me
This is something that we will all face. Sometimes we make decisions whereby we totally don't care about what are the consequences because it doesn't matter to us. Maybe you usually don't finish your food, or often waste paper/plastic bags from the groceries - to us it is just a few more cents and dollars after all Sometimes people make decisions for us that we cannot see the consequences and thus don't bother agreeing/disagreeing with it. Maybe our parents want to bring us for holiday and ask if 10-20 Dec is better or 20-30 Dec is better. You don't care and thus just let it be. Sometimes, it truly doesn't matter, whether to you or others. However, sometimes it does. (different from equally good - here is 'doesn't matter') What I want to impress upon you is that what we care about and think is important is not the only thing that is important in the world. We have to think from other people's point of view and also ask God to help us care, even when we don't care. Things like caring for the environment: some Christians think that the environment is a minor issue as we serve God, and I fully disagree because the environment will affect our lives and affect the way we serve God in the future. Things like praying for the economy, government, political stability, our neighbors etc. All these things may not have any immediate impact on us and maybe not even in the foreseeable future. We don't really have to be enthusiastic about the things we don't care about nor devote the bulk of our efforts/resources to it, but as and when possible, we should try to support such causes that please God and also help other people as well. "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31) Don't you wish others would be interested and supportive of your concerns and convictions? Do so likewise. 

Purpose of Dilemma: "Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too." (Philippians 2:4 ESV). To increase our perspective and interest in the Kingdom of God on earth, not simply our immediate vicinity/context. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey I just chance upon your blog.
    Your sharing of experience are very inspiring and valuable !
    Omg it opened up my eyes to christianity and life #legit
    Continue to be the light and salt of the world ok
    & post more !!! :>