A Group of People

Making decisions, or not…

In bonhoeffer, Christianity, decisions, dietrich bonhoeffer, faith, life on January 26, 2011 at 4:03 am

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It is the characteristic excellence of the strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about decisions. Pretty exciting topic, I know…Ease off me, will ya? I have no life. But the thing is, I’ve been having a bunch of conversations lately with people about the decision-making process, and it’s led to a bunch of evaluating things in my own thoughts. And then just as I was about to draw my conclusions and leave this incredibly fun-filled mental romp, I came across the above quote, and the whole thing started again. I figured I wouldn’t get any rest from it until I wrote on it, so here you go.

It feels to me like to a large degree, we’ve allowed the world to define our options for us…And not only define the options, but to define the appropriate responses. And so when we’re faced with issues, or dilemmas, or problems to be solved, we’ve allowed ourselves to be effectively crippled. I’m not talking about basic wishy-washiness here; I’m guiltier than anyone on this – just try asking me where I feel like going for dinner sometime. Bring a book, ’cause you’ll be waiting a while… I’m talking about the stuff that matters…You know what that stuff is in your own life. The stuff you feel deeply about. The stuff that has consequences. The stuff that you’ll look back on and be grateful you made the decision, or file it in the “lessons learned the hard way” category.

But let’s ask ourselves the tough question right up front here: Where do your available options come from? In other words, who or what defines for you the paths you could legitimately go down? And why do you let them do so?

I think Bonhoeffer has this right – We all know people who seem to be able to make the tough decisions a little easier than the rest of us, and who seem to have less trouble putting thought into action. And something I hear from people all the time, although they don’t always come right out and say, it that that such people in some way have it easier than the rest of us. Their circumstances lined up better, or they had advantages that we don’t have, or they had money, or they had no looming relationship issues getting in the way, or whatever. And it seems like the decisions they’re faced with have more obvious answers.

Ever felt this way, even a little bit? Ever lamented your lack of options?

But here’s the thing…Who told you that you had no options, or that yours were more limited than someone else? Because the thing is, the most basic decision we have to make is this: Are you going to let the world define what’s available to you, or are you going to stake a claim? And as a follower of God, your claim is based on what He says is open to you, not what other people say. And at the most basic level, the difference between people is not the circumstances, but what we do with them.

Do you trust Him, and act on it, or do you let yourself be caged in indecision?

The Bible really doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to defining who we should allow to speak into our lives. Proverbs 14:7 says: “If you are looking for advice, stay away from fools.”

Unfortunately, most of us really suck at putting this into practice.

Oh, most of us would say we don’t listen to fools, but the reality is, how many decisions do we make and try to justify, knowing full well that God wasn’t honored in the decision, or that it wasn’t good for us. And how many of us have had friends affirm those same decisions?

How many of us actively seek real accountability for the decision we make, including welcoming people calling us on it when the things we’re considering are pretty much stupid?

Now believe me, I know this is not easy. Nobody wants to swallow their pride and admit they’re going down the wrong road – I can think of approximately twelve million times in my life I allowed options to be entertained that I knew were lame choices, or acted on things I knew weren’t what God would be stoked for me to do. But again, the Bible is not so ambiguous on this topic: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5.

Will He write it in the sky for you? Will He make everything fall into place? Will He remove all the bad options? Likely no to all of the above. What He WILL do, though, is give you the ability and the wisdom to sift out the stupid stuff, and to discern the choices He wants you to consider.

Chances are pretty good you knew most of those anyway – If you aren’t excited to have other people (other followers of Christ, or even just the people who truly want what’s best for you) know what decision you’re making, that’s often a pretty huge clue!

But here’s where we run into one of the toughest parts: What do you do when you feel like the options you have are defined by God, and there’s legitimacy to each possible choice? What happens when you feel like God’s not giving you any direct input?

Back to Bonhoeffer…Make a decision.

Or, as the wild-eyed, shirtless, scary-looking former lead singer of Black Flag, Henry Rollins says: “The average is the borderline that keeps mere men in their place. Those who step over the line are heroes by the very act. Go.” Or in less, um, patient terms, he says: ““Life is full of choices, if you have the guts to go for it. That’s why I get immediately bored with anyone’s complaining about how boring their life is, or how bad their town is. *bleeping* leave and go somewhere else. Or don’t.” Which is actually more Biblical than you’d think! Consider the following: Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! Ex 14.15.

In other words, let God define your choices, pray about them like He’s a God that actually exists and cares what you do, and then act. Maybe you’ll fail. Join the club. Making the right decision is never a guarantee that life will turn out the way you want it to. But make the decisions. Live a life that pursues Him. Make the choices that honor Him. Let God sort out the rest. Let’s do this thing…

By Brian Doell
Follow @briandoell on Twitter


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