by Emily Conrad
I’ve been studying decision making because I’ve faced some decisions in the last couple of years that I’ve agonized over and am still not entirely certain I decided correctly. But fifteen years ago, when much more was on the line, I made what ranks as the biggest decision of my adult life without anxiety.
I got married.
On our fifteenth anniversary earlier this week, I looked at our wedding pictures. What stood out to me most was how young we were.
As little more than kids, we made the biggest decision of our adult lives. And yet, looking back, it was also the best decision of my adult life. (I first trusted Christ as a child.)
Given my recent interest in decision making, the fact that I made such a life-defining commitment with so little worry and to such good effect astounds me.
How did that happen?
What can I learn from that good decision that I can apply to ease anxiety and move forward in confidence the next time I stand at a crossroads?
This is tricky because that “to such good effect” part is not something I can entirely control.
We had our reasons for getting married–love, commitment, a longing to build a life together. I remember reflecting seriously on the fact that many couples end up divorced and discussing my decision with my mom. We were young, but we didn’t enter into marriage lightly. We did the work and then moved forward in peace.
But the same can be said of many other couples who haven’t experienced what we’ve experienced in our marriage, and we are no better than them. I know this because, though I’m happy in my marriage, I’ve been distinctly unhappy in other decisions I’ve made. Things I thought would work out didn’t. Same for other decisions in my husband’s life.
In those situations, we also did the work and moved forward in confidence, at least, if not peace. We were disappointed with what came next.
I randomly read in Ecclesiastes this morning (Or it seems random, but God, right?) about how we don’t know how things will turn out.
You do not know what calamity may happen on earth (from Ecclesiastes 11:2, NET).
Sow your seed in the morning, and do not stop working until the evening; for you do not know which activity will succeed – whether this one or that one, or whether both will prosper equally. (Ecclesiastes 11:6, NET)
That idea of having multiple irons in the fire is a good one, but sometimes, we have to make one choice. One career path. One husband. One way to spend the day. We have to go all in. But how can we decide where to invest our lives when we just don’t know the future?
Maybe 2004 me wasn’t as aware of this uncertainty as 2019 me. With fewer disappointing decisions under her belt, she may have been more prone to optimism. Maybe that’s why she felt peace with her decision.
These days, that uncertainty can tie me in impossible knots as I try to make decisions.
Live and learn?
No. At least, not like that, because if I’m in agony over a decision, fear has come to a hard boil in my life, yet God’s word tells us again and again not to fear.
I can only get back to peace by changing where I put my faith.
You see, something more powerful than human optimism and certainty was at play in our decision to get married, and that something still goes with me, no matter what decisions I face: God’s faithfulness.
I see evidence of Him in our marriage. Though it may have seemed like a good decision to get married, and I may still be pleased with my choice, I hate to think what my marriage would look like now, if it’d been left solely in the young hands of those two kids in our wedding photos. But, God was faithful.
I’d also hate to imagine what our lives would look like fifteen years from now, if God withdrew His loving guidance at this point. But He will not, because God is faithful, and so we do not need to fear the future. Whatever trials we face, God will see us through.
This kind of trust, trust in God’s faithfulness, is the key to decision-making peace.
His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall.
You need not fear the terrors of the night (from Psalm 91:4-5, NET)
We are not called to have faith in our certainty or in our inability to predict the future–these things will fail us. We are called to have faith in Jesus, who is completely trustworthy.
I see this as I look back not only on my good decisions but also on decisions with painful outcomes. I have walked through valleys, but I have not walked alone. In many cases, I can even see good resulting from decisions that, perhaps, I should’ve navigated differently.
This doesn’t take all the pressure off making good decisions. We need to seek God in our decisions and do our homework because, yes, we can choose the wrong path and that is a painful route to travel. But let’s also acknowledge that we can do everything right and still face pain.
We live in a world tainted by sin. People fail each other. Loved ones die. Careers flop. Dreams shatter. But in all of this, no matter what we face, we can have peace because Christ never leaves us. He is close to the brokenhearted (see Psalm 34:18).
Having partnered with Christ to make the best possible decision given our limited perspective, we can leave our fears at His feet and move forward in peace, trusting His faithfulness above our own decision-making abilities. He will guide our steps, redeem our failures, and draw our souls ever closer.
And in the end, the decision to draw closer to Jesus, to seek His glory, and to honor Him—this is the only decision I am certain will never be the wrong one.
If trouble, persecution, spiritual powers, death, life, things present, or things to come—if none of these things can separate me from the love of God (see Romans 8:35-39), certainly the decisions I face cannot either, as long as, above all else, I keep choosing Jesus.
And in that, I have peace.
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