This will be the final post on our Christian decision making series. There are more questions out there, but I encourage you to keep wrestling with this. Actually, I am sure you will because this is such a common and significant issue for every person. Keep wrestling with the Biblical text, wrestle with wise and godly Christians, and make it a point to come to some conviction regarding how God leads his people in normative ways.
Question 5: I have a problem deciphering between my desires and the expectations of other people, especially people I can feel unduly pressured by or want to please, like my parents, friends, superiors, etc. How do I discern what are my own desires and what are the expectations I feel from others?
This is a common issue. My first concern is the foundation level. Prior to making decisions, you should look at your own heart and consider whether you have a systemic issue with people-pleasing. Of course there is a good sense in which we should want to please people; that is, we should be loving, a servant, someone who blesses people – but there is a heart condition wherein we make people into idols and we foist their opinions of us over God’s view of us. We can define ourselves more by social pressure than the gospel. That is not good. So, if you are someone driven by other people’s expectations of you, perceived or real, I would go back to your character, to the foundation, before you start to deal with how your desires meet ability and opportunity.
Now, in every decision we make there is going to be social pressure. At some level we have to do our best to vet our sense of desire and move forward, trusting God to work despite the pressures we face. In some cases, we may even get social backlash for decisions we make, especially in grey areas like stewardship, politics, media, and other lifestyle areas. But, if we believe we have done our best to make a Biblically appropriate, wise, and prayerful decision, then I think we can move forward with confidence and a persuasive argument if we are confronted about it. So, take others into account, in fact make communal decisions, but also avoid people-pleasing as the basis for decisions. People should help you divine what is godly and Biblical, but they are not to replace your desires.
Question 6: How do we measure ability?
First, ability is more than talent or personal gifts. Ability includes material resources, human resources other than you, timing, and whether your decision will have an adverse effect on others. Your personal giftedness is just one aspect of ability. Here are some things to keep in your diagnostic tool belt.
1. Do you have the personal giftedness required?
2. Do you have an appropriate level of giftedness? Realize that you develop in your giftedness and that you will only grow in your performance, but an opportunity may ask you for a baseline of ability to start with. Do you meet that baseline?
3. Is there anyone in your life, like your family, who will be directly affected by your decision? Can you say they will be blessed by the decision, or at least not affected negatively?
4. If the decision is a purchase, like a care, house, or vacation, etc, do you have the financial basis to move forward? Not just: do you have the money?; but are you using only a part of your resources, not all of it? Will you be able to upkeep the item? Will it take money from other important areas like savings, college tuition, and of course tithing?
Be nuanced with ability and be honest. Many of my decisions have had the breaks put on because I had to admit I did not have the resources to move forward with integrity.
OK, we will end it here but let me say it again: decisions are much more about seeking God’s face than getting some desired outcome. If you seek his face in every significant decision, he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3.5-6).