A “Handy” Decision-Making Guide

Discerning God’s will can be challenging in the best of circumstances. But when we’re dealing with grief, hearing God’s voice can feel impossible. Those areas of the brain that have spent years mapping, tracking, and organizing all your relationships and experiences are now devoted to rewiring circuits, trying to reconcile what the brain thinks to be true with what your present reality is!

Many factors can contribute to a sense of confusion, uncertainty, and just plain old exhaustion. We may be trying desperately to adapt to a new season of life. Sometimes that means new relationships, responsibilities, and opportunities. Which way should I go? Which path should I take? How can I know that I’m doing what God has in mind for me to do? What if I miss His will?

In the early stages of WWII, Winston Churchill made this statement regarding Russia and her actions as a nation at the time: “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.”

Hearing what God is saying sometimes feels like a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. The good news is that there is a key, and it has to do with knowing Him. The following scriptures speak so clearly to this:

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” — John 10:2

“My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;” – John 10:27

Jesus says several wonderful things here in this passage. First, we see that it is possible to know His voice and to hear him clearly. The key to this is listening. Second, we learn that those who belong to Jesus will follow ONLY Him, because they will not recognize the voice of a stranger. How do we get to this point?

I like to think of it like learning to recognize someone’s voice over the telephone. The first time I call, I might say, “Hello, Barb, this is Sheryl Gehrls from Refocusing Widows.” After we’ve talked a few times, I might say, “Hi there! This is Sheryl.” After we’ve come to know each other well, I might say, “Hi! What’s up?!” ….and just proceed to start talking because you would know my voice. You might hang up on a telemarketer, but you would rarely hang up on someone you know and love!

The very simplest way to know if you’ve heard from God is to examine the results of your actions. Has there ever been a time when you felt strongly that you should do something? You did it and the result was great? Or you didn’t do it and you experienced disaster? Has there ever been a time when you felt a warning that you shouldn’t do something, but you did it anyway? What was the result of your action? These are very likely times that God was whispering to your spirit, but you may not have even recognized His voice for what it was!

Today I’d like to share a very simple technique that can help you know if you’re hearing God or not by using something that you always have with you – your hand! Most hands normally have five fingers – well, technically four fingers and a thumb – but for our purposes five. There are five factors that, when aligned with each other, can serve as indicators for knowing God’s direction in any given situation.

First, PRAYER. Can you honestly say that you’ve prayed about the thing you think you’re hearing? Many times we talk all the way around an issue, but never quite get around to truly praying about it and listening for God’s response. Don’t say you’ve been praying about it if you’ve only been thinking about it in your head!

Second, Scripture. Is there anything in God’s Word that says you should or should not do this thing you’re thinking about doing? Have you honestly searched the Scriptures? I once had a young adult tell me that she and her fiancée were moving in together until they could afford to get married. When I asked her what God had said about that, her response was, “Well, God hasn’t said we can’t!” Really? I wonder if she had truly searched the Word on that subject.

Third, Circumstances. Is your situation such that you can do what you’re thinking about doing? Are you considering taking in six siblings as foster kids when you live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment in the city and already have a cat and two dogs, a wife, and a baby? Or has He told you to drive across the country holding evangelistic tent meetings when  you don’t have either a car or a tent? Granted, I’ve seen God ask people to do some pretty unlikely things, but generally if your circumstances impede your doing what you think you’re hearing, it’s probably not God. (BTW, if the other four align, perhaps God is asking you to take a leap of faith! …but you didn’t hear it from me!)

Fourth, Wise Counsel. God puts mentors in our lives, and he brings divine contact people across our paths in order to ensure that we make appropriate decisions at those crossroads in our lives. Have you talked to those people God has specifically put in your life? What counsel have they given you? Does their counsel line up with God’s Word?

Fifth, Peace in your spirit. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of God rule in your heart….” Above all else, first and foremost, we need to have the peace of God regarding what we are considering to do. However, this peace is not a stand-alone factor! As humans, we can pretty much talk ourselves into a place of peace over anything we really want to do! The question is, do we have that peace that comes from God alone? You know the kind, the weighty silence in your heart and mind that says, “Hello! God here!”

So, to pull this all together. It is possible for us to know the voice of the Shepherd; the key is intentional listening and staying close to Him. In addition, as we’re making decisions, we need to consider five factors – one for each digit on your hand! None of them stands alone, but when all are aligned, we can generally assume that we’re hearing the clear direction from God.

Take a few moments to remember times when you know that you’ve heard God’s direction clearly – maybe even write the stories and email them to me. I love hearing how God has been at work in the lives of widows who are seeking to please Him. Your comments and emails to sheryl@freshhope.us are always welcome. Feel free to share this with your friends who could be encouraged!

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