There are times in life when we all have to make hard decisions, and we know that whatever decision we make, not everyone will agree. Some will question our motives. Some will protest vehemently. Some will react with anger and vitriol. Others just walk away. It may be that you have to decide whether or not to take a new position, go through a divorce, or allow your child to face painful consequences from bad choices. No one said life would be easy.
Theodore Roosevelt was a man who faced hard decisions throughout his entire life. On April 23, 1910, just one year after his presidency, he gave a speech in Paris, France called, “Citizenship in a Republic.” Most likely he reflected on his years of challenge as he faced critics and pundits alike when he spoke these words:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
Another Leader, far greater than Theodore Roosevelt, also gave a speech about spending ourselves in a worthy cause and devoting ourselves to eternal principles though they be met with great resistance and opposition. After this speech, given by Jesus, John records, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66). If we follow in the footsteps of our Master, should we expect something more?
How do we find the fortitude to do what we believe is right? How do we stay the course so that in the end we can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)? As I consider these questions in light of some recent decisions our elders and I have made, may these insights help you as you face some hard decisions in your own life.
First, the weight of the decision should be balanced by the weight of time. If the decision you have to make is significant, then give it significant time. Too often we spend more time on insignificant decisions than we do on significant ones. We spend more time in family discussions, board meetings, staff meetings, etc. dissecting the most trivial of detail, and then rush through a more meaty decision, simply because we want to “be done with it.”
Second, include prayer in the decision-making process, not as a conclusion to a decision made. In other words, don’t just ask the Lord to bless your decision, ask Him to guide your decision. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
Third, seek godly counsel. Anybody can seek counsel, but make sure you are getting godly counsel. Proverbs 24:6 says, “For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” The Lord Himself is the source of wise counsel. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). Seek counsel from those who are walking with the Lord.
Fourth, be aware of the risks. Pray for the best, prepare for the worst. Who is affected by your decision? What are the potential ramifications from your decisions? As much as possible, without compromising core convictions and biblical truth, work toward a “win-win,” but recognize that in the real world some people will disagree, and some will walk away. They did with Jesus (John 6), and they will with you as well.
Fifth, let love rather than fear be your guide. Is your decision based in love or fear? Are you looking not only to your own interests “but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4)? Fear of rejection, uncertainty, or ridicule should never overcome a loving obedience to do the right thing. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
Sixth, make a decision. To decide not to decide is a decision. But a “non-decision decision” can only get you so far. At some point you have to pull the trigger. You’ve weighed the decision, included prayer in the process, sought godly counsel, made yourself aware of the risks and implications, and let love overcome your fears. And now don’t let the “paralysis of analysis” keep you from doing what you believe is best. Make your decision with humility and grace balanced with fortitude and strength. But make the decision you must.
Seventh, move on. Don’t get shrouded by the doubts of others. Don’t keep looking back. Learn from your mistakes, make mid-course corrections as necessary, but give it time, and see what God is going to do. Listen to everyone, but don’t heed everyone. Stay close to the heart of the Father, and follow Him with surrendered obedience. And in the end, the Lord will sort things out according to His plan and purposes that He has for you in Christ Jesus. May it all be to the glory of God!
“He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (Romans 4:20).