This has been the year of decisions for me. Big ones about careers, schools, and health. Smaller ones about paint color, gym memberships, and cars. I hate making decisions. But, then again, I don’t know many people who love this unavoidable part of life.
Decisions, no matter the size, tend to make me exhausted and often afraid.
I’m afraid if I choose the wrong paint color, the room will look unattractive, and we’ll have to repaint, and money will be wasted which will eliminate the possibility of getting new couches which means we won’t be able to get the new rug in that different color scheme…
I’m afraid if I pay for the car repairs instead of selling the car, I’ll be faced with more repairs later and out more money, which means not being able to buy the car later, which means our family of six will have to make due with one fewer car…
I’m afraid that if I send my kids to that school, they won’t get a good education, make the right friends, or be encouraged in their faith, then they will become criminals and I’ll be visiting them in jail…
I don’t know about you, but these things are scary.
All of them, to some degree.
I’ve learned the unwritten rules of decision-making that’s accepted in Christian culture. I pray by myself and with my husband, I consult scripture, I ask trusted friends, I pray again. I resist the temptation to worry. I remind myself of God’s sovereignty and character. And, I pray again.
Still, even after all of this, I rarely know if I’m making the right decision. Why can’t God make it easier to know? Why doesn’t He send a clear, obvious sign? I just want to feel confident that I’m making the right choice…just this once. Is that too much to ask?
These were the questions rattling my brain as I was studying the life of Daniel. King Darius of Babylon issued a decree stating that anyone who was found praying to any god or human being other than the king himself would be thrown into a den of hungry lions. Daniel, aware of the law and the threat of death, made a decision. It’s stated here, in Daniel 6:10:
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
“Just as he had done before” meant that he knelt in front of his open window, where he could be easily seen!
I try to imagine myself in that situation. Faced with that decision, after praying, searching, talking, etc. I’m pretty sure that I would have kept praying to God, as Daniel did, but I would have CLOSED THE WINDOW! Now, I understand that there is some significance to him praying with the window open. I’ve read the commentaries. But still, couldn’t he have closed the window and continued his habit of prayer in private, temporarily? My process probably would have gone something like this:
Dear God, I know that I’m commanded to pray to you and no one else. I’m confident that my prayer times should continue regardless of this new decree. However, shouldn’t I close the window? To spare my life? I know I can be a blessing to this city, to my people. If I keep the window open, it’s certain that the officials will see me and I will suffer a horrible death in the den of lions. Wouldn’t that be discouraging to the others who are counting on my leadership? So, what do you think, Lord? Open or closed? (short pause) Yes, Lord. I agree. I’ll close the window to avoid death and serve you faithfully in this place for many years to come. Amen
(Shutters slam closed)
Would Daniel have been wrong to close the window? Would he have been sinning if he chose to spare his own life? If he closed the window, would we never have the famous story of God shutting the mouths of the lions? Was Daniel sure about the window? Did he have some direct prayer line to God that I just don’t have?
I wonder these things in light of the decisions in my life. Like Daniel, I know the main ideas. I know to honor God with my whole life. But there aren’t many details about cars, careers, or even schools in the Bible. Do I need a deeper connection to God to know exactly what to do? Can I screw everything up for my life? For my kids?
It helps when I think about my relationship with own children. My youngest has a lot of anxiety every time she has to decide anything. “Mom, it looks like it might rain, should I walk the dog now, or should I finish my math first?”
“It doesn’t matter, sweetie. I don’t think it’s supposed to rain for a while.” I say.
“But what do you think I should do?”
“Either way is fine.”
Groaning, she pleads, “Mom! Just tell me what to do!”
“You are big enough to decide this, so just make a decision. Don’t worry. Go for it!”
Isn’t this like most of our decisions in life? These choices about careers, cars, schools, and certainly paint aren’t a matter being obedient to God. Somehow, we’ve got it into our prideful heads that we can mess up God’s story. I appreciate it when my kids check in with me about their decisions. I love when the condition of their heart is to want to please me and do the right thing. I want them to invite me into the details of their lives. I’m thrilled when they make decisions with my desires in mind. However, it does make me sad when they worry and fret unnecessarily.
Is this how I make God feel?
I try to transfer my parental experiences to the story of Daniel. Was God’s story riding on what Daniel did with the window? Certainly not. Our God is not confined to the results of our decisions. Window open or closed? I imagine God’s confident smile as He said, “Either way is fine.” We would have had a story of miraculous redemption even if Daniel wasn’t brave enough to leave the window open. Regardless, it’s God’s story and He’s the hero.
So, should I chose that school or not? Blue or green paint? This job or that? Does it even matter?
Of course. Like with my own children, I know God wants me to invite him into the decisions of my life. Of course, I should check them against scripture, pray, and consult wise advisors. But, God isn’t wringing his hands. I can’t mess up His story. As long as the desire of my heart is to please Him, I’ve already made the right choice.
So, I think I’ll open the window. Or, then again, I might close it. Either way, the lions’ mouths are shut and I need not be afraid.