Making tough choices is never easy, whatever stage of life we’re in. Whether we’re seeking that first step up the career ladder or we’re already established in a job and now contemplating a different ladder altogether, it can be difficult to know the right way forward. But there are steps we can take if we want to make good choices. I call these steps the Five C’s of decision-making.
The first step is to Consider. We must stop, pause and weigh the options, making sure that we understand the facts and the risks. Take time to seek knowledge and refrain from rushing headfirst into any rash decisions. As Christians, our time of consideration also means spending time in prayer, asking for wisdom and discerning the heart of God.
The second step is to Consult. One of the most important aspects of wise decision-making is to recognize the value of good counsel. The Bible urges us to find wisdom through many counselors: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers” (Proverbs 11:14, NIV). This doesn’t mean we take the advice of any man or woman off the street, but that we seek out people of wisdom whose advice we respect, however difficult it may be to hear.
In 1 Kings 12, we read the story of King Rehoboam, who was asked by the people of Israel to ease their burden of compulsory work. When the king went to the wise elders, they advised him to grant the people’s request, telling him that a king who serves his people will receive faithful service in return. But Rehoboam didn’t like the elders’ advice, so he went to his friends instead. They told him to increase the burden on the people and rule as a harsh tyrant. Preferring this advice, the king increased the burdens of the Israelites, who eventually killed him in the ensuing rebellion. The lesson? When seeking counsel, try to make sure that it is indeed wise counsel.
Clarification is the third step in the choosing process. It’s sometimes easy to think that a sense of God’s calling absolves us of using our critical faculties. Once we’ve considered and consulted, we should next spend time testing our ideas, and then reflecting on what has been revealed. Sometimes, the evidence all points in one direction even as something in our gut pulls us in another. I like to make lists of pros and cons at this stage, and the process of making such a list often reveals what I feel in my deepest heart to be right.
(During this clarifying process, it’s vital that we remain open to hearing from the Lord as we invite God to speak into our lives. “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4) is an ideal verse to consider when in the clarifying stage of decision making.)
Whatever choice we eventually make, the fourth step is Courage. The unknown is often scary, and that initial step can be the most daunting of all. But we must take the deep breath before the dive, secure in the knowledge that we are doing what we believe is right. The Bible says promises that if we are courageous in pursuing the ways of God, He stays with us.
The final step can often be the hardest of all. However we have chosen, whichever path we have taken, we must learn to be Content. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians that he had learned to be content no matter the circumstances (Philippians 4:11). It’s easy to second-guess ourselves after a decision – to ask the question “What if?” – especially when times inevitably get tough. But regret is wasted energy. We never know what exciting opportunities might be around the corner.
Ken Costa is an international banker, the founder and author of God at Work, and the chairman of Alpha International, an evangelistic course that has taught the basics of Christianity to millions around the world. His latest book is Know Your Why.