I talk about my “favorite” movies all the time … I have many favorites. Probably in the top five all-time is Arthur, circa 1981 (if you’ve never seen it, SEE IT!!!). In it, Arthur is meeting his soon-to-be fiancée’s father … naturally, Arthur is drunk. Though he is in Mr. Johnson’s home, Arthur (being drunk, and hence, confused) offers Mr. Johnson a drink. Mr. Johnson declines, saying, “I don't drink because drinking affects your decision-making.” Not missing a beat, Arthur responds, “You may be right. I can’t decide.”
On a more serious note, I think we hit times in our lives when we confront decisions when we quite honestly don’t know what to do. There are many situations where the direction to head is clear-cut. Others, clear as mud. When we confront decision points that hinge upon biblical or moral matters … easy. When we’re not combatting with a matter of right or wrong, benefits or detriments, legal or illegal, things can get a bit obscured.
Over the past couple years, before I accepted my new job a year or so ago, I went through such a situation inherent in the decision around job opportunities. Some were obvious “not in a million years” situations, but many weren’t as definite. The same thing can happen in family circumstances … Helen and I have worked over the years to motivate, guide, and hold accountable our now 16 year-old son relative to school work (it helps now to realize that darn-near all our friends with 16 year-old sons have the same “fun”). How exactly one approaches that guidance can be challenging … there are a variety of potential strategies and philosophies, not to mention innumerable opinions expressed by well-intentioned individuals.
Unfortunately, we can’t always be sure which decision to make. So … how do we make the right one?
In reading through Nahum 1 – 3, Habakkuk 1 – 3, Zephaniah 1 – 2, Psalms 108 – 114, Jeremiah 9 – 15, this week, I was moved by a passage that shared some important perspective.
In Psalms 107, we get a tidbit of advice stemming from the poetic / musical structure that the psalmist shares with us. The psalm opens with a proper reminder of our response to God’s love for us, and then it proceeds to share some ways in which God manifested His love to His people. Verses 1 – 3 …
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies. For he has gathered the exiles from many lands, from east and west, from north and south.
The reminder here is that … God has and God will continue to love us, to guide us, and to rescue us. He is good, and all He does leads to our safety, security, and serenity. He is never not in charge, never not in control, and never not focused on our good and His glory. That’s some important grounding we need, particularly when we’re battling with the burden of not knowing what to do.
But here’s what floored me as I read through this. Four times during this psalm, the writer reminds us about God’s deliverance of the Jews through some of the toughest, scariest times of their history to that point (and since, needless to say). In verses 6, 13, 19, and 28, we read …
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.
If you want to make a point … repeat yourself. God wanted this point emphasized, so He made it four times in this psalm. The point …
We don’t have to wait until we don’t know what to do … but in the times when we wait AND we don’t know what to do, when we have trouble, there are two words we must remember. Lord. Help. Lord, help!
The great thing is what is next in these verses. “And he saved them from their distress.” Instant. No waiting. No needing to do anything. They cried out to Him, and He responded. Our God!
When we don’t know what to do, we at least know Where and to Whom to go. Most times … most … He will save us from our distress. I say “most” because there are times when God will remain silent, for a time. It’s in these moments when we must truly embrace the promise of God’s love and deliverance. God will be there to save us from our distress, just not necessarily in our timeframe. So, in moments when we truly do not know what to do, when the “right” way isn’t clear, I think we have to make the best decision we can, based on seeking God in prayer, seeking Godly counsel from friends, family, pastors, etc., and based on God’s word. Making a decision certainly brings outcomes and consequences, but we need to remember that not making a decision is the same as making a decision. Just as in any other time, in times of uncertainty, I think God sometimes wants us to exhibit faith and make a decision … leaving (and trusting) the circumstances to Him.
That’s the essence of faith … taking a step when the ground beneath our feet isn’t visible, but knowing that God has promised us it’s solidly there. In times of uncertainty, when we don’t know what decision to make, at least we can rely on the fact that God’s there, and He’s chiefly focused on our best interest even if we don’t know conclusively what that might be. Take the step. Any step. Then let Him work.
Clear as mud?