I consider myself a very thorough decision-maker. I try to think of all possible factors, potential outcomes, and I take a long time to do it (as if more time would result in a better decision). I certainly don’t have a problem with not thinking things through—my problem is that despite all my efforts, I’m actually not very well-equipped to make decisions. I’m not sure any of us are. After all, we can’t anticipate the impact of every decision we make. We can’t predict the future situations we’ll run into, or the best way to prepare for opportunities we don’t know we’ll have.
I faced this reality head on during my third year of university, when I found myself agonizing over a really difficult decision. My pursuit and study of comparative politics had led me to apply for an opportunity to spend a summer interning at my state representative’s office in Washington, D.C. After interviews, applications and essays, and only a few months before the semester ended, I received news that I had been accepted. Not only did my representative’s office offer me a position as a summer intern, but unlike the majority of D.C. internships, mine would be funded, as I had also been awarded a competitive scholarship.
Everything was quickly falling into place for this incredible resume-building and prestigious opportunity. But all the while, I couldn’t shake an unmistakable uneasiness that I felt about taking the internship. In response to the uneasiness, I turned to seriously praying about the decision before I committed to anything.
As I prayed, I found myself considering getting a job near my university and staying local for the summer, instead of spending it 700 miles away in Washington, D.C. But that didn’t make any sense to me. I made a list of pros and cons, and every train of logic concluded with it being an obvious decision to go to D.C. It was a rare chance to work for a state representative, I would gain a ton of experience in my field of study, and it would be a great opportunity to shine Jesus’ light in the political center of the country. I was even planning to move to D.C. after I completed my degree, and this would give me a chance to make valuable connections that might help me find a job after graduation!
Nevertheless, the more I prayed about the decision, the more I felt peace about the choice to stay local, and consequently, I felt increasingly uneasy about taking the internship. I knew what I had to do. So after wrestling with and praying through the decision for weeks, I finally informed the office and scholarship committee that I wouldn’t be taking them up on their offer.
Honestly, I was relieved. But I was still so frustrated that the only explanation I had to offer my inquiring friends and family was, “I prayed about it, and it just didn’t feel right.” Even though a few close Christian friends completely understood my prayerful decision, this seemingly trite response left most people curiously questioning my life decisions.
Five years down the road now, I can see how spending the summer locally allowed me to develop a friendship that later turned into marriage with my best friend. I can also see that, as I continued to submit my plans for comparative politics to God, He totally redirected my aspirations and career. He laid job opportunities in my path that I could not have anticipated or prepared for, and that definitely did not involve politics or moving to Washington, D.C.
We can’t always find explanations or reasons for why God leads us a certain direction. Sometimes it takes half our lifetime before we can understand—sometimes we may never know. But, this rare experience allows me to look back and think, “Ahhhh. I see what You were doing there. I’m glad we went with Your plan and not mine!” I hold tightly to this. I let it remind me that our all-knowing, wonderful, mighty God is not constrained by human logic, and certainly works outside of our understanding.
These moments of clarity help me to avoid leaning on my own understanding and pursuing what the world tells me is a good opportunity, and instead to submit my ways to a God whose thoughts and plans are so much higher than my own (see Proverbs 3:5-6 and Isaiah 55:8-9).
I’m so thankful I didn’t end up in D.C. that summer, because it would have taken me several steps further down the wrong path, away from the beautiful future God had planned both for my marriage, and my career. It’s comforting for me to know that God is worthy of my trust, even when He steers me in an unexpected or confusing direction.
He is the perfect author (Hebrews 12:2), and that means He knows every plot twist, every challenge to come, and every mistake I will make. I can always turn to Him for guidance, trusting Him before myself and before worldly wisdom, to direct and author my life story.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our series on Seeking God in Decision-Making.