Recently I had to make one of the biggest decisions of my life.
It was one of those decisions that I just knew some people would love and other people would hate. I knew some people would be delighted and other people would question why. I knew that some people would see my perspective, while others would not understand.
Maybe you’ve had to make similar decisions or are facing one now. For me it was the decision to leave my position as associate pastor of the church that I’d been at for 15 years, and move to a different church only 2 miles away that was searching for a senior pastor. We made the decision and made the move – but it wasn’t easy. Many people were supportive and encouraging, but some found it hard to understand and accept.
I am by nature a people pleaser. I hate conflict. And so to make a decision that I knew wouldn’t please everyone and would actually create some upset was really difficult.
But I don’t for one second regret making the decision.
One of the things I’m learning in life is that you can’t afford to get stuck by other people’s expectations. Other people will have an opinion about you and about what you should be doing. Many of those opinions will be well intentioned, even full of warmth and love. But ultimately, the only opinion that matters is God’s. If you have to make a decision that you know others will find difficult, you should try your utmost to be wise and sensitive. But you cannot afford to become paralysed by worrying about what others will think.
There are 4 reasons that I have total peace, even though others might not understand.
When the time came for me to make this huge change, I decided right at the beginning of the process that I would be upfront and open about it. I decided that I would let my boss and the leaders of my old church know what was happening every step of the way. I even told them that I was intending to ‘push the door’ with the new church, before I applied for the job. If you want to be able to look people in the eye with integrity, then don’t hide and sneak around. Don’t try to manipulate the circumstances. Just be upfront, open and honest. If other people don’t understand why you’re doing something, ask yourself if you’ve been completely honest with them. If you have, then you’ve nothing to be ashamed of.
It took about three months for us to make this decision. Sometimes you have to live with something, talk about it, pray about it, wrestle with it, sleep on it, and then see if it’s still a good idea. I held this decision very lightly in an open hand, completely willing to be guided by God. When you have to make a decision that has weighty consequences, scrutinise it for a reasonable amount of time. When others don’t understand your decision, you can assure them with a clear conscience that you didn’t make it lightly.
“…in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Prov 11v14) Early in this decision-making process, we invited 4 or 5 friends who are completely outside of our area to pray with us and speak into our lives. We wanted to make sure we weren’t just taking an easy option, or jumping at the wrong opportunity. We were completely open to their input and asked them to be completely honest with us. We were stunned (and greatly encouraged) by their counsel. Every once of them encouraged us to go for it, and believed that it was the right decision to make. Having the advice and input of people outside of the situation who aren’t caught up in the emotion, is priceless.
Danae and I really soaked the whole decision in prayer. We wanted to give God every opportunity to speak. As the weeks passed, we received a growing clarity. Scriptures, conversations, circumstances, and counsel all seemed to have the fingerprints of God on them. I won’t pretend that we had perfect clarity all the time. We certainly didn’t. But the more we prayed, rested, and trusted, the clearer things became. Finally, the day before we made the decision, the most amazing moment of God speaking to us happened. It was so clear that we had no doubts from that moment that we were making the right decision. God’s peace, established through prayer, has shielded us from the criticism of others.
It can be really difficult to make a decision that you know some people won’t be happy about. But if you can apply these four guides, I believe the decision you have to make will become easier, and you will make it with peace in your heart. I want to say that the leaders and members of our old church have been really gracious and loving. When you make a tough decision, you might be surprised by how many people encourage you in it.