Søren Kierkegaard wrote, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” In our modern world, we’re bombarded with decisions: Spotify’s innumerable music options, a plethora of sports teams, and Instagram’s endless scroll. Unlike previous generations, we have the ease and freedom of unlimited choice. However, this ease has made endless options the segue to confusing, anxiety-inducing, and tense decisions.
In Demystifying Decision-Making: A Practical Guide, Aimee Joseph—who spent many years directing women’s discipleship and ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Campus Outreach San Diego—counsels decision makers from all walks of life. Drawing on Scripture and personal experience, Joseph provides us with an accessible guide to God-honoring decisions. She writes like a wise older sister and friend, one who’s walked a similar journey to you and cares that you make good decisions. Her words are practical, specific, helpful, and applicable to any circumstance. Joseph doesn’t give readers an individual roadmap for achievement, but rather offers a refreshing perspective on discerning God’s will—even if that process might force us to “wait as we wrestle” (37).
Throughout the book, Joseph wrestles with questions inherent to the decision-making process: Why are decisions so hard? How do we make decisions that are aligned with God’s Word and will? How should the decisions we make—both large and small—demonstrate our identity as children of God?
Demystifying Decision-Making: A Practical Guide
On an average day, people make countless decisions: Should I get out of bed or hit the snooze button? What should I have for breakfast? Where should we go for this year’s vacation? While some decisions are easy to make, others can leave individuals paralyzed and full of anxiety. As Christians living in an increasingly individualistic society, what’s the best strategy for making decisions that honor God while becoming more like him in the process?
Writing from her own experience and pointing to biblical examples, Aimee Joseph offers a biblical and theological framework for decision-making. She explains God’s design for humans as decision-makers, the biblical model for making choices, common wrong approaches, practical tips, and what to do when you’ve made a poor decision. With the philosophy that “as we shape our decisions, our decisions shape us,” Joseph teaches readers how to worship and draw closer to Christ through their daily decisions.
Difficulty of Decisions
Sin inclines us to selfishly and ignorantly push for answers, ignoring God’s sovereignty and power in our lives. Joseph cautions against this cavalier approach, encouraging us to make God’s sovereignty our guide and comfort. Everyone has the freedom to make decisions that matter, in light of God’s sovereignty.
Impatience and frail trust make decisions all the more difficult. We’re called to focus on the process by which we make our decisions, not just on the product of them (36). It’s through this process that God teaches us to trust him fully as we ask for his wisdom and provision.
We’re called to focus on the process by which we make our decisions, not just on the product of them.
As we make decisions, we must remember that our choices shape others’ lives (45). Think about the Israelites, who rebelled against God and made a golden calf (Ex. 32) as Moses was receiving the law (Ex. 31:18). As a consequence of their sin, the sons of Levi were ordered to “kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor” (Ex. 32:27). One sinful decision, made out of selfishness and ignorance, led to the death of thousands. Likewise, our decisions can change another’s life either for good or ill.
Guidebook for Decisions
Aimee Joseph highlights the three critical pieces of making a wise, Biblical decision: considering your passions, priorities, and providential circumstances alongside the Word and law of God. While making a decision—about college, employment, moving, finances, children, church attendance—your passions and priorities should be considered. As his image bearers, God gave each of us unique talents, gifts, and abilities to be used for his glory. However, in using those God-given talents, we must also pay careful attention to God’s Word and law, as explained in the Ten Commandments and throughout Scripture. Joseph remarks, “The only decision for the believer in Christ . . . is whether they will obey or disobey the moral laws God has clearly laid out in his word” (66).
Joseph notes five gauges on everyone’s decision dashboard—culture, idolatry, desire, urgency, and the gospel. Our environment (culture) and sinful priorities (idolatry) cause us to prioritize our pleasures (desire) above the glory of God (74). Joseph cautions her readers to be attentive to how they make decisions. Major decisions are weighty and urgent, but daily, momentary decisions “shape our habits, which, in turn, significantly shape our lives” (79). Are your daily decisions directing you to a life in the Spirit? Are you making decisions about your health, finances, sexuality, employment, and family that honor God first? As the Spirit humbles us and shapes our decisions, we’ll understand the gospel gauge more clearly—it’s only in the Lord that our needs for purpose, belonging, significance, and security are met (82). Our culture, idols, and sinful desires will not satisfy us—only Christ can!
Purpose of Decisions
Once we make a decision, our work isn’t yet over! One decision usually leads to more. Joseph points out that circumstances involving numerous decisions cause us to look back and see God’s providence more clearly, emboldening our trust and our “confidence that our God is always guiding us with his providential care” (55). Looking back and seeing God’s providence in one decision can strengthen our confidence in future decisions. Although decisions may not become easier, our heavenly Father has promised to “protect and provide for his children as they trust and depend on him” (117).
We’re called to upright conduct regardless of the outcome of our decisions, demonstrating godliness and confidence in the Lord. Imagine you own a small business: your godly, honest, and upright conduct is far more important than the material success of that business. Godly conduct shows a watching world that God’s honor trumps selfish pleasures, idols, or desires.
Looking back and seeing God’s providence in one decision can strengthen our confidence in future decisions.
Ultimately, all decisions point to the glory of God. As people made in God’s image, we’re called to demonstrate his glory to those around us. As you encounter life’s many decisions, you’re called to point back to him. Bring the firstfruits of the good decisions—time, money, treasure—back to God as an offering to him. Bring the difficulties of a poorly made decision to God, trusting that he’ll work for your good and his glory. Ultimately, the focus of every believer and their decisions should be the Father’s glory (141). Is your heavenly Father pleased with your decisions and conduct?
Glorifying God in Your Decisions
As a recent college graduate and newlywed, I found this book challenging and encouraging, yet deeply practical and applicable. This book is a must-have for anyone making decisions about education, work, marriage, relocation, or a myriad of other major life choices. In Demystifying Decision-Making, Aimee Joseph offers practical wisdom and biblical insights to decision makers of all ages. By examining the difficulty of making decisions in a sinful world, the means by which we make godly decisions, and our calling to demonstrate our God-given identity to the world, Joseph offers timely insights that will encourage the heart of every believer.
The enemy wants to “steal, kill, and destroy” the freedom we have in Christ (John 10:10). Our culture doesn’t want us to “wait as we wrestle.” As we encounter infinite choices in our daily lives, there’s pressure to make rapid, thoughtless decisions. As Christians, we must act counter-culturally. Slow down, reexamine your priorities, read God’s Word, and consult trusted loved ones and advisors. The goal of your decisions is not your earthly success or prosperity, but to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.”