The Challenge of Decisions

A friend and I were talking recently about the difficulty we have as widows in making decisions. Her husband died about nine months ago, so this journey is rather new for her. She said, “I always felt confident in decision making, but it’s different now. What’s wrong?” As we talked further, it became apparent that she had lost her sounding board.

I remember my first large financial decision about two or three months after my husband’s death. I discovered termites in one of the large trees in the back yard. Even the trunk was unhealthy. Knowing this would be my first significant financial decision as a widow, I wanted to get it right. So I called three tree removal companies and made appointments for them to see the diseased tree. We discussed what needed to be done and each gave me written estimates. Gingerly I chose the one company and signed a contract. I wish I could tell you that everything turned out well, but the man did not complete the work as promised.

I made several mistakes: I didn’t ask friends for advice or recommendations. I didn’t check if he was certified and bonded. I didn’t ask him for a list of other work he had done; nor did I call the Better Business Bureau. I relied on his impressive ad in the Yellow Pages and his imposing large trucks that I saw around the city. I can’t remember if I followed the directions in James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” It’s certainly true that we learn by our mistakes.

Making big decisions is rarely easy. Assessing the problem, gathering information, and listing and analyzing the pros and cons are not problematic. It’s setting aside fears, taking that last step, and trusting our ability to choose wisely. In her book, A Doctor in the House, Candy Carson says that she and Dr. Ben Carson discuss the situation and then ask themselves four questions when making big decisions. (Let’s suppose we’ve been offered the opportunity to take a job in a new state.)

  1. What is the worse thing that can happen if I move.
  2. What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t move.
  3. What is the best thing that can happen if I move.
  4. What is the best thing that can happen if I don’t move.

I like these questions. We can also think about what we would tell a friend if she had this decision to make.

Articles on decision making often say to “trust your intuition.” To me, this means that if I don’t have peace about a decision, I should say no. A couple years ago, I was asked to teach again in Romania, but I had no peace about going. Months after I said no, I learned that the situation would have been very difficult.

The best advise in decision making comes from a wise Old Testament man: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5,6).