By Richard H.
I was preparing to select a graduate school to attend following my undergraduate studies. I had applied to and had been accepted by many schools. Following visits, I began to prepare a list of pros and cons for each school, ranking each based on a variety of key factors. This led me to choose the University of Illinois for graduate school. Before accepting the offer, I prayed to experience the confirming feelings of the spirit that this was the right choice. Much to my surprise I felt terrible. I felt an absence of the very feelings described as the Spirit’s confirming voice – peace, love, and faith. Ultimately I felt the need to regroup, and look again at the available options. My second choice had been the University of Kentucky. Not knowing what else to do, I asked if THAT was the school I should attend. Never had I felt a more overpowering spirit confirming that decision. Without knowing why the decision to attend that school was better than the one I had come up with initially, my wife and I left for Kentucky.
Shortly after our arrival my wife, who was in the late stages of pregnancy, became very ill and went into premature labor. While the doctors debated on the best course to prevent her labor from continuing, they learned that one of the world’s leading ultrasound experts was just back in town. They asked if he could look at my wife using some of the new technology he was pioneering. Through his examination he saw something they could not have known. Sometime earlier the placenta had sealed off in such a way that the baby was no longer receiving any nourishment from his mother. Without an emergency C-section the baby would not survive. The surgery was performed immediately and our son’s life was preserved. Regardless of what else lay before us in Kentucky, at that point we already knew with certainty why we needed to be there and not in Illinois.
I believe we make the best decisions when we learn to pose the right question to someone who knows the answer. The good news is that we can be absolutely confident that there is someone who knows all the answers and who has our best interest in mind. It is God. He has given us this invitation: “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Luke 11:9). No one is more prepared, more able, and more willing to help us with questions we have than He is. He has also said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally…and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
So how do we learn to ask the right questions to inform our decisions? The next verse in James says: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” To ask in faith means some effort is required on our part. For any decision in front of us we must first use all the intelligence we have been given and the resources at our disposal, to arrive at the decision we think is right. That is the point when we are ready to ask God if it is right. He has promised that as we do this, if our decision is right, that His spirit will “guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13). The feelings of the spirit are described as feelings of “love, joy, peace…goodness, faith” (Galatians 5:22). When we ask if our choice is right – and feel those feelings – we will know the decision arrived at is right. I have used this process in my life and know that it works. But perhaps more illustrative is the Illinois question when I didn’t receive the answer expected:
I have come to know that no decision is too small or inconsequential to not involve God. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding…and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5).