When You Have to Make a Decision, and You’re Scared to Death

I worked full time in order to pay for my last few years of college, taking only 1-2 classes a semester, so I had a lot of time to decide what I wanted to do “when I grew up”. About a year before my long awaited graduation my church created a job that was half administrative assistant and half women’s ministry assistant for the college ministry, and offered it to me.

At the time, it was the hardest decision I’d ever faced.

I loved the people offering me the job, and I loved my church, and I loved college ministry. But I’d never imagined working at a church. And since this job hadn’t existed before, it wasn’t something I’d pictured or dreamed of doing. Previously, the only jobs available to women at my church were secretarial, and I wasn’t interested in secretarial work as a career (I was working full time as an Admin Assistant at my university).

Looking back I recognize that deep down I wanted to say yes, and even felt the Lord pointing to His goodness for me in that particular job. But I was very afraid. And they wanted a 5 year commitment: I was 25, working my tail off to finally graduate and leave my college town, and I wasn’t ready to commit to being anywhere for 5 years.

If I say I agonized over that decision, I’m underselling it. I obsessed. I over analyzed. I made pro and con lists. I met with people from the church, repeatedly. I prayed, obsessively. I was paralyzed by indecision, desperately afraid of making the wrong choice.

Two things helped me to move out of my paralysis.

First: A wise woman recommended that I pull back from the actual decision I was making, step away from all my lists and factors and prayers, and think about the kind of person I wanted to be, and the kinds of decisions I wanted to make.

Do I want to be a person who lives by fear? Or by faith? Do I want to make easy, safe decisions, or choose things that require me to trust the Lord?

Fear is a tricky thing for me, I can’t always tell when my decisions (or my hesitation to make a decision) is based on fear. But just writing out my decision making values was helpful, and pointed me toward the decision that required greater trust.

Second: I found myself praying Psalm 23, over and over. “The LORD is my Shepherd, the LORD is my Shepherd, the LORD is my Shepherd, the LORD is my Shepherd…” I realized that I was saying the Lord is my Shepherd, and I know He is a good shepherd.

But I was acting like He was standing ahead of me on the “right” path, watching from afar to see if I made the “right” choice. And that’s not what a good shepherd does.

A good shepherd walks with his sheep, guiding them, providing companionship, protection and care. Surely for a sheep in the care of a good shepherd, any path where the shepherd is can be the “right” path.

I’d done things before taking that job (and I did eventually take it) that required trusting God, but this was the first decision I made because it required me to trust God. I’ve never regretted any decision that moved me into greater trust and dependence on our Good God.

I’d known God as my Shepherd for years before this decision. But this was the beginning of a life seeking to trust God’s shepherding more than trusting in a mystical idea of one exact thing being God’s will, of one right answer for every situation.

I still struggle with fear of making wrong decisions, of getting it wrong, of blowing it and messing up God’s best. But I find freedom from that fear in the truth that God is my shepherd.

And I can trust His shepherding.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23, NASB)

Are you facing a hard decision right now? If you picture yourself at a crossroads, how do you see God in relation to you?

How does it change your attitude toward your decisions when you picture God right on the path with you, whatever you choose?

This post is the latest in the NO FEAR Devotional Series. Check back every Tuesday, and read the previous posts in the series here.

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