What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

I thought I was losing my mind. 

I was 18 years old. By all outward appearances, I had the world by the tail. I’d graduated fourth in my class, had a full-tuition scholarship to the college of my choice, and a steady boyfriend. Life was good. 

Except it wasn’t. 

I became increasingly overwhelmed with the knowledge that I was making crucial life decisions with no wisdom to draw from. What college should I attend? What career should I choose? Who should I date and (eventually) marry? The stakes were high, and the wrong choices would affect the rest of my life. 

Unlike many 18 year olds, I knew I didn’t know it all, and the fear of making the wrong decisions overwhelmed and frightened me. 

I reached a breaking point one summer morning. Every day for a week I’d awakened, looked in the mirror, and sobbed. I knew I needed help – counseling at the least, but I couldn’t afford it. And heaven forbid admitting to my parents that I was struggling. 

Since I couldn’t afford a counselor, I opted to call my pastor instead. Pastors are like counselors, I reasoned. Maybe he can help me. I’d been attending a church for several years. I’d walked the aisle early on, prayed “The Sinner’s Prayer,” and been baptized. 

But I was there for all the wrong reasons. On the outside I was a faithful teen in the youth group. On the inside I was still desperately lost. 

I don’t know what I planned to tell my pastor that summer afternoon, but I never expected what came out of my mouth. Instead of questions about decision-making, futures, and careers, the dam broke when my pastor asked, “What’s on your mind today?” 

Before I knew it, I was a slobbery mess, confessing sins I’d swept under the rug, rationalized, and justified. “I’m living my life my way,” I said between sobs, “and I’ve made a mess of it.” 

I’m sure my pastor was confused—after all, he’d seen me walk the aisle, had baptized me, and knew I’d attended every church event for the past two years. But he also knew how to recognize the movement of the Holy Spirit. 

“Lori,” he said kindly, “would you like to ask Christ to be Lord of your life?” He knew my sin was only a symptom of an unsurrendered heart. Though I’d been acting like a Christian on the outside, I’d never truly repented and surrendered my life to Christ. 

“I’d like that very much.” I don’t remember if he prayed first or I did, but I was all in. 

“God, I’ve been living my life my way and doing a terrible job of it. I don’t want to be in charge any more. I want you to be in control. Help me live in a way that pleases you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” 

Such a simple prayer, but the angels sang that day. The crushing weight I’d been carrying lifted, and my heart soared. I was free. Free from guilt. Free from shame. Free from fear. Free from confusion. Nothing had changed in my immediate circumstances, but I knew with all my heart that God was in control of my life, and everything would be OK. 

Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” and it was true. 

I left my pastor’s office a new person. Things began to change almost immediately. I found myself wanting to read the Bible. I attended church not just to be with my friends, but because I wanted to hear from God and be with God’s people. No one told me that some of the music I’d been listening to and the clothes I’d been wearing weren’t pleasing to God. The Holy Spirit revealed it to me. I willingly and eagerly made changes. I wanted to please God in every area of my life. 

And those anxious, agonizing decisions that were overwhelming me? I began to ask God about them. I’d pray, look for his answers in the Bible, and seek the counsel of godly men and women. While I still had anxious moments, I rested securely in the knowledge that God was guiding me, and I had no need to fear. 

Scripture calls King David “a man after God’s own heart.” I believe he earned this distinction because he sought the Lord in everything. The phrase inquired of the Lord occurs 15 times in the Old Testament. Eight of these instances describe David’s willingness to seek God’s counsel. Because of this, God guided, blessed, and secured David’s life. 

If you’re struggling with a decision or a perplexing situation right now, God can help. 

The first step to knowing God’s will is knowing God himself. If you’ve never confessed your sin, repented (been willing change), and accepted what Jesus did to pay for your sin on the cross, now’s the time. You can’t benefit from God’s wisdom until you become his child. (If you’d like more information about how to know for sure you have a relationship with God, CLICK HERE.) 

Once that’s settled, you need to do what David did — inquire of the Lord. We do this by praying and reading our Bibles. The Bible contains the answers to every moral decision we’ll ever face. It also contains practical wisdom for almost every other question we encounter. What the Bible doesn’t specifically address, the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit will reveal to you if you seek God with all your heart. 

Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, said, “David didn’t assume just because it looked good, he should do it. Not every good thing is God’s thing. Ask God about everything. And when you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. Just wait.” 

“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,” James 1:5 promises. James 4:8 tells us, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” 

Father, we ask you to lead us, guide us, and provide for us. Protect us from foolish mistakes and our own stubborn, rebellious, independent hearts. As Pastor Cymbala said, we don’t want to go anywhere you don’t want us to go, even if it’s a good place. Help us seek you with all our hearts and please you with our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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