That’s a question that can help you navigate through any situation in life. Family troubles? Vocational discernment? Financial pressure? Health challenges? Do the wise thing, and you’ll be glad you did. That’s why Andy Stanley, a pastor who leads an Atlanta-based church network, called it “the best question ever.”
Don’t Get Hung Up on a Definition
The Bible never actually defines “wisdom” for us. We’re told to treasure wisdom, to seek wisdom, to respect those who have wisdom, to expect wisdom to be found in right relationship to the Lord . . . but “wisdom” isn’t given the Merriam-Webster treatment.
Wisdom can look like “knowing the right thing to do” in some circumstances, but it’s more than the possession of data. Wisdom can look like “seeing the consequences of a decision” in other circumstances, but it’s more than discernment.
Wisdom knows everything about us and sees the brokenness in and around us. Wisdom comes searching for us when we’re lost. Wisdom comes looking for us in the places no one else would think to look, yet we easily overlook wisdom. Wisdom invites us into a way of life. Wisdom links us together with the community of the formerly-and-sometimes-still-a-little foolish, who are on their way to becoming wise. Wisdom sends us together into the world with a message of hope, life, and justice that shines like the sun.
How do I know if it was a wise decision?
My family and I recently moved back to my hometown. I had to quit a good job in order to make the move. I broke my life’s script. The next steps feel murky. I love it. I hate it.
Years from now, I’ll be able to look back and know whether the decision ended up being a wise one or not. We find it easy to evaluate decisions in hindsight, and this, perhaps, is a clue that can give us foresight.
When I stood on the edge of making this big life decision, I saw so many ways that the decision to move could be a blessing to my family. I saw opportunities to grow and steward my gifts. That doesn’t guarantee that the decision was wise. But it’s a clue.
What would future you say about what you’re about to do?
Grace for Fools
What happens when we make foolish decisions? Jesus offers us his grace. No mistake can take you from the God who made you, loves you, and redeems you. Our fear of making a mistake doesn’t make us wise. Wisdom mitigates risk but doesn’t run from it.
I’ve made foolish decisions in my life, and perhaps you have as well. I’ve learned from some of them and seen God’s grace. My sensitivity to God’s voice and his Spirit’s leading has grown. I’ve gotten to know myself better: my strengths and temptations.
Our foolish decisions can make us feel shame, which is the enemy of learning. When God’s grace lifts us out of our shame, we receive fresh capabilities to learn from our mistakes.
You’ve been with you as long as you have been a thing. You could even say that you were into you before you were big. This positions you for great insight. Even more than that, God has deeper and richer knowledge of you than even you do. Where your perspective is distorted by pain and sin, God sees with perfect and complete love. And this same God wants to guide you.
What would past you say about what you’re about to do?
Four God-Given Guardrails to Help You Make a Wise Decision
1. God’s Spirit
Jesus taught that “my sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). I believe that everyone who has a relationship with Jesus can hear from him as we navigate through life. In fact, James Choung, InterVarsity’s Vice President of Strategy and Innovation, says that this is a key skill for all who want to be followers of Jesus: hearing and obeying God. If we ask God for guidance, he’ll give it. Like a parent with a good gift to give to a child, God stands eager to give wisdom to us.
Have you prayed to ask God for guidance in this situation?
2. God’s Word
God’s Spirit will never contradict God’s Word. In fact, God’s Spirit has worked through the writers of Scripture to communicate reams and reams of truth to us. The vast majority of our questions about how to navigate life, relationships, vocation, and spirituality have ready insights available to us in the Bible.
Don’t scurry to the Bible as if it’s an answer book for your questions though. God uses the Scriptures to form and shape us into the sort of people who can make and sustain wise decisions. A garden hose can’t carve a canyon, but a river can. Spend regular time reading, studying, and listening to God’s Word, and you’ll have a stronger sense of what God wants you to do; you’ll recognize wisdom when you see it.
Have you spent time listening to God speak through Scripture before making this decision?
3. God’s People
God gives us friends, family, mentors, neighbors, and even random strangers to guide us along the paths of wisdom (and to help us return when we’ve wandered into foolishness). While you were praying, reading, and thinking, God’s Spirit has also been at work in the people around you to bless you. They know stuff you don’t know. They’ve had experiences you can’t imagine. They might be able to help you financially, practically, logistically, or strategically.
The wise person seeks counsel. All advice isn’t equal, but if you have enough wisdom to seek wisdom, you’ll quickly develop discernment about who to talk to. Getting input doesn’t mean that you abdicate responsibility, but it will help you make wiser decisions.
Who can you talk to about this decision?
4. God’s World
At times, you’ll feel like you have a green light from the Lord and Scripture, your community endorses your decision, and nothing happens. Or resistance happens. Or money doesn’t happen. What do we do then?
I believe that God remains active and engaged in the world even when it resists him. Time and time again in Scripture, I read stories of people doing exactly what God wants them to do but not seeing the outcomes they want to see. Men and women cry out to God in their frustration and their suffering. And they, too, are among the wise.
The wise know that even wise decisions don’t guarantee comfortable outcomes. Our God died on a cross. And though the resurrection loomed on the horizon, our God sweated blood thinking about that cross.
The world remains God’s world even when it hurts us, even when it wounds us for our wise decisions, even when it kills the God who made it. The day is coming when the trees will clap their hands, and the mountains will skip like lambs, when the stars will bend down to watch as the sons and daughters of God celebrate in wild worship of the wisdom of God, Jesus the Christ, as he welcomes them into his peace.
Steve Tamayo is a strategist serving with InterVarsity’s Latino Fellowship (LaFe), Creative Labs, and Multiethnic Initiatives. You can can support his ministry using this link: donate.intervarsity.org/donate#9101.