3 Questions to Help Discern Difficult Issues

How to make a decision Questions To Help Discern Difficult Issues
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I frequently receive questions I can’t easily answer. Usually the questions involve a dilemma someone is facing, which has no direct and easy answer. The exact answer is not clearly spelled out in the Bible. I’m left to my own wisdom, which I may or may not have about the situation.

  • The person who has to decide whether to risk losing a friendship to do something they feel is the right thing, but their friend disagrees.
  • A girl who believes she may be in the wrong relationship, even though she loves the guy and he’s a believer.
  • Someone in a job they love, but is working for a boss they aren’t sure they trust is completely ethical.
  • The guy who did something wrong, did not get caught, but now wonders if he should confess.
  • A guy who has a wonderful opportunity for his family, but it would potentially hurt his current employer.
  • The young person who would love a job doing some type of vocational ministry, but has a good paying secular job they are afraid to leave.

You know the type of question. Maybe you never had these exact questions, but you’ve had similar. They have moral implications to them, but they aren’t clearly answered for us in the Bible. You could find nuggets of truth to apply both ways in the answer. The answers to this type of question could change the course of a person’s life, but we could have differing opinions in regard to applying truth to them.

I should tell you one principle I often use when people have what I would call “gray” area type questions. I usually do not give the person an answer. Even if I have a strong opinion, I may not state what it is—at least not initially. It may be because I do not know it is the right answer—it’s just my opinion and I’m often wrong.

But, more importantly, I have learned if I did give my opinion, before the person has a chance to wrestle through the issue on their own, and the advice turns out wrong, the person only resents me for it. And, I’ve lost their trust and the ability to speak truth into their life in the future. Plus, they never really own the decision themselves.

I even use this principle with my adult sons. I may ask them lots of questions to help them discern the answer (like the questions below), but I won’t necessarily give them what I believe is THE answer. And, many times, there isn’t one right answer.

I believe in these life-altering type of decisions the person needs to own the decision they make. I can and will share truth with them, but I let them come to the conclusion they can own personally.

Through years of counseling, I sometimes used the following three questions. They were often helpful for people as a general framework to use when working with these type of decisions. Often these questions will guide an individual toward the best decision personally—without pressure from me. People are more likely to agree with a decision they reached on their own.

Three questions:

What can you do?

God’s grace is amazing. Sometimes people just need to know it’s OK to make a decision. If there is nothing biblically wrong with the decision, and the answer isn’t obvious, there is tremendous freedom. Even when we make a wrong decision, God works all things for good (Romans 8:28, Proverbs 16:9). I have observed when a person understands this truth they are actually more open to making the wisest decision. You probably have more latitude in making the decision than you think you do. That’s actually why it’s a “gray” issue.

What should you do?

This is obviously a more difficult question. The separation between the first two questions often helps people work through an answer for their situation.

With this question the person is forced to consider the issue of right and wrong. Based on what you know to be truth (and, here I may be able to offer help), what is the wisest thing to do? This is where they think through the situation as to what God would have them do. It’s also where they consider what would be best in the short-term and long-term—for all parties involved. (Scripture does tell us to consider the interest of others, for example, even ahead of our own.) When we begin to apply truth to a situation, while it may not give us THE answer, it can help us discern the best answer.

What will you do?

This is the biggest question, because it forces the person to consider making the best decision as opposed to the popular, comfortable or easy decision. The problem is often we try to start here and it’s why we get burdened trying to make a decision. We haven’t considered all the possibilities in the first two questions.

When a person answers this final question—after wrestling through the first two—it helps them develop a resolve in their heart to carry through on their commitment. This whole process is worthless if a person doesn’t own their decision and follow through with it.

Obviously, these aren’t perfect questions, but, again, these are difficult questions. But, the goal is to help people process. Questions make us think beyond what we are currently thinking. I give these questions to people and usually let them work through them on their own, at least at first. If they need to talk through them I will do that with them after they have wrestled to answer them personally at first.

This article originally appeared here.

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Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.

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