Have you ever come to a decision that gives you the eerie suspicion that the choice you make will alter the rest of your life?
You agonize over it. You’re scared by it. If you’re going to get anything wrong in life, it’s not going to be this.
You wish you could make a direct call to God about it, but you can’t. You worry over what His will is. You consider asking for a sign. You pray what feels like a gazillion prayers.
But still the decision hangs over you. How do you approach it? How do you decide?
The Israelites were asking some of the same questions in 1 Samuel 8. They, too, had come to a decision that would forever alter the rest of their story:
Whether or not to anoint a king.
Step 1: Be honest about what you want
The Israelites weren’t like us. We hem and haw, whimper and waver before coming to God about something. And then when we do, we do it with stiffly formal prayers and attempts to hide our true intentions.
As if we have to get on God’s good side. As if being brutally honest with God will make Him less likely to answer our prayer.
But the Israelites didn’t try to clean themselves up before coming to God. They laid it out in straightforward terms: “Give us a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” (verses 5, 6)
God didn’t punish them for their bluntness or recoil from their honesty. He just responded.
It’s one of those comforting reminders that God can handle our questions, our moods, our desires and our deepest, darkest secrets. We can be honest with Him about anything – including the scary decisions that will face us in life.
Tell God what you wish would happen. Pour out before Him the desires of your heart.
He will listen, and then He will respond.
Step 2: Make a pros and cons list
I like what God did when the Israelites came to Him (through Samuel) with this request. He got real with them.
He laid out for them the real life consequences of this decision. A king would tax them. A king would put pressure on them to work very hard in his palace, his army. A king would be human. A king would be fallible. A king could oppress them or lead them astray (verses 11-18).
Honesty goes both ways in our relationship with God. Even if we can’t ask a prophet what God has to say about our decisions, we can search God’s Word. He gets real in there. He gives us a full rundown of how to live.
And when we’re unsure about what the Bible is telling us, God answers prayer.
Too often we make our pro/con lists and mull over the details all by our lonesome. But we can do it with God. We can build off of His counsel.
And why wouldn’t we? Who better to go to than the Source of all wisdom, the Expert in all subjects?
Step 3: Follow God’s leading
“But the people refused to listen…”verse 19
There’s a reason why we avoid honesty sometimes. The truth might be painful.
Maybe the truth is that the decision you want isn’t the decision that’s best. Maybe the truth is that God’s desires for your life are different from yours. Maybe the truth is unexpected, frustrating, unappealing.
In those moments we have a choice. We can be like the Israelites – throwing caution and counsel to the wind, stubbornly insisting on our way, carving our own path, rejecting God as the sole Ruler over our lives.
Or we can decide that no matter how confusing it might get, no matter how much it might hurt, we will have no king but God. Our decision will be what He leads us to, even if the decision isn’t what we wanted; even if the decision is to do nothing for now.
At the end of the day, this is what all of our decisions boil down to. My way? Or God’s?
So which will it be?
“You could be in charge, but I want that job.”
One of the few things that all decisions – no matter what, no matter whose – have in common is that they come with free will.
The choice is ultimately ours. That’s a guarantee – God will never take away our autonomy.
We see it for ourselves in this chapter. Despite God’s warnings and the very good points made, the Israelites boldly surge ahead, changing the course of their entire story:
They are no longer a theocracy, a people led by God. Instead, they have chosen a monarchy.
The rest of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings are one long example of what happens when you don’t give God control of your life and your decisions. It’s another pro/con list – another helping of the realness and honesty God has given us in order to make the most important decision of our entire lives.
Will we follow Him? Or will we follow ourselves? Let’s get honest. Let’s look at the pros and cons.
And then I’m willing to bet that the better option will become stunningly clear.
What do you think? What decisions has God helped you through in your life?