I am blessed to work with many teens and young adults, lovely ones, I might add. One of the hallmarks of this age is the desire to make their own decisions. Based on their own agenda. Based on their own likes and wants. That’s what makes it theirs. I remember this time in my own life, operating in this same way, not necessarily thinking consciously about it, but trying my best to obey the mandate of the world: follow your heart. That mandate existed long before Disney.
So what makes young people so different from the rest of the grown-up world? Not much. You see, we all want to be our own boss, following no one’s authority but our own. Rebellion against authority comes naturally. But what often sets young people apart from mature adults is the naïve idea that they are going to be good decision makers, all by themselves. I think this comes from the fact that they often have had few opportunities to make the kinds of decisions that result in serious, long-term, life-changing consequences. They also think that, now being adults (or very close), it is now time for them to be their own boss. And to be quite honest, we adults have often encouraged (or not discouraged) our children to “follow their hearts”. We have been seduced into believing that our own hearts will lead us to happiness rather than to rebellion. C.S. Lewis describes having the same feelings in his own youth. “What mattered most of all was my deep-seated hatred of authority, my monstrous individualism, my lawlessness. … And that was what I wanted; some area, however small, of which I could say to all other beings, ‘This is my business and mine only.’”
The fact is that none of us are good decision makers naturally. Our agenda, our likes, our wants, are a poor and temporary basis for making a decision. And it is never “my business and mine only”, because what we do affects everyone around us. And God might just have plans of His own for us. But we don’t want to think about that, because that might force us to do something other than what we want.
So let’s do take a chance and think about what God might want us to do. How can we even know what that is? Our hobbies and our careers and our future spouses aren’t mentioned in the Bible. That’s somewhat true. But the Bible does give instructions about how to make decisions, because God understands the natural inclination of our hearts. For example, the book of Proverbs is filled with instruction, often aimed at young people, about how to be wise decision makers. So here is a list of how to make wise, Godly decisions.
1. Search the Bible for sections that talk about your situation. It is more up-to-date than you think. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity.” Proverbs 2:6-7
2. Pray. With patience, God will guide you and make his will known. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
3. Ask for advice from your parents. God has given them to you, and it is their job. Let them do it. “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.” Proverbs 6:20-22
4. Seek counsel of other Godly people, especially people older than you. Benefit from their experience. “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:20
If you allow yourself to be guided by all these paths to wisdom, you will make wise decisions. That is God’s promise. If it is the right decision for you, there will be unity between you and those who have your best interests at heart. Remember, it’s not God’s job to do what you want; it’s your job to obey and glorify God.