Summer is the best kind of pause, isn’t it? We savor the slower pace and the break from the demands of the school year. We bask in the sunny reprieve from Michigan’s chilly weather. But there’s one thing that never takes a vacation in our lives: the need to make decisions.
Over the last weeks and months, we’ve confronted one decision after another to tackle as a couple. We’ve had to decide…
- where to send our youngest to school in the fall
- which tile to pick out for the kitchen project
- which one of us will drive our daughter to her university (and how we’ll tackle the tuition!)
- what summer activities to plan for our son
- how to allocate time to work, ministry, and family life on our calendar
- if Joanna should take a one-term break while pursuing her degree
- how to best support family members with ADHD
- which writing projects to begin or postpone
- how to train our puppy out of some not-so-cute habits
We’re still figuring out if one daughter needs her tonsils out and when the other will have her wisdom teeth removed. We don’t know yet when to make a trip to Costa Rica to visit our new grandbaby girl and her mama and daddy. We’re praying over how best to support missionary friends and the church plant we’re part of.
One thing is for sure—our path will bring choice after choice for us to navigate together.
In over thirty years of making choices as a couple, we’ve discovered how decisions can be God’s tool to expose our hearts. They reveal our priorities. They show if we have any selfish attitudes that need correction.
Decisions make us reckon with our level of trust in God and each other as we ask, “What now?”
Are you and your spouse wrestling with some difficult choices today? Here are four approaches to making decisions that have helped us along the way. We hope they encourage you, too.
1) Get creative
When faced with a decision, we can be quick to pick the one-and-only solution we immediately think is the best. That kind of tunnel vision can create tension if your spouse’s singular solution is a mismatch with your own. We’ve found it’s hugely helpful to spend some time talking and brainstorming about the variety of options that might be available so you can better understand one another.
When brainstorming, let your imaginations go wild. Jot down every possibility you can think of, even if it sounds crazy. Create a shared list of ideas so you can each feel you contribute and have a voice. Once you’ve exhausted every option, sane or silly, work together to cross the no-go’s off your list. Pretty soon you’ll hone in on the right solution, and it very well might be one you’d never thought of before!
2) Face your fears
Our stress around decisions is rarely about the choice at hand. The real issue is more likely to be the fear attached to it. We’re afraid the consequences of a wrong move will leave us worse off than before. We worry our spouse is only looking out for their own good. We fear looking foolish, letting people down, or putting our security at risk.
Our fear ramps up the pressure, making it even more difficult to think clearly or communicate (and listen!) with one another.
So before you brainstorm or build your list of pros and cons, take a moment to simply name what you’re feeling. Create a safe space for each other to share any anxieties, doubts, and worst-case scenarios in your minds. Reassure one another that your feelings matter, and you won’t leave each other in the dust by forcing your way ahead. And, take your fears together to God in prayer. Ask Him to care for you, protect you, and give you what you need to make the next step.
3) Take God’s advice
God is so kind—He never meant for us to make our way through life alone. That’s why His Word holds verse after verse of reassurance that He’s with us, He’s for us, and He’s ready to help. When faced with a difficult choice, we can take hold of these scriptures with both hands:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. (Proverbs 15:22 NLT)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19)
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (Psalm 37:4-5)
By meditating on God’s Word and inviting Him into every situation through prayer, we’ll find peace, guidance, and humble spirits to follow where He leads.
4) Put “us” first
In decision making, we can find ourselves in a push and pull with our spouse. Chances are, one of you needs more time to think and gather information than the other. One needs the chance to process their thoughts and questions out loud while the other needs quiet space to reflect. One spouse may experience high levels of emotion while the other is focused and matter-of-fact. You struggle to match your priorities and your pace, so you feel frustrated or misunderstood. You want to move forward together but tough choices push you far apart.
For us, we’ve had the greatest success when we put the well-being of our spouse above the decision at hand. We refuse to move forward until we both are ready. We offer empathy and a listening ear. We ask, “What’s good for us?” instead of “What’s good for me?” Our spouse’s insights and opinions are viewed as assets instead of obstacles to moving forward. The peace and confidence of the one we love matters more than the question before us.
Philippians 2:4 says it best: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” By esteeming our spouse in our decisions, we both win in the end. Love can flourish and we can face the future side-by-side.
Are you facing a challenging decision today? We’d love to stand as friends in your corner and lift you up in prayer. Feel free to leave a comment or reach out any time and know we’ll lift you up together. We’re thankful we can walk the journey of faith with you and your family.