How To Make Smarter, Safer Decisions

Date: October 7, 2022

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

A college professor was striving to motivate his students to make quick evaluations followed by good decisions.  To illustrate a point, he calls on a student who drove a truck in his spare time and asked him to respond to this situation.  “You are a truck driver with a fully loaded semi-truck coming down a steep decline.  On your right is a 500-foot drop off with no guardrail.  On the left side of the road is a mountain bluff.  A few hundred yards distant is another truck.  Suddenly, a passenger car attempts to overtake the truck coming toward you.  Quickly you step on your brakes and your foot goes to the floor.  No brakes at all.  You have three seconds to make a decision.  What will you do?”

The student replied, “That’s easy.  I’d wake up Bill.”  “Who is Bill?” asked the mystified professor.  “Oh, Bill is my relief-driver, and I’d wake him up ’cause he’s never seen the kind of wreck that’s going to take place.”

How do you make smarter, safer decisions?  Take your chances?  Wait as long as possible, hoping that no decision will be necessary?  Or just pray?

Facing tough decisions isn’t a pleasant prospect, but sometimes they must be faced.  Do I put my mother in a care facility?  Should I pull my money out of the stock market and put it under the mattress, or take my chances?  What’s going to happen if I continue seeing another woman?  How much should I tell my boss about what’s really happening?  Sooner or later, everybody faces tough decisions.

George Mueller was a shrewd, rational German who spent a lifetime ministering to the orphans of England.  Mueller’s strength was prayer.  Never did he publicly ask for funds—something few today try to emulate.  When he was forced to make a decision and he didn’t know what to do, Mueller took a piece of paper, drew a line down the middle and labeled the two sides pro and con – reasons for making this decision, and reasons against it.  He then began to pray about the matter, asking God for direction.  Each morning he would get out his paper before he prayed and evaluate each reason, weighing the strength or relative weakness for each position.

Finally, he felt the balance shift and took that as his answer to prayer, made the decision and never looked back.  Decision making with Mueller became a three-sided event involving God, circumstances, and logic or plain common sense–which is not altogether very common any more.

I am amazed at the number of successful, even wealthy, individuals, who never use the decision-making process I’ve just described.  Does it work?  For most of my life, I have used the very framework I’ve just described.  It works.

Dr. Barry Lubetkin, of the Institute for Behavior Therapy, suggests that when you write down reasons for evaluating your decision, you use a scale of one to five in evaluating the pros and cons of a decision.  What you must do–which we almost always don’t want to do–is to face the consequences of every decision.  With every decision, consequences follow.  But rarely are we willing to recognize or consider what may be the worst-case scenario.  We prefer to think of the best-possible result, which rarely happens.

Is there value in asking someone to help you evaluate the consequences?  Definitely.  Brainstorming with a trusted, honest individual may force you to consider the consequences that you would hope will never happen.

Bringing God into your decision-making process through sincere, earnest prayer brings insights which go far beyond the human level.  Yes, God knows the future.  Yes, He will guide you, as you trust Him.  Scores of promises to this end are found in Scripture, such as “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  It’s still true today.


Resource reading: Proverbs 3:1-35