Hearing God and Making Decisions

I know a man—let’s call him John—who is desperately seeking God for direction.

John is about 55 years old. He manages a division that until a few years ago had 20 people; it now has less than half that number. But—of course—his division is expected to produce as much as the original group. You know, “work smarter not harder.” Right!

In addition, John is actively involved in his local community, running a Boy Scout troop, coaching his kid’s soccer teams, leading the High School Sunday School program, and running a couple youth retreats each year. He has been trying to offload some of this work, but finding people to step up to the plate in the organizations has been disappointing.

John feels at the end of his emotional reserves. He is exhausted; his gas tank is on empty; and he is running on fumes. His attempts to reduce his stress have failed because he can’t find anyone else with his commitment.

John needs to make changes but he doesn’t know what to do. He longs to hear God say, “do this” or “do that.” He recently read a passage in Acts where God tells Paul not to go to Asia and instead to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10), and John said to me, “That’s what I’m talking about! I want that kind of clear direction.” I suspect he’d also appreciate handwriting on the wall.

So far, however, God seems to be silent. So what is John to do? Haven’t we all longed for a specific direction from God at one time or another? Doesn’t God seem silent at times?

John recently met with friends to discuss his situation. It turns out this situation is not new. He is chronically over committed. He frequently takes the project no one else can fix, and he succeeds time and again. Others ask more (and more) of him because he simply gets things done.

Why does John so often become enmeshed in the multitude of management tasks?

  • He claimed—and his friends agreed—that it wasn’t for money; much of his busyness he did for free, and he lived fairly simply and was reasonably generous.
  • He also claimed—and his friends agreed—it wasn’t really for the prestige of title; John is content to work in the background, getting things done without the title.
  • He also claimed—and his friends agreed—it wasn’t mainly for the affirmation; in getting things done, John often made unpopular decisions when he knew what was needed.

I don’t know John’s heart and I don’t know what he should do (though I have some ideas!). But his story reminds me of someone else’s story.


Throughout my life, I’ve been the victim of a “Go-To Guy” syndrome. When a situation at work or church needed someone to get something done, I was their man. I can volunteer faster than a crisis can be created. Before the plea leaves their lips, I’m offering my Go-To Guy services.

There was—and to some extent still is—an inability to see a situation objectively. Despite being overwhelmed with work and family, someone could trump my decision making process by appealing to my Go-To Guy syndrome. A personal bias can color choices. I don’t always weigh all the factors equally; one factor—my Go-To Guy illness—disproportionally outweighs the others.

God has been showing me another way that he gives direction. God sometimes gives specific direction (“Go to Macedonia not Asia”) but when he doesn’t do so, it might be he is doing something more incredible. Most of the time I probably need more than a simple “yes or no,” or “turn right or turn left.” I really need a change in my heart’s motivation.

God’s directional voice is teaching me to become the kind of man who makes good decisions.

If my five year old son asked me if he could go outside and play Frisbee, I’d say, “Dinner will be served in half an hour, so don’t go far.” If my twenty-five year old son asked me if he can go outside and play Frisbee, I’d say, “I’ve trained you to be the kind of man who makes good decisions, so make one.” I want my twenty-five year old son to come to me for wisdom, but I also want him to grow in a personal maturity to make good decisions.

When God seems silent in our prayer for a decision, it is not because God is absent. Very often he is arranging circumstances to bring us to a place where the very motivations of our hearts are changed. He is freeing us from some weight that holds us down.

A Christian thinker once wrote:

Whatever controls you is your lord. If you live for power you are controlled by power. If you live for acceptance you are controlled by the people you are trying to please. No one controls him or herself. You are controlled by the lord of your life. (Becky Pippert, Out of the Saltshaker)

And the lord of my life was being the Go-To Guy.

If God simply answered any one decision question—should I take this job offer or not?—without dealing with a root idol in my life, then I would be stuck again (in a week or a month or a year) with this endless cycle of trying to please the practical lord of his life.

But if instead God roots out a practical lord of my life—an idol of self satisfaction by being the Go-To Guy—then I can become the kind of man who makes good decisions.

God is speaking to me and directing me, but in ways I didn’t expect or imagine.

When we are stuck in a rut, longing to hear direction from God in a decision, might the seeming silence of God be His way of moving us to more deeply examine the practical lords of our lives? Maybe God is going after the “trump cards” in our lives, the things that give us personal validation apart from him: money, prestige, being a Go-To Guy, popularity, being a great parent, comfort, having a great ministry, and the like.

Maybe He is giving us more than we even ask or think.


Also see, Hearing God and Controlling the Conversation and Hearing God and Reflection.

© Copyright 2011, Beliefs of the Heart, Ltd. All rights reserved.


19 Responses to Hearing God and Making Decisions

  1. Great blog Sam. I know I have always rushed into making decisions without weighing the consequences of my decisions. People would tell me that I seemed fearless, but I was usually avoiding making harder decisions that seemed easier to make for others. I think God is upstairs some where going “Really Mike? Don’t make life so hard son! Stay the course, and listen.” Love you brother! Keep writing!

  2. Brooks Carlson says:

    Sam, I love the 5-year-old vs. 25-year-old comparison. I’ve never thought of it from that angle before. Here I am almost 50 years old and I still want God to “just tell me what to do so I can do it and be done with it!” But God is always after so much more than just my robotic obedience. Great post.

    • Hey Brooks, love your line, “God is always after so much more than just my robotic obedience.” – ABSOLUTELY. He’s after our hearts, helping us move from one degree of glory to another.

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. rick hartsell says:

    “giving us more than we can ask or think”…i love that tie-in with Scripture with the last line: even when He is not giving us what we want…he is giving us “more than we ask or think”. love it.

  4. davidmorse says:

    The first part of your blog decribed me so accuratey it’s scary! After trying to deal with this for a couple of years, I can’t honestly say i am any better. Thanks for your insight about what is Lord of our lives, it give me a new perspective.
    Examaning my heart,

  5. Richard McAlister says:

    Sam, you are so right! For years I would call upon God and feel like He didn’t hear me at all. I was looking for a post-it note on my bathroom mirror to give me answers. What I found was exactly what you shared – the more I pressed for that clear answer and didn’t get it the more I became silent before Him and then and only then could I hear God’s whisper in my heart. It was that whisper that guided me. Sometimes I was the five year old and sometimes the twenty five year old. It didn’t matter. He always knew when and how to direct me. The song from my generation is so true in this instance; “Silence Is Golden”

    • Hi Richard, yes indeed, Silence is Golden.

      I like the idea of Purity in our hearts, a heart that is pure from the addiction to other things for personal validation.

      That is the kind of man i long to be.


      • Richard McAlister says:

        Sam, What you say is so true! The problem is that most of us don’t realize that we are seeking validation in all the wrong places or that we are even seeking validation at all. It seems that many guys have been taken down the wrong road without even knowing what is happening or that they are lost. They have that sense of something missing, but they just don’t know what it is; and, that goes for Christian and non-Christian alike. That is why it so important that you, Gary and John Eldredge and his team to carry the message to the hurting men of the world. Why do I know this? I am one of the many.


  6. Jim Mcfarland says:

    Sam, the sentence below resonated with me the most.

    When God seems silent in our prayer for a decision, it is not because God is absent. Very often he is arranging circumstances to bring us to a place where the very motivations of our hearts are changed. He is freeing us from some weight that holds us down.

    I have been in that circumstance several times and only after looking back did it appear an answer was given. Those events were without a doubt refining fires, that nearly caused me to lose all bearing in life. Gradually though as I trusted and obeyed the circumstances I found myself in with what had to be the Grace of God, did I see the redeeming value. I have learned not to set timelines on desires, since God in his mystery changes my desires and gives me the perspective needed. I am gaining a hope that in God’s time my circumstances and desires will mesh. You and the men you reach give spur me on to gain freedom from those weights that we often are unaware of.

    • Hi Jim,

      I especially love your line, “Those events were without a doubt refining fires, that nearly caused me to lose all bearing in life.”

      Yes, I believe that God is about that very thing. He is taking circumstances in our lives to reveal to us the wrong things we cling to, when we lose them it causes us “to lose all bearing in life.” And God is stripping them away so that we have a true bearing in life which brings life. He is burning away the false “Lords of our lives.”



  7. John says:

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts.

    Receiving silence in response to a plea to God can be a lonely feeling. I never considered that the silence itself may be an answer leading me to grow in my faith and understanding.

    While there have been times where I will always wonder why He didn’t speak loudly to me or render the help that I was seeking, I have to accept that He knows what He is doing. (I’ve never felt more alone than when I unsuccessfully tried to give CPR to a dead infant, but I keep telling myself that God had a plan for the child beyond our life here on earth. Maybe this experience was meant to help me grow in faith and accept His will without question.)

    As always, you help make me understand issues that confront and confound me. Thanks, and keep writing. You have a true gift.


  8. Powerful post reminding me that WHY I do something is more important than actually doing it most times. I appreciated the reminder that whatever controls my life is lord of my life – that’s a convicting thought when I gripe too easily about “how busy life is”.

    If I don’t check in with God about every activity, then He isn’t Lord, no matter what I say. Keep on writing!

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