Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
Have you ever made a decision that you knew was the right one for you, that you felt was aligned with God’s will and calling for you, and then found yourself worrying about it or second guessing yourself in the days and weeks—maybe even months—following it?
I think we all face times when we wonder, Did I make the right decision? Or maybe, Did I hear God correctly? Is this what He wanted me to do?
Whether we made a decision to care for someone else or to move our family to another town or to pursue a particular degree in school… there are so many choices we make. And we get unsure of ourselves. We wonder if we’re doing it right. We question our decisions and start to doubt if we even heard God at all.
There are other episodes where we have talked about discerning various things, like episode 2: Discerning Who to Encourage, or episode 5: Discerning How to Help a Grieving Friend. There’s also episode 24, in which I share my own story of discerning to go “all in” with Love Does That. And even more recently, episodes 48 and 60 talk about the power of pre-deciding in difficult seasons and knowing when you might need to make some adjustments. I’ll link to all of those in the show notes in case you’d like to listen to those, too.
But today, I want to offer you some questions to ask when you find yourself in this place of doubt and insecurity. Now, these questions stem from a couple of paragraphs in a letter that Francis de Sales wrote to Madame Jane de Chantal (and I am sure I am not pronouncing those correctly). But he served as her spiritual director in the 1600s and they wrote letters back and forth—much like I do with my spiritual direction clients today—expressing their questions, concerns, desires, spiritual encouragement, and prayers.
Before we get to those questions, though, let’s take a look at why we doubt our decisions in the first place.
Why We Doubt Our Decisions
There are a multitude of reasons why doubt and insecurity sneak into our hearts and minds when it comes to decisions we have made.
We care so very deeply and we’re afraid of messing things up. We want what’s best for us and our family, so when things start to get hard or don’t go as planned, we start second-guessing ourselves.
Maybe others we love disagree with us or have expressed their own doubts about it. While feedback from others is important, as we’ve talked about before and we’ll highlight on in a few minutes, it’s ultimately our decision. And so when we make one that we know makes others unhappy, we can regret it or doubt that we made the right choice.
Sometimes we even overthink our decisions, spending so much time making them when we need to just decide and move on. I’ve been guilty of that. I forget that if God has called me to something, He’ll be there with me through it. I don’t need to know all the answers right away.
Maybe you get stuck thinking about past decisions you made that really weren’t all that good. And you let yourself think that you’re incapable of making good, healthy, godly decisions. Instead of admitting that we all make mistakes or foolish decisions at times and learning from it, we live in it and let it affect every other decision we make. We let it impact our identity.
And sometimes, we get so caught up in comparing ourselves to others and their choices that we lose sight of why we made that decision in the first place. They’re doing that, but I’m doing this. What was I thinking?
What causes you to doubt your decisions? What causes you to second-guess yourself?
Questions We Can Ask
Looking at the letter Francis wrote to Jane, we can identify four different questions we can ask ourselves when it comes to doubting the decisions we have made.
In this case, Jane has questioned her decision in asking Francis to be her spiritual director. And while it can be kind of humorous that Francis is ensuring her that, yes, she made a good decision in choosing him, the specific reasons he lists are where I feel we can tease out these questions to consider about our own decisions when we are feeling unsure about them later on.
Here they are.
Question one, did you feel compelled to make this decision?
As Francis outlines a list of indications that the decision Jane made was a good one, he lists “the strong impulse of your heart which carried you to this decision almost by force, yet with joy and contentment.”
In the weeks and months leading up to going “all in” with my work at Love Does That, I felt that kind of impulse Francis is talking about. It just weighed heavy on my heart—in a good way. I had been working as a children’s ministries director and doing Love Does That on the side, and just felt pulled toward doing more of that work and really leaning into it.
Now, in some situations, we might initially dread what God is inviting us to do. Maybe we don’t want to move, or we don’t want to make this change He is asking of us. But over time, we begin to feel that strong impulse that that is, indeed, what He wants us to do, and we begin to accept it. We might even begin to feel that joy and contentment about it.
Some people experience this as that peace that passes understanding. Even though they still experience fear and some questions, they know this is where God is directing them. They are compelled.
Question two, did you take time to truly consider the options before committing to this decision?
Francis mentions the time he took to deliberate before agreeing to Jane’s wish to be her spiritual director. In fact, he writes that he actually hesitated at first, then shared, “It was not from any disinclination to serve you spiritually… but in a decision of such moment I didn’t want to follow either your desire or my inclination, but only God and His providence.”
Francis took the time to consider whether or not to serve as Jane’s spiritual director, or if someone else might be better suited for that role.
Have you taken the time to consider other options available to you?
Back to my example with Love Does That… I and others along with me explored other options. Could I continue doing both jobs? Was there a way to change my schedule so I could give attention to both? Did we need to hire someone to help me as a children’s ministries director? I took all those opportunities to God and yet felt those were not the right path for me. That He was, indeed, asking me to go “all in” with Love Does That. And that meant stepping down from my role in children’s ministries.
What are the options before you? Try not to get stuck in “this or that” thinking, but brainstorm out of the box ideas, even if they seem crazy or impossible to you.
If you considered other options but still feel compelled to move forward on this particular path, you can trust the decision you made.
Question three, did you seek feedback from a trusted individual?
Francis writes that neither he nor Jane made this decision on their own, they did not rely on themselves, but they sought the opinion of someone they both knew and trusted.
I shared about this a bit in episode 60, as I reached out to others I trusted as I contemplated making a change in our family’s rhythm and commitment. These individuals have been able to speak both encouragement and warnings about what this decision would entail. It has been so valuable to hear from them.
Did you take time to get such feedback from others you know and trust? People who know you, your values, your personality, your calling? Or did you rush into a decision on your own, without talking to others about it? And if so, why? Why didn’t you talk to others?
Now, as I mentioned before, sometimes people we love will disagree with us, and that’s one reason we can doubt our decision. But if after getting that trusted feedback, after exploring the other options, we still feel pulled in one direction, it’s okay to make that decision. Trust God in that.
And question four, did you give time to test the passion and excitement of your decision?
In many situations, we might make a decision out of excitement of following a dream or pursuing a passion. And while those things are good, we want to make sure that we are prepared to follow through on our decision and commitment.
Francis wrote that they allowed time for Jane’s “first enthusiasm to subside in case it had been misplaced,” and they “prayed about this, not for one or two days only, but for several months.”
Think back to a time when you got excited or passionate about something and rushed to volunteer yourself. Maybe it was for a work assignment or a ministry role at church or caring for someone else. Maybe it was a coaching or training program you wanted to participate in.
But maybe a few weeks into it, you realize you weren’t really prepared for what you were volunteering for. You didn’t know it would take so much time or energy from you. You didn’t realize the impact it would have on your family.
Caring for others is good. Leading others and teaching others is good. Learning and growing is good. Entering into various mentoring relationships is good. But we don’t want to be hasty in making our decision. We want to be sure to pray about it. Because there will be some sort of cost involved.
If you can, wait a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, even, before you make a final decision. Test your passion and commitment to this path.
Stop arguing and doubting
Remember, Jane is questioning whether or not she should have asked Francis to be her spiritual director. And after Francis lists these four things to Jane, he encourages her to “stop right there and don’t go on arguing with the enemy about it; tell him boldly that it was God who wanted it and who has done it.”
If you reflect on these four questions and have followed such trusted and tried recommendations for discernment and decision-making, then have faith that God led you to this decision, that He wanted it, and you don’t have to doubt that decision any more. You don’t have to listen to the enemy’s lies or accusations any longer. You can trust that your Good Shepherd speaks in a way that you can understand clearly, and that He will lead you down a good path.
If, however, you find that perhaps you were a bit too hasty in making a decision or didn’t consult anyone else, then ask God what He would have you do about it. He might ask you to step back from your commitment. He might invite you to continue on, but after weighing these things and having a more realistic perspective of what is involved. God is gracious and will meet us where we are.
Those four questions, again, are:
- Did you feel compelled to make this decision?
- Did you take time to truly consider the options before committing to this decision?
- Did you seek feedback from a trusted individual?
- Did you give time to test the passion and excitement of your decision?
If you are in a season of discernment right now, if there is a decision you need to make, I would love to support you as your spiritual director. Much like Francis supported Jane.
To learn more about how my letter-writing style of spiritual direction works and how it can be a safe and sacred place for you to explore your own questions, desires, and concerns, go to lovedoesthat.org/spiritualdirection. If you’re interested, just hit the “Work with Kari” button at the top right of your screen and fill out the form there.
Okay, my friends, that’s all for today. Thank you so much for being here with me. Until next time…
- Episode 2: Discerning Who to Encourage
- Episode 5: Discerning How to Help a Grieving Friend
- Episode 24: An Example in Spiritual Discernment and Decision Making: Going “All In” With Love Does That
- Episode 48: The Power of Pre-Deciding in Difficult Seasons
- Episode 60: When Seasons Change and You Have to Make Adjustments
INTERESTED IN WRITTEN SPIRITUAL DIRECTION?
I’d be honored to walk with you through a difficult season and help you discover God’s presence and work in your life.