If you’re human, which I’d guess you are, it’s inevitable that at some point or another in your life you’ve second-guessed a decision. Maybe it’s something as small as which flavor blizzard to get at Dairy Queen, but it’s likely that you’ve also experienced this in what I’d call “big life decisions.” Should I move out of state? Take this job or that one? Date this person or not? Big life decisions are scary because, as the name implies, they greatly impact your life and set it in a very decided direction that has long-term implications (unlike eating a Butterfinger rather than cookie dough blizzard).
What Could Have Been
The temptation arises when, once a decision is made and the implications of that decision begin playing out, we eventually hit a rough spot or a moment of turmoil which lends itself to the thought, “Did I make the right decision?” The person we broke up with doesn’t look so bad when we’re feeling lonely, or maybe we don’t care how much the job pays when in the midst of an 80-hour work week, or perhaps general frustration with our current life situation forces us to think about that out-of-state opportunity we turned down. Our minds can think of “what ifs” and “should haves” until we drive ourselves crazy. We can create picture-perfect ideas of how life would have turned out had we chosen option b, or even c or d, and find ourselves overwhelmed with remorse and regret.
Why do we do this? Why is this the human tendency and how can we fight it? Because let’s face it, though at times it’s prudent to reflect upon our reasons behind choosing whatever we did, the downward spiral of second-guessing is agonizing misery! I don’t know if you caught it, but it seems that second-guessing always begins at the same moment, and that moment is when suffering enters the picture.
I’m lonely, I’m overwhelmed, I’m frustrated… Did I make the right decision?
The reason that second-guessing is so detrimental is that it assumes that our choices should provide us with a suffering-free outcome. If only we hadn’t broken up with our ex-boyfriend, then perhaps we wouldn’t be lonely right now. While that may be true, chances are you’d likely be unhappy, frustrated, or in a tumultuous state wondering if you really wanted to be with him in the first place.
My point is this: suffering is a given. With that reality in mind, why would you base a decision by trying to avoid the impossible? You can’t avoid suffering, so don’t let the avoidance of suffering dictate your decision-making, because it will undoubtedly be a bad decision. It may be true that a certain decision will lead to one type of suffering vs. another, but we know that ultimately we don’t get to choose our suffering (hence why it is suffering), and as soon as we’re in one form of it we immediately wish we had a different cross to bear.
Don’t kid yourself by trying to control things that are beyond you. When suffering arises, rather than turning to second-guessing, remind yourself of the why behind your decision in the first place. If it was a good discernment, you likely have some solid reasons. Perhaps you turned down that out-of-state job because you decided living near family is non-negotiable, or maybe you decided to take the demanding job with the goal of paying off your debt in three years. Use your cognition to stay steadfast and persevere in the suffering, recognizing that your decision was made to lead you towards something good, not keep you away from something hard, and that God is intentionally allowing this particular cross at this time in your life for a reason.
Don’t Let Fear Drive Your Decisions
Rather than shying away from it because of fear, let that fear be a signal to you that you’re at a crossroads of growth. You can continue on despite the fear and, whatever the outcome, walk away proud knowing that you’re better for it, or you can allow it to hold you back and redirect you towards an illusion of safety. In moments of suffering, it is so easy to be overcome by fear and want to back-peddle and choose a seemingly easier option. But don’t. Don’t let fear drive your decisions. Let your decisions be ruled by reason, right judgment, and a deep and intense trust that the Lord is taking care of you and providing for you, especially in the midst of suffering.