The Wisdom to Know What to Do
Guest Contribution submitted by Debbie’s Dad
He thought to himself, “What shall I do?” Luke 12:17a
Among the painful memories of my life is the period after my mother’s death in Ohio when my sister and I were confronted with caring for our aging blind father. Our mom had cared for him valiantly until a brain tumor ended her role, and we hired caregivers to care for them both. Then, when mom went to be with the Lord, we were confronted with the question, “What are we to do?” We tried bringing him to our house in Michigan and soon realized we could not handle his situation. My sister searched for places in his hometown area and found a family home that provided caregiving; we tried that, and it only lasted a couple of weeks. Finally, my sister found a rest home where we placed him, and he could receive full-time care. I still recall getting him ready to leave his home for the final time, helping him put on his red and black checkered flannel jacket and hat. Just as he had helped me put on my jacket as a small boy, the roles were now reversed, and I was in charge of the rest of his life. I guided him out the door, down the steps, to the car, and took him to his new and final home. It is still painful to remember. For my sister and me, it was a time of hard decisions.
The Scriptures describe the circumstances that confronted many individuals with critical life decisions and showed us the results of their actions. Consider just a few.
- In anguish, Job wondered about his future confrontation with God, in which he would have to answer for his life: “…what will I do when God confronts me? What will I answer when called to account? (Job 31:14).
• In desperation, Moses cried out to God for help saving his own life: “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me” (Exodus 17:4).
• The rich man in Jesus’ parable wondered what to do with his overflowing wealth. Jesus described his decision process as a soliloquy of the heart: “He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'” (Luke 12:17). In other parables, Jesus used the soliloquy to describe how people articulate to themselves the problem they face and the process of reasoning to a decision. In addition to the rich man (Luke 12:16-21), see the manager-steward (Luke 16:1-13) and the absent vineyard owner (Luke 20:9-15.
• A real ruler from Jerusalem asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18).
• Much later, when confronted by Jesus along a dusty road, Saul of Tarsus asked the same question: “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10).
In each of these cases, life crises confronted the individuals with a serious but fundamental question.
Like the rich man in Jesus’ parable, we all ask ourselves, “what will I do?” about myriad issues, whether at the level of a life crisis or the common level of daily decisions.
In my career, I have been trained to perform decisions in a formal process (and I have taught it, too):
- . Define and decompose the problem rigorously
- Define decision-making criteria
- Synthesize alternatives and evaluate each by the established criteria
- Perform decision analysis comparing all alternatives against all decision criteria
- Assess rank order and choose the best alternative.
Yes, the elements of the purely rational process are helpful for an engineering project. Still, they would be useless for the situations confronting Job, Moses, the ruler in Jerusalem, or Saul of Tarsus. And that was not the approach for my sister and me. Sure, we searched for alternatives, but we sought an answer from the Lord and prayed.
In the 27th Psalm, David described his approach while being hunted and besieged by those seeking to kill him. He remained confident in the Lord. He sought the Lord:
- Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. (vv.7,8)
- Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. (v.11)
- Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (v.14)
He sought the Lord for answers, asked to be taught the Lord’s way, and waited for the Lord’s answer.
When we are confronted with life’s difficult issues and we ask, “What and I to Do?” it is wise to seek the Lord, ask for His guidance, and patiently wait as He works in our life.