As I've made big decisions over the past year, I have learned that despite prayer, asking for wisdom, and seeking godly counsel, I still struggle with a fair amount of doubt . I think doubt and its partner, fear, is the enemy's way of trying to lead us away from all the great things God has planned for us.
From the moment I decided I would pursue graduate school, through the application process, and during the time I was praying about accepting the position offered to me by my university, I had my doubts. The what-ifs seemed endless, and would sometimes keep me up at night.
I wondered if I should be doing this because financially we didn't (and still don't) have all the answers.
I wondered if I should be going through school instead of working and supporting Alex through his journey through graduate school. Would it be too taxing on our marriage?
I wondered if spending the money and time on this degree would even be worth it if I decided to be a stay at home mom later in life.
I even wondered if I had the wrong motives. Did I want to become a nurse practitioner simply because of the title, prestige, or the feeling that I was keeping up with Alex?
As if my own doubts weren't enough, I had to consider opinions of certain trusted friends. I had close friends tell me that going to school at the same time as Alex wasn't a wise idea, and had more than one coworker caution me against graduate school and the nurse practitioner field in general. My own doubts and the doubts that came through conversations with others were overwhelming at times. I felt frustrated with myself for doubting and with God for not making the answers clearer.
So how do you overcome doubt?
Pray against Satan and his schemes. I firmly believe that large scale doubt that frustrates and overwhelms is part of Satan's plans to thwart God's plans in our lives. I believe that small doubt is healthy and can often be the Holy Spirit's promptings in our lives. If your doubt is overwhelming you, pray first and foremost that Satan has no part in it. You want to be able to distinguish doubt from the enemy versus a healthy nudge from the Holy Spirit.
Focus on the truths of God. There are so many promises outlined in the Psalms and throughout the Bible that we must cling to in our day to day lives. The promise that I cling to when I'm making decisions is Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." I have to be careful with this promise- I need to make sure that I'm delighting in the Lord and not my desire.
When I was doubting whether or not I should even chase my dream of becoming a nurse practitioner, I came back to this verse. I have dreamed of becoming a nurse practitioner for almost 10 years and I don't think that's an accident. If you have a dream that's deep in your heart, chances are it’s not an accident. I knew full well that the desire could be there yet the Lord would direct me to another path. I chose to shift my focus from my desire (becoming an NP) to delighting in Him. This meant that I made a conscious effort to praise Him- during my prayer time, in the car, as I spent time in nature. As I focused on Him, I began to have less doubt regarding my decision. I felt the reassurance that this dream was from the Lord, and this reassurance made all the difference in the world.
Seek godly counsel. As always, this is a vital part of making big decisions. It is so very important to get input and prayer from those that are wiser than you but we must also remember to take this counsel to the Lord. No matter how godly your person is, they are still human and can make mistakes. In my situation, I had sought godly counsel and the wisdom I got was conflicting. That meant that it was my responsibility to take this advice to the Lord. Even if the advice hadn't conflicted, it's always our responsibility to take counsel to the Lord and pray that He helps you discern it.
Don't forget your common sense. This is very important step in decision making and overcoming doubt, yet it's last for a reason. I'm a total pros/cons list-think everything through kind of gal, but practical thinking isn't where I stop. I look at the practical aspects then pray about it and then decide. I'm a head over heart person so this comes easy to me; if you're a heart over head person this may take some practice.
Recently I turned down a job offer that would have paid me more than my current position. But despite the pay raise, the hours and type of work didn't make much sense with my current situation. I wanted the job and could have prayed my way into it, but I knew that it was a bad idea. Once I accepted in my heart that the job was a bad idea, it became clear that the wise thing to do was decline the offer. I would be the first to say that God's way doesn't always fit common sense, but that doesn't mean we throw it out either. There's a place for both, and I just encourage you to think practically, pray about it, and then see where the Lord guides you.
From a practical side, I know that my doubt and fear regarding big decisions is much much worse when I'm tired, hungry, or upset. Make sure that when you're making big decisions you take care of yourself- eat enough, sleep enough, and take time to do something fun. This will give you a lot more clarity regarding the decision you need to make and will help eliminate doubt.