What do you do when you come to a crossroads in life and you have to make a decision?  When it comes to discerning how to wisely make decisions, are we all on our own, or is there a tried and true formula to follow?

The other day I came across something that shed a lot of light on this topic of making decisions.  Each day I have been reading from a daily devotional in my morning quiet time and today’s reading was on the importance of making decisions.  The author compared the process of making decisions to a river, and of course, me being a river guide, I gobbled up this idea and wanted to add my own two cents to it.   So if you all don’t mind, let me share it with you all!

The process of making decisions

Life is full of choices and opportunities.  Some choices are easy and some are hard.  Sometimes in life, we come to a place where we need to think hard about making a decision.  When we hit a crossroad and there two choices before us and many new opportunities within reach, what are we supposed to do?  Should we jump right in and take the first opportunity that knocks on the door or do we wait?

In the devotion book, this illustration was given; coming to a decision in life is like coming to the edge of a river.  The river represents the opportunity before us.  It may be tempting to jump right in without any thought and grab that new opportunity.  But when you jump into a river you don’t have any control.  I can tell you from experience that the current in the river will sweep you away with it as soon as you enter. If you decide you want out you will have to swim hard against the current to get out.  A nearly impossible task in strong currents.

Scout out the river first

So what are you supposed to do? Before you jump into the river, you should stop and take a moment to survey the river.  You do not need to jump into the river to see which direction the river is going.  By simply looking ahead and taking notice of the current, you can learn a lot about what will happen once you jump in.  River guides are constantly doing this.  If I guide isn’t familiar with a river or a certain rapid, they will take the time to survey the water before going down.  When your guide stops to look at the pattern of the river before going down it’s called scouting.  This helps guides to decide if the way the river is going is safe and what actions they should take before they go down.

As your survey the river before you, maybe you will see that the river is taking you somewhere you don’t want to go.  Maybe it would not be wise to jump right into this opportunity if it will take you somewhere you really don’t want to go.  For example, maybe you had a new job opportunity arise. It may be tempting to jump right into the river and take it.  But after scouting this new position you realize that it will take you away from your home, or away from your family.  If that path is something you don’t want then it would not be wise to jump right in.  You may find yourself swimming hard to get out later and it could have all been avoided if you simply stopped and scouted first.

Ask experienced guides for advice

Another tactic that can help you in making a decision is asking other experienced people for help.   Whenever I go down the river I learn a lot from more experienced guides. I know that I am not as experienced as other guides and I don’t always trust my own judgment.  When I’m unsure about how to go down a rapid I will ask other guides what routes they take.  Seeking advice from more experienced guides helps me to safely maneuver down the river.

If there are people who know you well, consider asking them to survey the river with you.  They may see an obstacle that you didn’t see and give you counsel against jumping in.  Or they may confirm to you that this opportunity is a good fit for you and worth the risk of jumping in.  When it comes to decision-making, something you should never do is trust yourself.  There are times in life when you may have a gut feeling and you know without much thought what the right thing to do is.  Other times we need the help of others to search our hearts and learn what is the best path is for us.

Know the Risks before jumping in

Once you jump in you can’t jump back out easily.  When I was learning how to guide it didn’t take me long to learn that swimming against the current is pointless.  When swimming in the river, river guides know to use the current to help them get to where they need to go, they will rarely swim against it unless absolutely necessary.  Each one of the river guides here at Rock-N-Water has been educated about the dangers that are in the river.  Jumping into the river is fun but it can also be full of danger and it’s important that we access these dangers before jumping in.

After you have scouted out the river and asked for advice and have come to the conclusion that you are ready to jump in and take that opportunity, one last thing to do is to evaluate what the dangers are.  What are the risks that might come up as you take this path?   If things go wrong somewhere along the way and the current starts taking you somewhere dangerous, what’s your plan to get out?  One thing that river guides are always scanning the river for are eddies.   Eddies are places where the water is actually moving back upstream.  When you are in the current and need to be to get out, you can swim into one of these eddies and it will keep you from being swept away.  So before you jump in, know where your eddies are, have your back-up plans ready for when you need them.

Once it’s clear, jump in

Once you’ve done all these things and you have found this opportunity to be safe and a good move for you, then, by all means, jump in!   You can confidently jump into this opportunity knowing that this decision is going to lead you down a path that you can follow.  You have had confirmation from others who know you well that this new opportunity is good for you.  And lastly, you know what the all risks are and have your backup plan for if things go wrong.

I also want to say that I think it is good to note that sometimes God asks us to jump into deep waters without going through all these steps.  When God asks us to jump in without hesitation, it’s a leap of faith for us and we can rest assured that God will be the one guiding us.  But if you are unsure and have the time, then there is no shame in taking the time to walk through all these steps as you make a decision.

Some verse to consider

Lastly, as I end this post, I wanted to share a few verses with you.  There are so many places in the bible where God talks about rivers and I find these verses very encouraging when I’m on the verge of jumping into the waters of new opportunity.  May these verses bring you encouragement and strength to your heart as seek God in each decision you make.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you, when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, the flames shall not consume you ” Isaiah 43:2

“They shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he has pity on them and He will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.” Isaiah 49:10

“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, he makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3

“With weeping, they shall come, and with pleas for mercy, I will make them walk by the brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble.” Jeremiah 31:9