Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:24-26
Monday through Friday of most weeks I circulate a prayer list for the church I attend. This morning’s prayer verse emphasizes a principle I was introduced to a few years ago. Namely this: All else being equal, after offering earnest prayers to God for a period of time determined by the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life, there is nothing wrong with flipping a coin to decide what one ought to do about a problem or question one faces in life. Sounds pretty risky, I know, but before you judge me for what I’ve just shared read this morning’s verse again. Isn’t this the technique the apostles employed when they were deciding who it would be to take over for Judas once he’d been condemned?
I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when I simply could not decide what it was I ought to do, in order to “do” the right thing. I have no problem choosing between good and bad–except with food, which is a constant struggle for me–that choice is easy. I want the good to prevail, so I choose it. But when the choice is between good, better or best and I have no idea which of the three would be the best for me, things get a whole lot harder. Should I stay, or should I go? Should I speak up, or should I remain silent? Should I share, or should I refrain? And if I share, what should I share? How much should I share? When should I share it, and with whom? You see where my mind goes with regards to these things.
Some people don’t struggle when making decisions–I envy them. Me, I struggle sometimes, and when I do, I get frozen in indecision. I know I need to do something, but what is that something I need to do?
Two years ago I was struggling with a decision that had haunted me for decades. I’d procrastinated and not done what I was often prompted to do. I didn’t trust that I was reading things right, and I guess you could say I had some trust issues with God, too. I wish I didn’t have to say that, but in all honesty, not having had a trustworthy dad growing up, I struggle with lingering trust issues as an adult. Anyway, at this time I felt that pang of conviction again. Would I trust God and take the plunge? Would I do this horribly scary thing that I truly felt had been nagging at me for years? Would I leap into the unknown and trust God to keep me safe?
About this time I read an essay by a favorie author of mine. The piece was part of a study guide that had to do with suffering. I’m a big fan of this writer, so I was delighted to see that he had weighed in on this important topic. In the essay, I found the suggestion I have just passed along to you: All else being equal and after having earnestly sought the Lord in prayer, if you still do not have a definitive answer, or an answer that you can determine to be definitive (because of your failings as a mortal), then flip a coin, cast a lot, pull a rock out of a bag, and let this act, covered in prayer, help you decide.
It was a radical idea that sounded just a wee bit unspiritual to me, yet reflected the unorthodox thinking that has drawn me to his work and his witness in the past. Dare I trust his advice, I wondered? Desperate to find my way, I decided that I would.
My story ends with me taking a risk and pulling a rock. Actually, my husband and I pulled a rock together. We prayed first, asking God to direct our steps and then, yeah, we pulled a rock. Our answer was “no,” so we did nothing. We left the project alone and continued on with our lives. However, within six or eight month’s time, changes in global markets prompted us to reconsider. This time we took a different route to our objective. We consulted with a financial advisor, put together a budget, talked with trusted friends, prayed again, and made a decision to pursue what we felt was God’s choice for our lives. He honored our decision to move forward without pulling rocks that day, but I also believe he honored our decision to pull rocks months before. His “NO” that first time had been decisive and comforting to us. When the time was right, however, His “No” became a “Yes”. Suffice it to say, we had learned a lot in the span of eight months. In His goodness, and because we had learned so much, I believe He thought we were ready for the next phase in our faith journey.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating rock pulling, coin tossing, or lot drawing as a means for supplementing God’s leading in one’s life. However, if you’re stuck and don’t know what to do—if you’ve prayed and still can’t find your way—if you’re someone who isn’t stuck in a spiritual box, but is open to suggestions about alternative ways to determine God’s will for your life, then maybe this tried and true method employed by the Saints and Apostles of old might be the answer to your indecision. One thing you can know for sure when employing this method; if you do toss that coin, you have Scriptural context to defend your choice.
Remember, Prayer Changes Things!