If there is anything that sticks out and bugs me most about the culture we live in, it’s the insistence that everything in life should be handled like a test. Every problem has a simple and clear solution, every question has a clear concise answer. We see magazines and videos touting “5 Easy Ways to____” or “Top 10 Solutions to X Problem”. We treat parenting and marriage like there are simple ways to navigate them. We even water down theology to catechism and assume our rote memorization will suffice for true knowledge.
I think much of the reason we expect our questions in life to have simple succinct answers is that we grew up reading textbooks in school. Then, because of standardized testing we spent great energy applying textbook answers to test questions. We were essentially trained to think life must have these textbook answers as well. Why would school mislead us?
We become adults and face decisions and only see “A” or “B”. If we know “A” is wrong, we assume that it must be “B”.
But is this how life actually works? No. Of course not. Usually there is a “C” option, more often than not there is a “D” as well. The more we look the more we discover that the direction we can go looks more like alphabet soup than a single textbook course.
Sometimes we arrive at an impasse. There is every conceivable choice with every conceivable outcome. Life becomes a multiple guess test, sometimes with a few random essay questions thrown in just to keep things interesting.
This of course can be quite paralyzing. To our “A” or “B” trained minds, “C” to “Z” can seem impossible to consider. We can’t possibly interpret all the data being thrown at out heads. We seek out articles and books and videos like the ones I mentioned above to help us parse out and narrow down the data.
But sometimes. Sometimes. There are just too many data points to consider. We can’t make our choice based on textbook solutions. So what do we do?
It is really that simple.
We may not always know what to do, but we can at least be fairly sure that doing something is preferable to doing nothing. Sometimes you have to stumble through those multiple guess answers to arrive at something of a clear destination.
Frequently, if we are acting, we “fail”. In the short term our failures seem catastrophic. We chose “C” but the best choice would have been “K”. This bad choice suddenly derails us and we find ourselves wondering if any of our guesses were correct.
The only answer we know about our lives is that there is a beginning and an end. Often there are no answers about what comes between. Life is not a test. There are no simple ways to navigate its many paths, one just has to pick the path and take it.
If there is any textbook answer in life it can be found in Scripture. We are promised that if we seek God’s will our paths will be made straight. If we choose our path with an acknowledgement that God is sovereign over all outcomes He will direct our steps down that path.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6
Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3
The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
So go, do something. Stop expecting easy answers. Stop looking for a textbook to tell you step by step instructions for every detail of life. Even the Bible doesn’t give specific directions. Sometimes you just have to step out in faith and do instead waiting around for a specific instruction.
Make the guess, let God determine how it all turns out.