Maybe I should have told him what to wear today, I thought as I drove past my son in the blistering cold, while he was walking to school… in a T-shirt!
The temperature gauge on my truck dash said it was 16 degrees F (-9 degrees C) as my teenage son walked more than a ½ mile to school that morning. I prayed, “God, Don’t let him freeze to death today because I gave him too much freedom to choose what he wears to school,” on the way to my warm office.
Giving a child freedom of choice is a challenge for parents, but making decisions is essential to becoming an adult. As a father, it often felt like I was caught in a constant struggle between trusting my children to make their own decisions versus protecting them from making bad decisions. Every parent I know has felt the internal-freedom-versus-protection battle when their child was facing a big decision.
What’s a parent to do?
I wish I could say that I always knew when my children were ready to make their own decisions and trusted them with those decisions. However, I sometimes got this wrong. I sometimes made important decisions for them, because I wanted to protect them. Although my motives were honorable, I stunted their ability to learn and grow through making their own decisions.
Other times, I felt like I gave my children too much freedom to make their own decisions. I took the responsibility to protect my family very seriously, and this sense of responsibility created a gnawing sense of guilt every time one of my children made a bad decision.
I couldn’t help but think, Perhaps I should have stepped in and made the decision for them to prevent my child from having to experience the pain of making a bad decision (like walking to school without a jacket in below-freezing temperatures).
Your heart directs your decisions
At the risk of getting theological on you, for just a few moments let’s talk about the foundation behind all decisions that you make. Ultimately, human beings are emotional creatures. Therefore, many of our decisions are heavily influenced by our heart more than our head. Sometimes, emotion wins over logic when facing very important decisions.
There is nothing wrong with allowing your heart to influence your decisions. However, all of us must keep in mind that our hearts can sometimes be wrong. Because our hearts can be deceived, we can sometimes make the wrong decision when following our heart in very important matters.
The Bible describes the heart of a fool in Proverbs 15:7 (The lips of the wise broadcast knowledge, but not so the heart of fools). The word fool is meant to be a warning, not an insult, in this verse. This is a biblical warning to carefully examine your heart before deciding in an important matter. Just because your heart is sincere does not mean it’s not being deceived. Sometimes, you just might be sincerely deceived!
And following a deceived heart can be catastrophic in major decisions.
Only God’s grace can set your heart free
How can you know for sure that your heart is not being deceived? How can you trust your heart to help you make the right decisions? Don’t trust your unchanged heart. God describes what sin does to the human heart back in the beginning of the Bible.
In Genesis 8:21, God, who can see the hearts of people, describes the condition of the human heart by saying, …even though the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward. Did you notice when the heart becomes evil in this verse? It starts when you are young. In fact, you were born with a heart infected with sin, according to Psalm 51:5.
Humans lack the ability to change their own heart. This only happens through a supernatural work of God. He graciously changes the hearts of all who turn to him in faith. The prophet Ezekiel describes this supernatural work of God like a heart transplant which brings a dead patient to life. (I will give them integrity of heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove their heart of stone from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh, so that they will follow my statutes, keep my ordinances, and practice them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.)
God is the perfect Father. He knows that your heart is not trustworthy to make big decisions. Sometimes your Father in Heaven prevents you from making bad decisions by sending his angels to protect you. However, the greatest way your Father in Heaven protects his children is by changing their hearts, so that they will make better decisions.
Before you make your next big decision, ask yourself if you can truly trust your heart. Examine your heart and see if it has been changed by the gracious work of God BEFORE you make the next big decision. This alone will prevent you from living with the consequences of a series of bad decisions.
Your freedom to make grownup decisions is dangerous until your heart has been changed.
If you realize that you need the heart transformation describes in Ezekiel 11:19-20, here’s how to ask God to transform you. Ask God for a heart transformation by this simple prayer.
God, I believe that you are a good Father who wants what’s best for me. I also believe that you know my heart and the mistakes and sins that I’ve committed in the past. You know that I don’t have the power to fix my own heart. So, I plead the blood of Jesus as payment for the mistakes I’ve made. Today I come to you asking you to remove my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. Will you transform my heart so that it loves you and wants to serve you? Amen.
If you made the prayer from a sincere heart, I would love to know about it. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read about Jeff’s Army career