Last week I was in the waiting room of a local hospital.
As I waited to see the doctor (don’t worry, nothing serious), I noticed in one corner of the room, a small box with the word ‘suggestion’ on it.
Once I reached the doctors office I noticed another sign on the door, which had a similar message on it. It said something like; “please give us suggestions on how we can improve”.
The hospital was looking for ways to get better. They wanted anyone and everyone to give them advice, to offer their opinion.
Sometimes, we Christians can be the exact opposite of that.
It’s true isn’t it?
It seems we’re often too proud to ask for advice. Perhaps we don’t want other people to know we’re not perfect. We like to act like we can do it all on our own.
“No advice necessary!” or so we portray.
We seem to think that the trouble with asking for opinions is that you’ll open a can of worms and people will actually tell you what they think. They’ll tell us things we don’t want to hear.
So what happens when you reach a cross road in life, a time when you don’t know what to do… what then?
What happens when life over-takes you and you arrive some place you’ve never been, and you don’t know where to go from there?
You may feel like God has spoken to you, but you’re not sure. You want to do the right thing, make the right choice, but you’re not convinced you of which option to choose.
The Bible speaks a lot, both overtly and through the stories and themes of the narrative, about seeking advice. You probably know as well as I do that it strongly encourages us to be humble and even wise enough to seek the counsel of others.
Proverbs 15:22 it says;
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
It seems obvious, when making a life changing decision, and when making plans, we should seek advice.
The problem is, who do we listen to?
Should we follow the hospitals lead and just ask anyone? Open the flood gates and potentially drown the in the sea of opinion? After all the Bible does talk about ‘many advisers’.
Who should the ‘many’ be?
I’ve seen friends, and even strangers on more than one occasion, ask for advice like the hospital did. They put their plans out on social media and expect to get ‘wise counsel’.
Instead, often times all they get are wise cracks, jokes, and perhaps one or two sincere comments in reply. How do you sift through the good advice from the bad and ugly? And if not social media then where should we go for good advice that you can trust?
I may not be an expert in this area, but my experience leads me to believe that the best counsellor is the one who has the most experience in the area you are needing advice in. This doesn’t mean the most successful person, although learning from others success can be beneficial, it’s the person you can learn the most from in a particular area of life.
Before I go on, please don’t make the mistake of seeking advice from people with a different world view to you. No matter the type of advice you need, or the category that need may fit into, you always need to diligently find people who share the same foundational beliefs and understanding as you. Without this platform their advice will always be flawed and potentially harmful.
Having said that, there’s major categories you should think about when seeking advice. Spiritual, Vocational, Relational, and Experiential.
Spiritual – If you’re needing advice in an area of spiritual growth, be it understanding Christianity, God, or the Bible, look for someone, or a group or people who are well versed in the spiritual things of life. They know the Lord and His word, they’ve served Him faithfully, and they display the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
Vocational – You’re likely to need to make major decisions in the area of your work at some stage in your life. If the decision you are needing to make is specifically related to the nuance of the type of work you are in then it makes perfect sense to seek advice from an expert in that field. But, also look for people who have had a long and positive work life.
Relational – Relationships are tricky. Some people excel at them while others find making and keeping strong relationships more difficult. Look for people in your world who have strong and lasting relationships and seek to their counsel. Don’t be afraid to ask the ‘dumb’ questions and to get to the real heart of how to be a good friend and to make long lasting friendships.
Experiential – This may seem like a strange category, but sometimes you need advice from people who generally have more experience than you currently have. People who are simply further down the road of life. Those that have taken some hits and are still standing. Older, wiser, more experienced in the ways of life.
Of course, we can always learn from those who’ve done things differently, who’ve failed, or who’ve not made the wisest choices, but again, when seeking advice we need to choose people who share our world view and not just people who’ve lived a full and adventurous life.
Also, be well aware of other peoples bias. If you ask your parents whether you should move overseas to live, of course they may tell you it’s a bad idea. They probably want you to stay close and if they don’t, why not? Weigh these types of bias up when seeking advice.
Aside from people who fit the categories above there’s obvious people in your world that you should always seek advise from. Here they are, the 6 obvious people to seek advice from and to always listen to;
1) God – What does God actually think about the situation, or decision you find yourself in? Search the scriptures for passages that relate to what you’re going through. Don’t just look for the obvious verses that you always read, actually study the broader context and themes. You’re sure to be surprised by what you find.
2) Yourself – It’s easy to fool yourself into wanting to do (or to have) things that we really know aren’t right. Stop for a minute and think clearly. What is it that your heart of hearts is telling you? What does your conscience say? Or, have you ignored your conscience and perhaps the Holy Spirit for so long that you can’t tell when He’s prodding you in a certain direction?
3) Your spouse – Sometimes to hardest person to ask is the one who knows you the best. Sometimes that’s exactly the person to be honest and humble with because their thoughts may just be the most valuable. They have the most invested in you, they love you the most, and of course they have the most to lose should you make a dumb decision.
4) Your natural and/or church family – If your family is like most families then they’ll probably tell you what they think without you asking! Instead of getting annoyed and frustrated by this, listen and take note. Think through what they’re saying and why. Don’t write off your family and their advice because you think you’ve heard it all before. Humble yourself and be open to their thoughts, feelings and direction.
5) Your circle of close Christian friends – Unlike family, most often our close friends won’t tell us what they really think unless you ask. So go ahead and ask. Make them be brutally honest. Don’t rest until they are. Then when they tell you the truth, don’t be angry if it isn’t what you want to hear. Be a big enough person to thank them for their honesty, take it on board and compare it to the wisdom you’ve been given from all your other trusted advisors.
6) Your Pastor – Who better to ask for spiritual, godly, and biblical wisdom, than your Pastor. This may be the senior pastor at your church if you have relationship with them, but it could equally be your small group leader, or whoever is your pastoral oversight. Don’t neglect the advise you can get from good books, commentaries and other more virtual sources of learning.
No one advisor is good enough. Seek many and varied counsellors.
Don’t be like a lot of people though who keep asking for advice until they find someone to agree with the decision they want to make. Be disciplined enough to work out who the wisest people in your life are and seek their advice on the major issues of life.
Seek multiple peoples advise and keep all of their thoughts in mind as you prayerfully move forward in any given direction.
This is really key – Remember to really listen; the journey that your life takes may seriously depend on it.
A major part in seeking wise counsel is in the listening to the wise counsellors. If you’re not prepared to take the advice on board, even if it’s not what you end up doing, then there’s no point in asking in the first place.
The next time you’re facing a major life decision, or when you’re trying to work through a situation that has unexpectedly come your way, you’ll be ready to seek advise from trusted advisors. Look for people in the above categories and especially from the obvious people in your world to turn to.
Add a lot of thought, prayer, bible study, and due diligence to any advice you’re given. You’ll then be well you your way to making the best decisions possible for your life. Continue doing that across the breadth of your life, for the course of your life, and you will always be moving upwards and onwards, from strength to strength.
All the best with it!