Do you ever just feel stuck

Well, that’s how I feel right now. Stuck. I feel stuck whenever I think about the future and try to decide in my mind what I should do. My life feels stuck right now, not moving forward, and not moving backward, just staying here. When I try to think about the decisions ahead of me, all I feel is stuck.

But there’s been this idea running through my head that I keep coming back to. Not many people know that in my spare time I manage a blog for a christian adventure camp. I work on their blog about an hour a week and I post a blog post every two weeks. The last post I wrote for them was on how to make wise decisions. And the post I wrote has just been running non-stop through my mind during this time that I feel stuck. So I thought, why not share it here too, of course, I’ll make a few changes to it so it fits better with my situation. It’s been helping me so much as I walk through this difficult season so I hope it can help you too.

So here you go! (Note: as you read this it might be helpful for you know that it is a rafting camp I work at and I have been a river guide at that camp for the past two years. Also this idea is not my original idea, it came from a devotional book I’m reading by Lysa Terkeurst, I just gave it a river guide twist.)

The Process of Making Decisions

When you feel stuck what do you do? 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? 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 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 devotional book I’m currently reading, 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.

Step one: Scout out the river

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 a guide isn’t familiar with a river or a certain rapid, they will take the time to survey the water before going down.  This act of stopping to look ahead at the river is 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 you survey the river before you, maybe you will see that the river is taking you somewhere you don’t want to go.  If you see that the opportunity will take you somewhere you really don’t want to go, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it or else you may find yourself swimming hard to get out later and it could have all been avoided if you simply stopped and scouted first.

Step Two: 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.

Step 4: 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.  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 feel like 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 get out, you can swim into one of these eddies and it will keep you from being swept downstream.  So before you jump in, know where your eddies are, have your back-up plans ready for when you need them.

Step three: If it’s all 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 you know what the all risks are and have your backup plan for if things go wrong. Or maybe you decide not to jump in, and that is okay too. There are some rapids river guides don’t ever attempt because they know they are too dangerous. If you deemed the opportunity not a good fit for you after going through all these steps, than you most likely are saving yourself from much struggle and heartache down the road.

I also want to note that there are times when God will ask 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. 

Some concluding thoughts

And there it is. This is the post that has been running through my head and reminding me that all these steps are important to take whenever we feel stuck.

What step are you finding yourself in? At this point in my situation, I am finding myself in the middle of the first two steps. I will be here for a while. The waters before me are very rough and dangerous and I need a lot of time and help if I decide to jump in. So right now, I’m choosing to take some time to evaluate the water before me. I am not ready to jump in because I need to seek out counsel and learn more about where the river is going before I can make any sort of decision. I am also realizing that I may be stuck on the edge of this river for awhile. Only God knows when the time will be right to jump in, or if that time will ever come. But I’m not stuck when I remember that there many ways to take action and prepare myself for what is ahead. Taking my time and waiting is the wisest thing I can do right now.

I hope that if you ever feel stuck and have to make a difficult decision, you don’t forget how important these steps are. Prayerfully walk through each one and hopefully it will help you realize that in God’s great time table, you never truly are stuck.

“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

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