I looked at the stiff, gaudy gold couch, quickly convinced myself I could like it, and handed the owner half of her asking price until I could come back and pick it up later that week.
Let’s just say, it wasn’t one of my better decisions.
Under the stress of planning a wedding the following month, moving my soon-to-be husband into our new apartment, and managing a massive growing to-do list, I was not thinking clearly. “Buy a couch” was on my to-do list, and I wanted to check it off.
Thankfully, my fiancé reasoned with me that there was no need to hurriedly buy an ugly couch I didn’t like, and the owner of the couch was willing to return my deposit.
This is a snapshot of me under stress—impatient, hurried, and unreasonable.
What I’ve learned time and again is that under the weight of stress, my decision-making suffers. Sometimes I get overly emotional; other times I make snap decisions in an effort to get something done. No matter what, I’m usually adamant that I’m right!
Without a doubt, stress of all kinds affects our ability to make sound, wise decisions. It can distort our reality, hasten our decision, amplify our foolishness, or paralyze us.
As stewards of our God-given gifts, talents, and resources, making God-pleasing decisions is precisely how we remain faithful to God’s call on our lives. So, how do we make sure to stay on track when stress threatens to derail us?
Applying the economic way of thinking does not mean strictly thinking in dollars and cents. It means carefully weighing the expected costs and benefits to a decision. We won’t know the actual costs and benefits until after we make a decision.
On top of that, by our very nature we are limited. Under stress, our realistic expectations can fly out the window. We see a distorted picture of the pros and cons, and studies show that we tend to focus more on reward than risk.
Thinking economically under stress means carefully, objectively weighing pros and cons. Using the economic way of thinking is how God has called us to make decisions that please him. We must think critically and economically about maximizing our resources, using them to God’s glory, and discerning where God is calling us.
Seek Wise Counsel
When I feel under the attack of stress, my perspective gets clouded, I get overly emotional, and I struggle to see the end goal. Seeking the opinion and perspective of someone I trust and respect brings light to the situation, helps me understand the problem, and can even clarify a solution.
Asking for help or counsel when you’re overwhelmed doesn’t always come easy. It takes humility, discernment, and courage. Bringing in an outside opinion can help weigh the costs and benefits of a decision and illuminate a different, helpful perspective. (Prov. 12:15; Prov. 19:20-21; Ps. 1:1-6)
As much as you seek the wisdom and counsel of others, pray about it more. Commit to praying about your stress more than you talk about it. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Seeking wisdom in decision making requires that we seek the Lord, who is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. As James 1:5 reminds us, God delights to give wisdom to those who ask of it. He gives us what we need to make a decision when we ask for it. (James 1:5; Prov. 2:6; Prov. 11:2)
Under stress, I am utterly impatient. This makes it even more important for me to slow down. In the moment of being overwhelmed, I’m more likely to make a rash decision, think unreasonably, and misjudge a situation. Practicing patience in those moments is not only an act of spiritual discipline, but it produces steadfastness and trust in the Lord. (Rom. 12:2; Rom. 8:25; Ps. 37:7-9)
Buying that ugly gold couch would have been a poor investment, but thankfully it was one that I could reverse (we bought a new couch we love!). Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Our decisions come with consequences—both good and bad. God blesses our fruitfulness and disciplines our wayward actions (Prov. 3:33; Prov. 28:20). We are always called to faithful obedience, discerning stewardship, and wise decision making.
Stress can distort and complicate those actions, making our perspective and dependence on God even more important. These pointers are just a few ways to adjust decision making under stress.
How does stress affect your decision making? How do you make sound decisions under the effects of stress?
Editor’s note: On “Flashback Friday,” we publish some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was first published on May 16, 2016.