Do We Have Too Many Options?

Do We Have Too Many Options?

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It’s no secret that as young adults we have lots of options when it comes to, well, just about everything. Want to meet someone? Pages and pages of matches are available at any number of online dating sites (anyone seen the ads for farmersonly.com? When it comes to online dating, there’s something for everyone). Like coffee? Any local coffeehouse offers enough choices to be overwhelming to even the most decisive person. Ever turned on your TV only to find there’s nothing good on, despite over 200 channels?

The number of options in these scenarios isn’t necessarily a negative. But sometimes I wonder if, in the face of so many options in every area of life, we can become paralyzed and afraid to commit. We wonder, What if I'm missing out? What if something better is just around the corner?

In his article “Are You Worshipping the God of ‘Open Options’?”, Barry Cooper asks if the idol of open options has enslaved us.

"In his book The Paradox of Choice, psychologist Barry Schwartz explains why we have trouble committing, why we love to keep our options open. He says that as a culture we demand choice. We demand options. We imagine that more options mean more freedom. And most people think that limitless freedom must be a good option.

"The irony, Schwartz writes, is that this apparently limitless choice doesn't actually make us happy. The number of choices available to us becomes overwhelming, and actually makes it difficult for us to ever have the joy of fully committing to anything or anyone. Even if we do commit, our culture then makes us feel dissatisfied with the choice we've made.”

There’s something to the idea of commitment. It’s a sign of maturity and is a fruit of faith in God that He is sovereign over every decision, and we can trust Him with all of the other options we might be saying no to.

I live in Colorado Springs where the number of churches is overwhelming. There’s a church for every shape and size you can imagine. When I first moved here, I went to a church where a guy I knew from college was leading the young adult ministry. I liked it, so I stayed. Sure, I visited a few other churches just to make sure, but at some point I just had to commit to a church. I could visit a new church every Sunday for a year and still have more left, so there was no way to hedge my bets and keep my options open. I committed, even at the expense of “missing out” on other great churches.

My favorite part of traditional marriages vows is the line that says “forsaking all others” because it signals the commitment that marriage requires. Even if I would meet someone who might seem like a “better” choice, I gave up that option at the altar. Marriage is every day looking at your spouse and saying “I choose you.”

“God created us to commit,” writes Cooper. “To him, and to others. He created us to choose. It's right to be careful in our decision making, of course: to pray, to seek counsel from Scripture and from wise Christians. The bigger the decision, the more careful we should be.

"But there comes a point when pausing becomes procrastination, when waiting is no longer wise. There comes a point when not to choose becomes idolatry. It becomes a lack of trust in the God who ordains the decisions we will make, gathers up the frayed ends, and works all things for our good and his glory.

"Be wise, but then rest in God's total sovereignty and goodness, and choose. Commit. Make a decision. Be wholehearted and single-minded.”

Having lots of options isn’t a bad thing, but making an idol out of it is. I want to trust God enough that I can commit to things and people as He leads, resting in the peace that comes with knowing God can work every decision for His glory.

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  • I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate church shopping. We've finnally settled down at one here, but honestly, if I could move into a new neighborhood and have just one church that was the right church choose me, I'd go that route EVERY time :P I don't hate commitment, I hate the chase!

  • I was recently trying to find a new congregation, and I had only tried out a few options before I found a place where many old friends came together. I am glad I made the change, and I am sticking to it.

  • Awesome article!

    Just this year, there were a plethora of options and opportunities that I had to consider prayerfully and within the support of the godly community that I am in. A new vehicle with all the bells and whistles I wanted for a great price...No. A clean, modern, spacious local apartment in the basement of a great Christian family for an unbeatable price...no. A full time graphic design position where I could work from home for a missions organization...no. A full time graphic design position at a local communications company...no. But with all the 'no' answers, the Lord was directing me into confirming the decision I was aiming for before all of the opportunities came up....to be faithfully serving Him right where I am...as hard as it was to decline each great opportunity!

  • You know, I never felt the need to church shop.  I went to my first non-denominational church in college, where they had "worship teams" rather than a choir.  When I moved to a new city, I came across a little church where "worship team" practice was listed on Tuesday nights.  So one day on my lunch break I walked in and asked a question I thought of in advance, "Where is the nearest Bible bookstore."  The first person I spoke with gave me directions to two.  That was enough to go on Sunday.  And that was...20 years ago.  We've grown from 300 to 6000 in that time.  But I never felt the need to shop around.

  • BDB, I think it's awesome when the stars align like that. I found my AMAZING church back in Ohio in a really similar way -- but the culture down here in the south is just SO different. We went to several different churches before we settled in, and even the one we settled at we had some major reservations about before they were set aside by an AMAZING sermon where our concerns were totally set aside. "Worship Teams" and "Small Groups" the way you see them up north are almost non-existant down here. Most churches still have a choir, still do a "meet and greet" and many still have Sunday School classes. Trying to find a church with home groups was tough -- because the one church that had them... we didn't care for the preaching style of the pastor (VERY heavy-handed directional teaching, rather than a reflection on the application of the Word). At another church, when we asked for information on small groups and bible studies a gal turned around and told us simply "Oh, check the website it's all there" before shoving a bag of stuff at us and nearly instantly turning around to talk to her friends. Also, the churches down here are either "something's wrong here" small or ASTRONOMICALLY HUGE -- which, for me, makes small groups a totally necessity. I just can't be somewhere that I could attend for a year and never sit next to the same person twice. We were just looking for a place where we could meet some people, make some friends, worship and serve God -- but... everything is very... cliquish? After extensive web searching, and trying out different churches, we finally found the place we are now because one of my husband's coworkers (who didn't even attend church there :/) reccomended it.

    This was really the first "church shopping" experience I'd ever had, and I really really hated it. Back home, church was my home, my people were there and I knew them. We weren't just church members, we were family! Moving away from that and trying to find something different was excruciating, because the message we got from MANY churches down here was "You AREN'T family." Also, I was a little scared and hesitant that some of my... more liberal views would make me an instant social and church pariah. I was, at worst, a moderate back home, but down here I feel like my interpretations and the way I understand and interact with God make me a screaming liberal (which I'm pretty sure down here is a synonym for "devil"). I am still a little afraid to be myself (which of course, will eventually never work out. :P I'm far too opinionated to keep a lid on it forever!). It was like leaving a warm, safe place and being tossed into the middle of a raging snowstorm -- where you KNOW there is a place out there somewhere, but it's nearly impossible to find.

    For us, settling down in our current church, wasn't about "not hedging our bets" it was about finding a pastor, at least, whose messages we could get behind and apply to our lives, that was active in the community and had an ability for use to meet people and make new friends. We're still kind of struggling on that last one -- because, I've rediscovered, that when I'm the new kid on the block I can be incredibly shy (I KNOW right?). And even here, the small groups meet only once a month -- AND we've found that most people our age are much more concerned about "cloth or disposaple" or What age to potty train, or whether to let their baby cry it out or get up at all hours of the night than they are about meeting new people and making new friends -- especially because we're transient and the culture here runs DEEP. If you're not going to be around you're just... not a priority. We have yet to meet another military couple _at church_ that hasn't gotten out and retired-- in a large military town.

    :/ Sorry, I know that's a little venty but... phew. It's been frustrating. And the attitude coming from all sides that's like "Well just pray and ask God where you should go!" is not very helpful when he is largely silent on the issue. :P

  • When it comes to romance, the opposite is true for me. I doubt there are very many women who would want me or be compatible with me, since I'm a quirky/eccentric nerd-boy. But my options are limited, I have hard time getting dates.

  • I agree with the statement "Some think the ultimate virtue is freedom of choice. In reality, the ultimate freedom is to choose virtue."

  • I have stayed at a small church that has few females my age, because I am committed to serving there until God says otherwise.

    This is not me boasting in my goodliness; rather, I am thankful that God has kicked me in the shin and nudged me to stay put.

    Ministry is multiplying more rapidly and people of all walks are hearing the Good News and enjoying Christian fellowship.

    The key to committment, I am finding, is to trust God, others, and to invest oneself wisely. I am not the best at this, but I am--by the grace of God-- I am getting better.

    Perhaps one day I will go elsewhere.

    Now is not that time.

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