Posted tagged ‘decision making’

Prayer for Help Prioritizing

November 13, 2017

I sense that making priority decisions on the basis of “importance” has subtle dangers.

Heavenly Father,

There are demands on every side.  Help me to recognize that the demands which scream the loudest are not necessarily the most important.  And teach me to discern among the demands which seem to be the most important this hour, and those which are the most important ultimately.

It is hard Father.

  • I could choose to make decisions based on the importance of good stewardship in finances, asking, “What is the best deal (saving pennies), or long term (saving thousands)?”
  • I could choose based on the importance of social relationships or responsibilities, asking, “What would be best for my relationship with my family/friends, or my neighbor in need (cf. Luke 10: 30-37, ‘The Good Samaritan’)?”
  • I could ask from a spiritual perspective, “What is most important in this hour regarding my witness to this probably lost soul, or my testimony as a Christian?”
  • Or in some moments, “How can I deal with this pain?” Or “What can I do to even survive?”
  • On the other hand, I can’t keep postponing dealing with basic housekeeping and maintenance issues. “Should I deal with that slow leak in my tire today? Or should I postpone dealing with my aging roof another summer?”

If I only had to answer one question at at time, that would be one thing.  But Father, today I have to answer all of those questions simultaneously. And then, which priority “gets” the priority? (– And should it always get this priority?)

And Father, I realize that my decisions may be influenced by the choice of which “importance idol” before which I feel that I must bow today.   And some days I fear that I may spend the whole day in the temple of one of these “importance idols.”

Furthermore, as I wrestle with these decision-making, prioritizing questions, I realize that my sinful, selfish prideful human nature often inclines my heart to less noble priorities and pursuits — or to justify one versus another of these ‘noble’ pursuits.

So Father, I bow before you today, please teach me, your servant, to love you with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength, and may that love for you inform the decisions I’m making on my priorities.

Solving a Maze

January 16, 2012

The last couple of weeks have been interesting.  It has been very much like trying to figure out a maze on paper.  With a pencil one tries different paths and then finds that one after another, each path seems to be taking you to a desired end, but instead leads you to the same place, a dead-end.  In diagnosing medical conditions, doctors need to rule out improbable causes from probable ones.  It is interesting when you are the patient.  Each test could lead to an answer to the puzzle of what’s wrong with you.  As you go through each test you weigh all the “what ifs,” both good and bad, for what that test could reveal.  You don’t want to become too “invested” in the results of any particular test because you know that another test could invalidate any earlier conclusions.  This is the maze that I have been living for the last couple of weeks.

Many paths have been tested; but the results have been inconclusive.  After my colon cancer was diagnosed on December 15 I had a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread to other organs.  Good news, it hadn’t.  Then a second pathologist interpreted the biopsy.  Bad news, confirmed, it was cancerous.  Then I was given a blood test to see if there were any indications of cancer.  Good news, there weren’t.  Then I had another (abbreviated) colonoscopy. Good news(?), the ulcer was not found.  Then a PET scan.  Good news, no cancer found.  Then I was given a DNA test to see if the biopsy was someone else’s.  It was mine.  The sequencing of all these tests was giving the impression that there definitely was cancer in my colon on the day of colonoscopy #1 (December 13), but the cancer seemed to be off the radar from then on.

With each test, I couldn’t help but “imagine” what results (a) versus (b) could mean.  Naturally I was thankful for every result that indicated “no cancer.” But the seeming contradiction between the initial diagnosis and the follow-up tests was hard to reconcile.  On December 15 I became aware that God telling me it was time for a detour from the predictable (see “Detour Ahead, Exit Now,” below).  My mind was racing, thinking of all the ways my life could go with a cancer diagnosis – Metastasis? Chemo? Radiation? Surgery? Numbered Days?

First I wondered about metastasis and very numbered days, then I wondered about errors, “Whose biopsy was it?”  “Did the doctor make an error? Or the lab?” Then I wondered if God might have healed the cancer.  The result of every test could have been (a) versus (b) and it was hard to not reach premature conclusions whenever a test result came back.  I was wrestling with the questions, “God, what are you doing?”  “What’s going on?”  “God, have You, in fact, healed me? Or have You not, and would I be foolish not to pursue the recommended medical advice?”  “Or if God really had healed me, would I be foolish to let them remove one side of my colon, as a precaution, ‘just to be sure?’”  [I certainly didn’t like the last idea at all!]

I knew that when King Nebuchadnezzar threatened Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego with death they acknowledged that God could deliver them miraculously, if He would so choose, but they didn’t know if God would (Daniel 3:17).  Similarly, I knew that God could have healed my cancer after it was first diagnosed, if He wanted to, but I didn’t know if He had.  Many people were praying for me, and I would imagine that some were praying for God to heal me.  However, from the beginning of this journey it has been my prayer that God would do according to his will with the result, not necessarily of my healing, but rather with the result that He would be the most glorified by what He would choose to do in my life.

I knew that the Bible recorded that God used hardship in the lives of many of his servants for his purposes, even though his purpose was often hidden from the view of the particular servant.  I wondered what God was going to do in my life.  Would I know his purposes?  I had many questions, and no idea of what the doctors were going to conclude, or if God was doing something miraculous, or where God was leading.

However, last Friday (January 13) I had colonoscopy #3.  It was a full colonoscopy, and myRoswellParkdoctor was able to find the ulcer this time.  After the procedure she said, “I found it, it is small, and that is good – but it needs to come out.”  Then, all of a sudden, it became clear to me that the other “paths” in the maze, some of which had appeared to be very appealing, were dead-ends.  God now seems to be showing me, “This is the way, walk in it.”  So, in this I will rejoice and continue to pray that God will do what He will so that He might be the most glorified.

“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

Habakkuk 3:18

Decision Helping Questions

January 8, 2012

It is now expected that the results from a DNA test on my biopsy will be back the first of next week.  Until then I am in a waiting pattern.  When the results come back it is possible that I will be faced with a difficult medical decision with no clear-cut obvious direction to go.  A couple of times I have asked a wise friend for suggestions of questions to ask doctors at difficult decision points, such as this.  The questions that have been suggested to me have been very helpful and I have decided to share them.  I have reworded them so that they all refer to a “treatment” or “procedure.”  This could be major or minor, in-patient or out-patient surgery, or some other treatment plan.  Feel free to use one or more of these as a starting point if you have to talk to a doctor about a difficult medical decision for yourself or a loved one.

As a pastor I have met with many families who have had loved ones facing decisions about medical procedures and treatment plans.  Sometimes the families have been well informed of their options, sometimes they have not.  Some have done exactly what the doctor has recommended; some have explored other possibilities, and taken slightly different routes.  Neither is necessarily right or wrong.  I know that I want to be as well informed as I can be before I make major medical decisions.  I certainly want to encourage others to be as well informed as they can be too before making (sometimes) irreversible decisions.

Regarding the current situation:

  • You may want to begin your discussion with your doctor by saying something like:  “I hope to learn from you my medical condition and its prognosis, along with all the possible treatment choices and your recommendations for which of them to do and in what order.”
  • “Do you already have all the information you need to make those determinations, or will you want any other tests?”
  • When the doctor discusses your prognosis, both in terms of the underlying disease and in terms of specific courses of action, ask him/her to please put numbers on the probabilities.*
  • “What are the risks, statistically, if I do have the treatment you are recommending?”
  • “What is the range of effects I might experience if I don’t have the recommended treatment?”
  • “What are the treatment alternatives, and their respective risks?”
  • “What might happen if I don’t do anything?”
  • “What are the risks, statistically, if I don’t do anything?”
  • “When and how might I become aware of physical effects?”
  • “If you do the recommended surgery (or procedure), what are the possible ‘surprises’ you might find, and their probability?”
  • Before any surgery or extensive treatment program it is often considered to be wise to get a second opinion from a specialist not affiliated with your doctor (in other words, not his/her partner, or in the same medical group).
  • Your meeting may end with your being faced with a decision on what to do and where to do it.  It may be helpful to make it a rule to try to never make medical decisions without having a chance to talk privately, without medical personnel present, with your spouse or other family member(s), or close friend(s).  Where possible, it would be good to have at least an overnight period to discuss and ponder, but that can’t always happen.  You almost always can go into another room with your spouse or family members or friend and talk (and pray) privately and then come back and give your answer.
  • A question to ask yourself:  “In which decision is it worse to be wrong?”

Regarding post-treatment:

  • “What effect will this procedure have on my future overall medical condition?”
  • “What effect will this procedure have on my lifestyle (for example: diet, exercise, mobility, health, etc.)?”
  • To the doctor:  “Based on your experience, do you already know what the probability is that I will be needing any particular treatment following the surgery (e.g. chemo, radiation, physical therapy, etc.)?”
  • To the doctor:  “What, if anything, can you tell me now about those post-surgical treatments and their impact, frequency, duration?”

Neither I, nor the person who gave me these suggestions, is licensed to practice medicine.  Hopefully these questions will help you get helpful information for your decision making process from those who are.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:7


*  Please note that statistical probabilities are never “guarantees.”  In asking doctors about statistical probabilities you must understand that no doctor can guarantee any particular outcome and any statistical probability could be way off in any individual situation.  You must carefully weigh the answers you receive against ALL of the other options.