Your teenage years and young adulthood are full of lots of overwhelming choices. How do you know you’re making the right moves?
Who do I want my friends to be? Who should I date, or even marry? What career should I pursue? Where should I live? What religion, if any, do I want to be part of? How will I spend my money? How will I even get money, and can I find work that supports me while also making me happy?
Wouldn’t it be great if there were clear-cut answers, foundational principles than can help you figure out what you should do with your life? Well, we have an answer for you! … There is no clear “one size fits all” answer for how to live the best life.
Philosophers have worked for generations trying to answer this question, but the answer never seems fully resolved. Even the Bible seems to present some difficulty: on the one hand, books like Proverbs offer very practical advice on how to live well and make good moral choices, but on the other hand, books like Ecclesiastes and Job seem to hint that even people who do everything right can still have everything go horribly wrong.
Even the wisest and most accomplished person can find that their accomplishments leave them feeling empty and unfulfilled (Ecclesiastes 2:9-17). Life is often frustrating, confusing, and full of disappointments.
So if life is full of unpredictability and injustice, how can you ever really know what to do for certain?
Part of the answer is letting go of the need for certainty. Many of the wisest people in the world, including the author of Ecclesiastes, admit that few things in life are truly certain. Good advice is just that, advice (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18). It’ll point you in the right direction, but you have to discover where that initial direction takes you.
So here are a few practical principles:
First, look to more experienced people who you trust for advice, whoever they happen to be. Their advice will never be completely perfect, but no advice ever is, and that’s ok.
"My child, listen when your father corrects you.
Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
What you learn from them will crown you with grace
and be a chain of honor around your neck." (Proverbs 1:8-9 NLT)
Secondly, be willing to learn from your mistakes. None of us ever really want to mess things up for ourselves on purpose, but mistakes do happen. This part of life, and we have to accept wisdom even if it comes in painful ways.
I have seen everything in this meaningless life, including the death of good young people and the long life of wicked people. So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes. (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18 NLT)
Thirdly, look to the Bible. Yes, we’re recommending the Bible, but hear me out. The Bible is a surprisingly realistic book when it comes to life expectations, disappointments, and plans gone wrong. There is great wisdom in the Bible for how to do things right, but also what to do when things go wrong. Learn from the Scriptures how people carry on when they are lost and confused.
You will be faced with hard choices in your life. Remember that you’re on a journey, and that you are a human being. And remember that God doesn’t expect you to immediately be some magical super-person who does everything right every time.
“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14 NLT)
The most important choice you will make in your life is what kind of person you will be, so trust God and the process he takes you through, and take on your life one step at a time. From that angle, life is actually pretty simple.