How To Make Wise Choices & Live Without Regrets
(+ 3 Simple Changes to Make Today)
Ashley (not her real name) is a college student in our church. During her middle and high school years, she faithfully attended student ministry Bible studies, events, retreats, and mission trips. Ashley shared the story of her conversion experience on more than one occasion. She generally made wise choices and exhibited the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)
The life-changing power of the gospel was evident in her life during those years.
However, something happened during her freshman year in college. A certain guy in her English 101 class caught her attention. He was cute, humble, funny, and, oh yeah, really, really cute. She managed to find a way to introduce herself to him, and they began hanging out. They studied together, ate lunch in the cafeteria, and hung out in the student commons. A strong friendship quickly developed.
During this time, she discovered that he wasn’t a Christ-follower. He wasn’t particularly against God or the Bible, he just didn’t grow up going to church and had very little interest in anything about Jesus. Yet, even as he talked to her about his non-religious views, Ashley found herself distracted by his great hair, deep blue eyes, and that million dollar smile.
Pretty soon, really cute guy and Ashley were boyfriend and girlfriend. She was head-over-heels for the guy, and their relationship became very physical, very quickly. It wasn’t that she felt any pressure from him; she wanted this experience with him. Sure, she’d made the commitment to wait until marriage, but that was before this guy walked into her freshman English class and into her life.
She knew this decision went against her own beliefs, against the teachings of the Bible, and very well might be one she later regretted. She 100% understood this was not a wise choice. However, she didn’t care. Her appetite for this physical relationship was strong, and she didn’t want to wait. She wanted that appetite satisfied now.
Ashley’s story is similar to one found in Genesis 25.
The Story of Jacob and Esau: Genesis 25:19-34
This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.
Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”
When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.
The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)
Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.
Esau was hungry and Jacob had prepared a wonderful smelling stew. Esau’s appetite was strong. His desire to have his stomach filled was overwhelming, to the point that he was wiling to sell his birthright to Jacob for one bowl of stew. For a single meal, he gave up a future of financial gain, honor, and family control. It was not a wise choice; in fact, it was a terrible decision. However, Esau didn’t care. He wanted what he wanted, and he wanted it now.
It’s a heartbreaking trade we all are tempted to make. Perhaps it’s the purchase of a big ticket item; maybe a new car. It’s more than I can afford, but the salesman tells me that I can finance it for eight years and that way I can shoehorn it into my budget. Sure, it’ll mean paying thousands in interest; however, I don’t care. My appetite for this car is strong. I want what I want, and I’ll happily sell my birthright for that bowl of stew.
Or maybe it’s an addiction to alcohol. I know that if I take this drink, it’ll lead me once again down a dark road. Drinking has cost me so much in the past, and to take this drink will mean sacrificing so much of my future. Yet, I just don’t care. My appetite for this drink is strong. I want what I want, and I’m willing to sell my birthright for this bowl of stew.
Perhaps it’s an extramarital relationship. My marriage has grown stale and now this individual is showing me some badly needed affection. My thoughts and emotions have become consumed with this person. Our chance meetings are now no longer just coincidental; I’m doing my best to make them happen. I know this relationship will likely cost me my marriage, my relationship with my children, and a myriad of other issues. However, I just don’t care. My appetite for this relationship is strong. I want what I want, and I’m wiling to sell my birthright for this bowl of stew.
We have all faced these times when a desire is in direct conflict with what we know to be right. Our appetite fights with our moral and logical self. What can we do when these desires we know are wrong and dangerous begin to overwhelm us?
We can learn how to make wise choices, and in turn, make practical changes in our lives to safeguard against decisions that lead to later regrets.
Three practical changes you can make to control your appetite and protect your future:
1 — Change Your Environment
Esau was certainly hungry, there’s no doubt. It’d likely been many hours since he’d last eaten. However, the human body can survive days and even weeks without food. He may have felt as if he was starving to death, but these feelings didn’t match with reality. He could’ve survived a few more hours without food.
The wise choice for Esau would’ve been to leave the tent and go somewhere else; anywhere else. The smell and sight of the stew was overwhelming and caused his appetite to control his thinking.
There is no reason to spend time hanging out in a place where temptation is strong. Alcoholics are wise to avoid environments where the wine and beer is freely flowing. A person who is tempted to engage in an inappropriate relationship is wise to avoid that other person. Shopaholics are wise to avoid malls and Black Friday sales.
My husband has a friend who has recently lost weight through intermittent fasting. The key to this guy’s success has been controlling his environment. As long as he is at his job, he’s fine. If he comes home early, he immediately goes outside the house and begins working in the yard or cleaning up the garage. If he hangs out in the kitchen, he knows that he’ll break the fast.
Stay away from those places where your temptations are the greatest. Change your environment, and you’ll be much more likely to control your appetite.
2 — Change Your Friends
Sure, Jacob was family and Esau couldn’t just “de-brother” him; however, it’s clear that Jacob didn’t have Esau’s best interests in mind. When his brother was hungry, Jacob was more than willing to feed him. “Just sell me your birthright, and this stew is all yours.” Really, Jacob? Your brother is famished, and you use his weakness to your advantage? Not exactly being your brother’s keeper there, are you?
Esau would’ve known that his brother wasn’t exactly on his side. Esau should’ve done everything in his power to avoid Jacob, especially during times where he felt weak. Sure, he would’ve been expected to show up to the obligatory family gatherings; however, that should’ve been the extent of his involvement with Jacob.
It always breaks my heart when I’m in a group of girls and I hear them bad-mouthing their husbands. It seems to become contagious, and I worry that it might encourage those who are already struggling in their marriage to continue down the path of growing apart from their husbands. There is a line often crossed between genuinely asking for prayer /advice / wisdom when you’re struggling in your marriage and simply looking for a chance to criticize your spouse to others. Over the years I’ve found myself pulling away from friends who use girls’ night out solely to complain about their husbands.
True friends won’t encourage you to sell your birthright for a bowl of stew. They won’t say things like, “Oh, just go ahead and take that drink, buy that car, have that affair… you deserve it.” They will recognize the fact that your desires aren’t in line with what is right, healthy, and best for your future, and they will do their best to help you control your appetite.
3 — Change Your Perspective
Esau’s fateful decision is mentioned in the New Testament. The author of Hebrews wrote: See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done (Hebrews 12:16-17).
After his decision, Esau was full of regret and tears. He’d sacrificed his future for the momentary satisfaction of his appetite. The patriarchs of the Old Testament should’ve been “Abraham, Isaac, and Esau.” Yet, one awful decision caused this trinity of Jewish forefathers to forever be “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” His desire to fill his appetite removed Esau and his descendants from the people of God.
When you really consider the ramifications of the choices you make, it becomes a great incentive to curb your appetite. Think about your future, the future of your family, and how this decision will affect your children, their children, and the generations to come. Sure, you may really, really want it now, but will you later be like Esau, full of tears and regret?
Additional Resources for Making Wise Choices
If you have children, you certainly desire for them to be happy and healthy. None of us want our kids to repeat the same mistakes that we’ve made in the past, mostly due to our poor choices in not curbing our own appetites. We simply want spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally healthy and happy children, as well as healthy and happy relationships with them; however, we don’t always take proactive steps to ensure this will be the case.
In a world where the FOMO and YOLO mindsets reign supreme and a culture where hurry and hustle are lauded above all else, making dangerous, impulsive, and short-sighted decisions is all too easy (for us and our children). May we as parents model these three practical tips and may our children follow our lead in living a life without regrets.
- One very practical and proactive way to invest in your children and the health of your family is to study the Bible together. If you’re looking for a resource to help you in guiding your children to make wise choices, consider Wisdom for Tweens: 30 Days in Proverbs. This e-devotional resource equips parents in teaching their children how to seek wisdom from studying the Bible and even to learn the art of patience and saying no to “instant gratification” type choices if they are contrary to God’s word.
- If you are currently raising teenage children, you may find this article from Focus on the Family helpful as you address impulsive behavior and risks teens take, as well as teaching them how to make wise choices.
- Or for more strategies for learning how to make wise choices in general, consider reading this Scripture-saturated article with 10 Biblical principles for making wise decisions.
*There is a free Scripture printable of Galatians 5:22-23 (verses at the beginning of this article) included in our Resource Library that is perfect for framing and using as home decor in your kitchen (or really anywhere you could use this visual reminder of God’s Word).
Have you implemented any of these changes in your life as guardrails to help you make wise choices? Or do you have additional strategies that you have found helpful either in your own walk or in parenting your children? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!