Making Hard Decisions (Joseph’s Story)

Decisions! Life is all about making them. Should I eat a bowl of cereal or scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast? Should I wear the green sweater or the red sweater to the church Christmas party? What kind of meat do I want on my sandwich for lunch? Should I paint that bedroom gray or tan? Would it be better to fix this clothes dryer or buy a new one? Should I buy a car or a van? Maybe I will quit my job and look for a new one, or should I keep plugging away at this one? Should I keep investing in this friendship or walk away? Do I want to continue my cancer treatments or let nature take its course? Can I forgive this person that I’m married to or do we call it quits and get a divorce?

These are just a sampling of decisions we must make every day. Some are simple and are of little significance in our lives. Others are bigger decisions that might impact us financially or socially. Then there are the really big, hard decisions that will affect the course of our lives and others around us.

As I have been reading various Bible passages leading up to the birth of Christ, I have been impressed by the many people who made wise decisions that allowed them to be directly used in the story of Jesus. I have been especially drawn to Joseph’s story, the unique situation he found himself in, and the hard decision he had to make.

Joseph’s story

Joseph is a devout Jewish man who is betrothed to a devout Jewish girl. They are preparing to finalize their union when he finds out that Mary is with child. Joseph knows that the baby isn’t his and it appears that Mary has been unfaithful. What should he do? What will people say? Is she telling the truth? How should he proceed from here? Joseph has a lot of thoughts and feelings to process through and ultimately, he has a hard decision to make!

The following passage gives the account of what took place:

Matthew 1:18-21

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.


Joseph’s Response

Now Joseph has found himself in an unusual predicament. He has to make a decision bigger than what to eat for breakfast or whether or not he should buy a new donkey for the trip to Bethlehem. He must decide what to do with a seemingly unfaithful wife.

Have you ever been in a similar situation to Joseph’s? If so, then you can probably feel the emotional anguish that he is in as you read this. His whole life has been turned upside down. Everything he knew or thought he knew to be true seems to be a lie now. He can’t believe this is happening, and he isn’t sure what to do about it. As a result of all this, he has a very hard decision to make. He has to decide how to proceed with the relationship.

Joseph had certain rights he could have exercised under Jewish law and customs. Under old Jewish law, he could have had her stoned, although it doesn’t seem like they practiced that in this century. According to this passage, his options were to expose her alleged sin, have her publicly humiliated, and divorce her.

This passage doesn’t reveal to us all of Joseph’s thoughts and feelings about the situation. However, based on our own personal experiences, we can assume that Joseph felt shocked, confused, angry, and hurt. He probably asked himself the same questions we would ask. How could she do this? What do I do now? What will people think?

The Bible tells us that Joseph was a just man and didn’t want to make this public. He had decided to divorce her privately. He wanted to do the right thing, but it was a hard decision to make.

The Bible tells us that while Joseph was considering these things, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because that which was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. He told Joseph that this was the fulfilling of prophecy and told him what to name the child.

This story has such a happy ending! Joseph obeyed God. He took Mary as his wife, she had the baby, and together they raised Jesus as well as other children.

Our Predicament

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God sent an angel to speak to us every time we had a difficult decision to make? It would be so much easier if we had special instructions like Joseph received. We would know exactly what to do and why! However, God no longer speaks to us through angels like he did in Bible times. He doesn’t really need to. God gave us his Holy Spirit to guide us and he recorded His words in the Bible for us to live by.

We live in a sin-cursed world and we will face circumstances that require us to make life-changing decisions. People will hurt us. They will sin against us. We have to set up healthy boundaries and protect ourselves and those we love. But how should we go about making wise decisions? How do we know what is right? How do we discern between wise counsel and people’s opinions? (and people WILL have opinions!)

It is too easy for us to make decisions based on our emotions and other people’s opinions. God doesn’t ask us to gather popular opinion, and he certainly doesn’t want us to make hasty decisions based on our hurt and anger.

God has provided us with many resources as Christians. We just need to take time to access them and let God work. So what should you do before making a hard decision?

Read your Bible

Although God no longer sends angels to speak to us like he did with Joseph and others in the Bible, he did give us something greater – His word! We have access to God’s word any time we need to find out what he has to say. God may not tell us exactly what to do, but he has given principles to guide us in his word.

When you are facing difficult situations and have hard choices to make, get into God’s word and find out what He has to say. Search out Biblical principals that will help guide you in your decision.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

God’s Word is also a guide, illuminating our path and showing us the way. Do you feel like you are walking in shadows? Are you struggling to know which way to go? Does it feel like darkness is pressing in all around you? Then open your Bible! David did that and shared his thoughts in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

The Bible has everything we need to live right, we just need to read it!

Pray about it

Are you in a tough situation? Do you have a hard decision to make? Have you considered all the facts and weighed all the options, yet you still need wisdom to know what to do? James tells us to simply ask! James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

What about those times when you have been hurt too deeply, your heart is breaking and you are too distressed to even pray? What do you do in those agonizing times when your words and thoughts just won’t come together? Romans 8:26 has the answer! It states, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

It is comforting to know that even when we can’t seem to pray, the Holy Spirit who lives within us, is there to intercede on our behalf.

Seek Godly Counsel

Often times when we find ourselves in a difficult situation with hard decisions to make, we need to seek wise counsel. Finding someone to talk to, bounce ideas off of, and to speak truth into our lives can be very helpful in making wise decisions. Your pastor, a Christian counselor, wise mentor, friend, or someone who has experienced what you are going through are all good people to turn to. Proverbs 11:14 tells us, “where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 19:20-21 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.

Listen to the Holy Spirit’s Leading

Before Jesus left this earth, he promised that he would leave the Holy Spirit. In John 14:26 Jesus tell his disciples, “But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have told you.

When we accept Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. He helps us, teaches us, and comforts us. The Holy Spirit is often that still small voice that acts as our conscience and gives us that little nudge to do good. He is also the warning voice inside us that warns us to refrain from evil.

Romans 8:14 says, “For all who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s children.”

I Corinthians 3:16 asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”

If you are reading your Bible, praying, and focusing on God, then you will be in a good position to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice. Listen to him, let him speak to you, and obey his leading.


I have often heard that every person is either going into a trial, in the middle of a trial, or coming out of a trial. That might seem discouraging to many of us, or we might laugh and exclaim how true it is in our lives. Either way, we know that God is in control. Remember that whatever you are facing right now did not take God by surprise. He knew what was going to happen and he has the solution.

Let’s follow Joseph’s example. Live uprightly, desire to do what is right, and listen to the Lord’s leading in your life. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. May we always be faithful!

Wife, mom, grandma, and country girl. I am living by faith and encouraging others to do the same. I integrate faith, family and country living.

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