Do We Have Too Many Options?

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 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.