Dr. Randy Carlson

Tripwires can help us make decisions we can live by. Most likely, the first thoughts that come to mind about tripwires are those that can warn us, or those that can destroy us. From a military standpoint, tripwires are usually hidden, are designed to hurt, destroy or even kill us. But I want to focus on some of the tripwires placed in our lives for our safety. I change the batteries in our fire detectors every year because fire detectors are a tripwire. If there is a fire in some part of the home, it will warn me that something isn’t right.

Safety tripwires are intended to save us from unnecessary pain, regret and danger. It’s important to have tripwires in our personal life to keep us from damaging our lives.

Let’s look at the five tripwires – questions to live by. They are five questions we need to ask ourselves when we are about to make a potentially life-changing decision.


  1. The cost question: What will this decision cost me?

Whether you choose to do, or not do something – it costs you something. Every decision has a cost associated with it, and sometimes it’s worth paying the cost. When I chose to go back to school to finish my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and then going on and get my doctorate, I had to make tradeoffs, missing out on other activities and priorities during that season of my life. The cost is not just dollars and sense, but what is it going to cost me emotionally, relationally, in my health, career and even my faith.


  1. The option question: Is this the only and best decision?

When you look at the research, most of us are very binary when it comes to making decisions. We often view a decision as an either/or kind of thinking. I’m either going to do this, or I’m going to do that. We seldom step outside the box to see the many other options. Decisions don’t always come down to either/or, but they are a process that includes asking, “Is this the only and best decision that can be made at this point?”


  1. The timing question: Is this the right time to make this decision?

The right decision at the right time, done in the right way, can change your life. And the wrong decision, done at the right time, can change your life just as easily. We can run ahead of God or lag too far behind. Ecclesiastes 31 says there’s a time and a season for everything under the sun. There’s a time to make a decision. There’s a time not to make a decision. When asking yourself this question, really seek discernment.


  1. The consequences question: What are the potential, unintended consequences from this decision?

Every decision has consequences. It’s important to be able to stop and say, “With this decision in front of me, (and we don’t know with perfect clarity), but what are some of the potential consequences, if I make this decision today on my life tomorrow, a year from now, or two years from now?”


  1. The “God’s intentions” question: Will this decision violate God’s intention for my life?

This is the biggest question we need to ask before making a decision? Is the decision I make going to violate any of the five basic, essential parts of your life?

  • What is God’s intention for growing my faith?
  • What is God’s intention for my relationships, for marriage and for children?
  • What is God’s intention for my finances?
  • What is God’s intention for my work?
  • What is God’s intention for my mental health, my emotional health and my physical health?

I’m convinced one of the reasons we become frustrated years later about a decision is because we’ve not gone back and gotten these questions answered. When we ask and answer, it can be transformational in our lives.


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