Tuesday, October 6, 2015

31Days - Decisions

I stood at the fork in the path. And for just a moment, indecision paralyzed me. I stood there. Just stood there! Like just standing there was going to solve the problem....

I'd spent the morning quietly walking through the woods. I'd needed the quiet time and was enjoying the crunch of wet leaves under my feet. I can get kind of introspective, reflective and "artsy" when walking in the woods. Shades of Robert Frost, you know? I'd been reflecting that even though I didn't know exactly where I was, I wasn't worried. I was just enjoying the peace of the moment. I knew who made the paths. And I knew that no matter where I came out, I would be able to find my way home from there. As long as I stayed on the paths, I'd be okay. And the reflective, artsy side of me was tying that in on a spiritual level. I know Who made the paths I'm on and as long as I stick to them, there's no need to worry. Eventually I'll come out okay. Yes, I was writing in my head, seeing spiritual connections all around me.

That was before I passed the same bridge twice... the same tree twice... the same shotgun shell casing in the path three times (once from the opposite direction, even – don't ask me how that happened!). There are several paths that twist around and intersect and somehow I kept missing the ones that led out. There were a couple of times I thought I knew where I was only to discover I was on the complete opposite side. By the time I stood at that fork in the path I was getting more than a little frustrated. I knew I'd been here before... but which direction did I take last time? Which direction should I take this time? I seriously stood there for a moment and looked straight up, just standing there... afraid of making a wrong decision and making yet another lap around the woods. Yes, I'm serious – for a moment I actually considered not moving! A previous pastor of mine used to call it "analysis paralysis."

I do have a tendency to analyze everything to death before making a move.

But to stand there in the fork, just stand there? Frozen because I couldn't decide whether to turn left or right?

Uh... yeah... my fear for Day Six:

I am afraid of making a wrong decision.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. History – my history – proves I can make some very poor decisions. And wrong decisions can be dangerous. So there's some truth in the fear. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5 (NASB)

If you lack wisdom, ask!

God doesn't mean for us to go into decisions blind. He wants to give us wisdom. This verse goes even further to add that He will never rebuke us for asking. Seems easy enough, right? Honestly, I know this. But sometimes I doubt myself. Yeah, there's an answer for that too:

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB)

What I found interesting was that the word translated "discipline" in this translation can, according to Strong's and Thayers dictionaries, be translated "sound mind." The Holman Bible actually does translate it as sound judgment. So...

God has given us a spirit of sound mind, not fear.

He wants us to be able to move forward in confidence, not fear. Truth is, fear has no place in faith. Let that sink in for a moment.

I know that, I really do. But there's still that niggling little doubt that says "I'm going to mess this up." In my researching for this post, though, I came on this nugget of truth:

Faith isn’t about doing everything right. Faith is about knowing that no matter the outcome of our decision, God isn’t going to give up on us.

That was kind of a "wow" moment for me. Faith isn't about doing it all right, but about believing in God's character, His goodness. And that brought me to the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

In a nutshell, a man entrusted his servants with his possessions before going on a journey. When he returned, the servant to whom he had given five talents (an amount of money) had doubled it. The servant given two talents had also doubled his. The servant given one talent was afraid of potential loss, so he buried it in the ground. He had the one talent to give back to the master. The master had some rather scathing words for him.

It seems harsh on the surface, but here's the thing: I don't think it was about the money. I think it was about the faith. The third servant didn't trust the master. His fear of making a mistake was based on his fear of his master's reaction. And that fear immobilized him. No decision seemed better than making the wrong one.

We aren't told what would have happened if one of the servants had lost money on the deal. But... think through this for a moment. Look at the beginning of the story:

Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. (Matthew 25:16)

How did he double his money? He traded with it! We don't know what he traded, but I'm starting to get the image of a wall street investor. I mean, double is a pretty good investment, right? Here's the thing: You don't double your money without risk. It just doesn't happen. The bigger the risk, the bigger the potential return on your investment. He took a risk. I think he could have easily lost money on the deal. And... here's the thing: I think the master would have been okay with that. Jesus isn't about the money. He's never about the money. He's about the heart. And what He was showing in this story was that the first two servants were not afraid of the master's reaction. They trusted him enough to take a risk. The third was so scared of his master's reaction that fear immobilized him. Fear made him useless. He stood at the fork in the woods, unable to make a decision.

One last point, that really has no verse to go with it, but I feel worthy of thought anyway...

You can't steer a ship that is not moving.

For me, simply standing in the woods this morning wouldn't have done any good. Any movement was better than just standing there. Left or right. Eventually one of them would've led me out – it was just a matter of which one was longer. Standing there staring... I'd still be there tonight.

Actually... maybe it does sort of have a verse...

The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)

So... take a step... and let Him steer.

Father God, it's so easy for me to get stuck in analysis paralysis, scared of making a wrong decision. I know I do need to act with wisdom, and I always want to seek that first. But I also need to act with faith and confidence. Help me to step out believing in Your character and Your goodness. Your direction.

Fear: I am afraid of making a wrong decision.

  • If any of you lacks wisdom, ask! (James 1:5 )
  • God has given us a spirit of sound mind, not fear. (2 Tim 1:7)
  • Faith isn’t about doing everything right. Faith is about believing in God's character, His goodness. (Matthew 25:14-30)
  • You can't steer a ship that isn't moving. Move and let the Lord direct your steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Note: I am a little concerned that the truths I sought for myself could be used to justify impulsive decision-making. That is not my intent, nor is it God-honoring. God does expect us to use wisdom (due diligence) and there are many passages that support seeking wisdom and seeking counsel from others. These truths are meant help someone (me) stuck in analysis paralysis, not to encourage or justify irresponsible decision-making.


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).

1 comment:

  1. The fear of making a wrong decision--that's a biggie for me! I discovered a few years ago that at the root of that fear was another fear of being stupid. I didn't want to ignorantly seal my fate in a bad direction. Yes, thankfully we can depend on the Father to help us, who is the ultimate Wise One! Even when we do make poor decisions, which we will do, he can help us navigate through the chaos. Thanks for sharing this!