Both Ways? Making Difficult Decisions

DirectionsIn the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, which has terrified and inspired multiple generations, the heroine is faced with an unexpected fork in the road. Her brainy friend, Scarecrow, tries to give her wise advice about her choices, arguing for both sides and concluding, “Some people do go both ways.” While no one can really go two ways at once, we are sometimes faced with gray areas in life, issues not directly addressed in Scripture, which leave us wishing we could. Knowing God doesn’t mean we know all the answers, but we can do better than Scarecrow, following these godly principles when making difficult decisions. 

 

It’s almost never wrong to wait.

 

In the presence of fire or blood, forget this advice! But in non-emergency situations, wisdom suggests we take time with our choices. Time provides room to think, pray, seek counsel and sleep on the problem. Although it might feel better to get it over with, it can also be a relief to give God a few days or a few weeks to speak into our circumstances. Things might look very different in the morning. It’s almost never wrong to wait on the Lord. (Psalm 37:7; Isaiah 30:18, Romans 12:12)

 

Err on the side of love.

 

People tend to err on the side of rules because rules give us certainty and control in an uncertain world. However, a close reading of the New Testament reveals that we are meant to move beyond rules in our maturity as Christians to places of the heart. This means greater responsibility as Jesus makes clear in the beatitudes and greater freedom as Paul points out in many of his letters. It means taking a hard look at our own motives and determining what comes from love rather than self-interest – love for God first (considering what pleases Him) and love for others second. God is pleased by things like generosity, forebearance, courage and personal holiness, but He is pleased by love most of all, thinking so much of that attribute as to put it first among many and to call Himself “love.” Love does not give us certainty or control, but it makes us beautiful in God’s eyes. (Matthew 7:12; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 3:14)

 

Give God the responsibility.

 

There may come a point when we have done all that we know to do, a deadline approaches and we can wait no longer. Then we have the security of laying our decision on God’s big shoulders, telling Him we are going to move in the direction which seems best but that we want Him to guide, redirect or even stop us if we are not following His footsteps. Giving Him the choice in this manner allows us to move forward in peace, with the confidence that He is in control. (Psalm 31:3,4; Proverbs 16:9; Mattnew 10:29-31)

 

Let your decision be worship.

 

In the end, we must do the thing which is worship. We are limited and fallen, and our choices are messy whenever the human heart is involved. Beware, especially, of making sacrifices for others. A sacrifice is a treasure offered to a god, not a man. Neither is it an economic exchange. If I end up angry, then my choice was not really worship, not given to God for whatever HE wanted to accomplish; instead, I was looking for something for myself, something I did not receive. So above all, when the choice has to be made, make it for worship. Make it to please Christ. And then don’t look back whatever the result, because your choice WILL accomplish its purpose: it will rise like incense before God’s throne, a pleasing aroma in Heaven. (Micah 6:8; Luke 12:29-31; Colossians 3:17)

 

When the pros and cons are confusing and wisdom argues both sides, give yourself time to make a choice, lean toward love, relinquish control to the Lord and worship God with your decision. Because, as much as we might want to, no one can really go both ways.


Questions:

  1. What decision are you making currently?  (If none, then think of a decision you made recently.)
  2. Might you benefit from waiting on the Lord for a time?
  3. What would it mean to “err on the side of love” for this decision?
  4. Have you laid this choice on God’s altar for whatever HE wants?  If not, can you do that right now?
  5. What would it mean to make this choice in such a way that the result mattered less than giving it to God for His purposes?

In the Aftermath of Trauma

Many people in my hometown of Orlando, Florida are feeling the effects of trauma right now.  Some of them are victims or relatives of victims of the two shootings which occurred here in recent days.  Others are first responders, police, fire or ambulance personnel who witnessed the carnage or its aftereffects.  But others are experiencing symptoms of trauma at more of a distance – those called upon to counsel victims or first responders, relatives and friends of those involved, maybe even the community as a whole.  We are struggling to wrap our brains around the idea that such massive evil and bloodshed could occur in our midst.  We are shocked, frightened, grieving, trying to “fix it” or to escape. 

 

Of course there have also been some lovely examples of heroes and helpers giving blood, offering prayers, providing food and comfort.  This reminds us of our role as God’s children, entering the scene of tragedy as Jesus did to bring the hope of redemption. We cannot not lose sight of God’s goodness, but, at the same time, we should not use that truth to dismiss others’ pain, jumping too quickly to a hope that many cannot yet feel.

 

Part of the healing that needs to be done is to allow ourselves and others to talk, to grieve, to feel our own feelings, whatever they may be.  Be kind to yourself and others right now.  We won’t always feel this way, but part of moving forward is living in the present, acknowledging whatever may be, telling the stories and validating the pain.  To that end, I offer the following handout which you can download, print or copy for others.

 

Trauma Recovery Handout

 

May you struggle well and heal in God’s time.

What Are You So Afraid Of?

Scared toddler covering his faceWhile stopped on the highway during a violent rainstorm, a shadowy movement in the rear-view mirror caught my attention. It was an onrushing tractor-trailer with no room to stop. Long before that incident, I was stalked through a deserted construction site by a stranger with malicious intentions. And I’ve also heard my doctor say, “Stage 4 cancer” (don’t worry – that was 35 years ago). But none of those things are among my scariest moments. All my worst fears have been about things that haven’t happened. Many times I’m not even sure what I’m afraid of. What really is my worst case scenario? What is it that I am so afraid of?

 

Depending on your source, you can read that humans share three, five, eight or more basic fears. Let’s take a look at a few of them. 

 

Pain and suffering – “I am not safe”

 

Are you afraid of the dentist or a car accident or heights? Then this might be your core fear. Pain and suffering concern the physical realm. If one of our fundamental needs is for safety, then this fear represents its absence. We depend upon others to provide security and comfort from our first days on earth. When that need is met consistently, we begin to believe the world is a safe place. When that need is met inconsistently, we are left with worry and doubt.

 

Abandonment – “I am alone”

 

Have you ever been freaked out by a silent, lonely landscape or thought you couldn’t survive a break-up? All humans (and many animals) need a sense of belonging, the assurance that we are loved, that there is a community which will never kick us out. Someone who struggles with the fear of abandonment may need multiple relationships or constant reassurance in order to soothe a gnawing dread of being left alone, rejected and isolated.

 

Shame – “I am unlovable”

 

Do cocktail parties or final exams make you tremble?  Then you may struggle with a fear of failure, a fear of shame. Developing a stable awareness of our own identity is one of the major tasks of young adulthood. We need a sense that there is something unique and beautiful in our makeup, that we are lovable. Yet, we are also seemingly born with deep doubt about our worth – and sometimes those doubts get confirmed by life circumstances. It doesn’t take much to make shame bloom, bringing an exquisite pain which can be worse than anything physical. 

 

Other fears

 

Psychology texts sometimes list the dread of commitment or confinement as another basic fear, and all of them will mention the fear of death. But in my view, underneath both these fears is really one of the other fears above. A lack of freedom to make one’s own choices means that pain, rejection or humiliation can happen to us at any time, without the ability to escape. And what is death but the ultimate suffering, abandonment and failure?

 

Fear of the unknown

 

Knowledge is power. If we know what’s coming, we can prepare for it. Our mind likes to paint the awful possibilities so that we can be ready for them. That’s why all my worst fears are about things that haven’t happened and probably never will. It can help to ask yourself, “What am I so afraid of?” For example, if I’m afraid of getting in my car, driving to my friend’s graduation and hobnobbing with strangers, what is it I’m so afraid of? Is it a fear of suffering (a car accident), a fear of shame (I will make a fool of myself) or a fear of abandonment (no one will talk to me)? 

 

The Remedy

 

There is a remedy for each one of our fears. Will it mean an instant cure?  Probably not. Will it help? Certainly.

 

  • Am I safe? Nothing can touch me which does not first pass through the Father’s hands. I am secure in the One who is both good and sovereign. He may not spare me all suffering, but God will give me what I need to walk the road He maps out for me, including His comfort, protection and courage. (Psalm 16:8-9; Romans 8:28; Phil. 4:13). 

 

  • sunset in heart handsAm I loved? No human being can be the basis for my confidence, but I have been chosen by God, and nothing can ever separate me from His love. (Rom. 8:38-39; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 John 4:10).

 

  • Am I lovable? I have only to look at the cross to know how much I am worth. God created me for His glory, seated with Christ in the heavenly places (seeing me NOW as I will be when I am perfect), and He is making me more beautiful every day. There is no shame in Christ. (Psalm 34:5; Matt. 6:26; 1 Cor. 6:11; Songs 4:7; 1 Peter 2:9).

When I am in close relationship with the King of Everything who has already proven His undying love for me, then I can never be outside His redemptive plan, I can never truly be alone and I cannot judge myself unworthy when He has pronounced me holy. 

 

What is it that you are so afraid of? After you nail it down, apply the remedy.

 


Related Material

Fear of Death, Abandonment and Failure by the Stenzel Clinic

What We Worry About, The Huffington Post

You Are Loved, Father’s Love Letter

No Shame in Christ, John Piper

Journal Your Anxiety, guided journaling