read Luke 4. Some of us are second guessers. We constantly wonder if we’ve offended someone, or if we’ve missed out on an opportunity. Others of us live under a cloud of condemnation. We feel we’ve done something wrong all the time, even when we haven’t. Others of us are frozen by indecision; we’re so afraid of making the wrong choice, we make no choice – which ends up being a decision of its own. Still others of us are shape shifters. We change our mind constantly. We move houses; we ship our children from school to school; we switch hair colors faster than a New York City cabbie can honk at a light change. So is there a better way? Is there a way to live without feeling like we’re in a pinball machine – where we’re the pinball?
One solution stems from the beautiful words of Mother Theresa: “don’t do anything you know to be wrong and spend an hour a day worshipping the Lord.”
Here’s my modification of that: when confronted with a decision which is causing us anxiety, we can actively ask ourselves: “am I considering doing something wrong?”. If so, eliminate it. Take it off the table. Then, once we’ve eliminate the wrong, we can relax into the remaining good options. That two-fold approach may sound obvious, but it’s not – for the simple reason that we have an enemy who kicks sand in our faces. Satan does everything in his power to slip wrong choices in among the good ones, the way people pass bad pennies – by surrounding them with good ones.
But even if wrong thinking slips in unawares, it always takes away our peace. So we can use anxiety as our friend; we can use our anxiety as a clue that there is something wrong in our thinking. One of the things that the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said that I heartily agree with is: “anxiety is the psychological state that precedes sin.” So if you feel confused or anxious, actively ask yourself: “am I considering something wrong?” The very question adds clarity – something our enemy does everything He can to steal from us.
If you doubt me, check out the tactics of our enemy, gleaned from Luke 4. Satan hits Jesus when he’s down (in this case, weakened after 40 days of not eating). Satan asks Jesus to do something that seems innocuous (make bread). Satan quotes Scripture. Satan casts pictures into Jesus’ imagination: Satan “showed” Jesus “in a moment” all the kingdoms of the world. There is no place on earth where you can see all the kingdoms of the world, so apparently Satan has power over our imaginations. And Satan lies (in the third temptation, I counted 5 lies – try counting them for yourself). Those are not the tactics of an enemy who wants us to have clarity or make good decisions.
The only way to combat this kind of an enemy, especially when you’re hungry or in a similarly weakened state, is to do what Jesus does, and stick to what the word of God says. The reason we can’t rely on ourselves is that we humans can rationalize anything. Doing what our enemy says is never innocuous, no matter how many ways we rationalize it. “Trust in the Lordwith all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
Once we’ve actively asked what is wrong and eliminated it according to the Word, we are left with a number of good options from which to choose. Here is where the remainder of Luke 4 shows us how to handle this kind of selection.
What we see in this chapter is that God is always on the move. Jesus travels from the river, to the wilderness, to his hometown, to Capernaum, and then to synagogues throughout Judea. God engages in a variety of activities here. Jesus is alone in the wilderness. He is surrounded by crowds. He casts out demons. He casts out fevers. He is praised. He is rejected. People press close for healing. People press close to try to push Him off a cliff. He goes to an isolated place. He travels around. People ask Him to stay, and He leaves.
So what does this tell us? It says that we can be in God’s will even if we’re constantly engaged in a variety of different activities. That may sound obvious, but I don’t think it is. I think one of the ways the enemy attacks is by trying to cast doubt on every decision we make. The enemy whispers to us: why are you wasting your time being alone? You should be helping people. Then when you’re helping people, the enemy says: why are you always so busy? You should be praying more. The Bible calls Satan the “accuser”. In Satan’s world, you can never win. I’m sure you know people like that. They criticize you no matter what you do. Why? Probably because they have the same voice of condemnation in their own head – Satan’s voice – condemning everything they do, too.
So it helps if you remind yourself, out loud if necessary: God is always on the move, and it’s okay for me to be on the move, too.
In fact, not only is it okay to do lots of different things, it is actually necessary. We have to get alone sometimes. We have to isolate ourselves to spend time with God and discover His will. But too much isolation can make us strange. We also need to go out into the world and help people. But we also need to relax. After Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, she prepares a meal for Him. If even God allows other people to take care of Him, so should we. This is living. Far from being wrong, it’s good. There’s no reason to live under a cloud of condemnation.
One of my favorite pieces of advice, from the Message paraphrase of the Bible is: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:38
The reason this approach brings peace is that peace is a person: peace is Jesus. Satan tried to get Jesus to take power for Himself, but instead Jesus accepted God’s will and went to the cross. God chose to go to the cross, so He could live with us. If peace is living with you, and you follow the way of peace, and you know peace will forgive you if you mess up – what is there to worry about?
Ultimately, the reason we can live in peace is that God gives us the power to follow Him. He gives us strength to resist the devil. He gives us forgiveness when we fail. And He walks with us in all our choices. God is with us when we sit and when we stand; when we cry and when we laugh; when we’re with strangers and when we’re with family; when we help and when we allow others to help us. He is with us when we make choices, and if we’ve made the wrong decision, He will let us know. Our enemy is doing everything he can to make us forget that we, like Jesus, can be full of the power of the Holy Spirit. The “touch of Jesus’ hand” gives peace to anyone who reaches for Him. If we make the only important decision – to reach for the hand of God – the rest, as they say, is cake. We can have peace like a river – always on the move – always heading, like all rivers, for the ocean.
“How to Make Decisions in Peace”: posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com on December 28, 2011