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Three Tips for Moving Forward When Things Are Hard

Three Tips For Moving Forward When Things Are Hard

Moving forward in faith—believing God can do all things well for me—is one of the hardest things to do in our fallen world, especially when the decisions are difficult. Because of the complexity of deciding big things to move forward with life, the main thing I must do is make sure I have God’s perspective on the thing I’m thinking about doing. Without His sovereign clarity, my sightlines will lower to a man-centered view, which will spell disaster. Thus, to move forward while guided by God’s perspective, I must understand and practice these three essential, sequential steps.

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Value of Not Thinking

Some of the simple questions in life are easy to determine, and even if I don’t make the best choice, the consequences are not that difficult to overcome. Some of those easier decisions are ordering out, selecting a movie, buying clothes, or paying a bill. Most things we decide on any given day do not bring internal consternation. We think; we decide; we move on. We have to make so many decisions; it is not reasonable to elevate all of them to a complicated level of biblical decision-making.

Mercifully, the Lord has created us to do some things instinctively. For example, after repeated commutes to your job, you eventually begin making the trip without thinking. Upon arriving, you say, “Wow, I’m not sure how I got here. I don’t remember the drive.” That’s the beauty of habituation and decision-making. Of course, the downside is when you train yourself to think and respond in ways that are not good for you, others, or God.

Incarcerated Thinking

My friend Mable is an excellent example of someone who has habituated herself poorly. She came from a critical home environment. Without the mooring of Christ that matures people into God-centered adults, Mable became withdrawn with her family and internally frustrated. Her parents trained her to have an acute sense of inherent awkwardness fueled by guilt, shame, and fear—the three accomplices with fear.

Biff, her husband, discerned early how her child development molded her into an insecure person, especially if her spidey senses perceived any criticism coming her way. Mable became a ducker and a hider. She is afraid to venture out and make decisions because of her hyper-sensitive awareness of what it means to be wrong, put down, or criticized. Mable will go into “paralysis analysis” mode, especially when it is time to make the more significant decisions. She can’t “pull the trigger,” as Biff is fond of saying. Rather than being frustrated by this, Biff tried to do for her what her dad never did—disciple her.

Biff began to help her see three core issues that affect her when it’s time to make a decision. His goal was to re-habituate her destructive thinking patterns into better ones. His hope was for her to be free to make any decision, big or small. He did this by mapping the life of Moses over Mable. Moses chose to leave his adoptive family and reconnect with his bio-family and their religion. The passage highlighting this part of his life is Hebrews 11:23-31 where we see three core building blocks to the mortification of fear that leads to sound decision-making.

  • Identity Question: Who am I?
  • Priority Question: What is most vital?
  • Tenacity Question: Will I endure?

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Identity Question – Who am I?

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24-25).

Like all significant decisions in life, leaving his adoptive family did not come easy for Moses. Perhaps you have struggled with significant challenges that needed giant leaps in your faith too. Don’t you remember the fragileness of your soul as you thought about what you needed to do?

  • Maybe you were wrestling with whether to stay in your marriage while fighting the disappointment.
  • Perhaps you were trying to determine if you should confront someone making your life difficult.
  • Maybe you believed it was time to change your job, even though the pros and cons of both jobs were about the same.
  • Perhaps you could not have a baby and wondered about alternate means to grow your family.
  • Maybe the time seemed right to be married, but you were afraid to make that kind of commitment.

These are only a small sampling of some of the more significant questions people think through at some point in their lives. For Mable, her “paralysis” in decision-making is more systemic: she struggles with nearly every decision, large and small. Too many of her decisions are a gut-wrenching ordeal. Biff saw this and knew it tied—in part—to her identity: who she believes she is before God and others. The person who is most important to us is the person who has the most control over our decisions.

Let’s say Mable went shopping to buy a garment. If she were more concerned about what others thought about her, those perceived opinions would have more influence on her clothing purchase. If God’s thoughts of her had more impact, her decision to buy a garment would take on an entirely different perspective. Rather than trying to be cool, relevant, and accepted, she would be more practical, mature, and willing to reflect Christ to her world.

Key Question: Do you make most of your decisions based on what other people think about you, or are your decisions based on what God thinks about you?

Trying to Please God

Mable’s complexity in decision-making has an extra twist. She always wants the Lord’s opinion of her to matter too. Because her father criticized her so much, she has a hard time believing her heavenly Father thinks differently about her. Imagine living in a world where you tried to please people and God through your decisions because you were uncertain of their affection for you. Suppose you lived under the ever-present pressure of being rejected by anyone with an opinion you valued.

You will inevitably make a bad decision if you have a wrong view of how God thinks about you. The purest and most perfect way to decide anything is to make your decisions based on the correct idea of who God declares you to be. Mable relates to the Lord based on her works rather than on His Son’s works. Mable loves the Lord but has a distorted view of who He is and how He thinks about her because of how her daddy treated her. She is a wrongly-motivated, God-pleaser.

The truths of Hebrews 11:6 and Ephesians 2:8-9 are not entirely hers. Alternatively, Moses refused to continue his identification with the world, even if it meant his life would take a radical turn toward hard times. Because he was willing to recalibrate his identity Godward, he was in the perfect place to relaunch his life, i.e., make a critical decision.

Key Question: Are you fully resting in the works of Jesus Christ, the prescription for a proper identity in Christ? If you are, you’re in the best possible place to make any decision because the fear of others or an unhealthy fear of God does not bind you.

Priority Question – What Is Most Vital?

He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward (Hebrews 11:26).

A good relationship with Christ is the right pathway to respond to life’s challenges biblically. After Moses had recalibrated himself with God, he was able to make the right life-changing decision. This reconnection released him to have true biblical clarity for decision-making. As Mable begins to unhook from the desire to please God and others, she will experience newfound freedom in decision-making. This victory will help her figure out what her biblical priorities should be.

  • If others overly influence your decision-making, your decisions will be affected by what you believe their negative responses may be.
  • If your decision-making is secure in Christ and you know you could not alter your relationship with Him, you would be able to make hard decisions, fully knowing God will always be for you (Romans 8:31-39).

Moses believed God had his back. He was not wrestling with the “He loves me, He loves me not” worldview. He was confident God loved him with an endless and unalterable love. He was not afraid of what Pharaoh would do to him, plus he was not striving to earn God’s favor—a double bonus. It is “decision-making perfection” when you are not afraid of the outcome while fully resting in a God who will never be displeased with you.

A mind that thinks like that is released to make the most critical decisions in life—you will make them as God would. You will be free from fear-based and fear-motivated decision-making, a kind of decision-making with a twist of self-protectives. Self-preservation was not Moses’ most pressing concern.

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Tenacity Question – Will I Make It?

By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27).

The process of thinking about what you should do must begin with identity (Who am I?) and then proceed to the priority question (What is most important?). These steps will bring you to the tenacity question (Will I make it?). Let’s say you are no longer trying to please God or people through your works. Let’s further suppose you have made a difficult decision born out of this kind of freedom—Moses left Egypt, not afraid of the king. Then the question becomes, “Will I endure?” Your endurance is born out of who you are. But even if you are free to make the right decision based on a true identity with God, you still have to confront the “will I make it” question.

This concept is a layered question that hangs on one word: good. What you think is good and what God thinks is good may be two different things (Genesis 50:20; Isaiah 53:10; Romans 8:28). If we applied worldly thinking to the decision of Moses, it would have been “good” for him to stay with Pharaoh. We know what happened when he decided to go with God: his life went to pot. The “worldly test” suggests he made a horrible mistake. His life seemed ruined. At this point, you want to be careful.

The more we try to avoid trouble, the more trouble we will experience. If we wrap up success and victory by not having difficulties or not making hard choices in life, we will not persevere well. Moses was not living in fear of others and certainly not in suspicion of God. He lived by faith, which compelled him to do hard things. Faith was a telescope to Moses. It made him see the goodly land afar off—rest, peace, and victory—when dim-sighted reason could only see trial and barrenness, storm and tempest, weariness and pain. Faith told Moses that affliction and suffering are not real evils. They are . . .

  • the school of God, in which He trains the children of grace for glory;
  • the medicines, which are needful to purify our corrupt hearts;
  • the furnace, which must burn away our dross;
  • the knife, which must cut the ties which bind us to the world.J. C. Ryle

Call to Action

  1. Are you free in Christ? Is freedom a significant part of your identity, or do you still feel God is displeased with you? Are there days when you work for God’s favor?
  2. Because you know God has your back, are you free to make difficult decisions, even decisions that may be unfavorable to those around you?
  3. Your freedom in Christ pushes you further than you ever imagined you could go—even if it costs you some of the pleasures of this world. Are you willing to count all things lost for your more fabulous treasure in Christ (Philippians 3:8)?

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

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