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Three Tips For Moving Forward When Things Are Hard

RMlogo Three tips for moving forward when things are hard

Moving forward in faith is one of the hardest things to do, especially when the decisions are difficult. The main thing when moving forward is to make sure you have God’s perspective. To do that, you want to follow three sequential steps.

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Some of the simple questions in life are easy to answer, and even if you do not make the best choice, the consequences are not that difficult to overcome. Ordering out, selecting a movie, buying clothes, or paying a bill are some of those easier decisions.

In fact, most of the things we decide on any given day do not bring internal consternation. There are so many decisions that you have to make. It would be impossible to process through them all adequately. Mercifully, the Lord has created us to do some things instinctively.

  • One of the beauties of habituation is you can train yourself to do good things without thinking.
  • One of the tragedies of habituation is you can train yourself to do evil things without thinking.

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. The downside is when you train yourself to think and respond in ways that are not good for you, for others, or for God.

My friend Mable is an excellent example of someone who has habituated herself poorly. She came from a critical home environment. Rather than maturing into a God-centered young adult, she became withdrawn and frustrated. She has an acute sense of inherent awkwardness fueled by guilt, shame, and fear. Sarcasm was her familial art form that whittled her down to an insecure nub of a person.

Biff, her husband, discerned her insecurity and how she responds to criticism. Mable is 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 goes into “paralysis analysis” mode, especially when it is time to make the bigger decisions in life. She can’t “pull the trigger” as Biff is fond of saying. Rather than being frustrated by this, Biff is trying to do for her what her dad never did: He is discipling her.

Biff is helping her see three core issues that affect Mable when it’s time to make a decision. His goal is to re-habituate her bad patterns of thinking into better patterns of thinking. His hope is for her to be free to make any decision, big or small. Here are Biff’s three core building blocks for decision-making:

  1. Identity Question – Who am I?
  2. Priority Question – What is most important?
  3. Tenacity Question – Will I endure?

Biff is processing decision making through the life of Moses and how he worked through one of the harder decisions of his life: to leave his adoptive family and reconnect with his bio-family and their religion. The passage that highlights this is Hebrews 11:23-31 where we see these three core building blocks to sound decision-making laid out for you.

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

  • Maybe you were wrestling through whether to stay in your marriage while fighting through the disappointment.
  • Maybe you were trying to determine if you should confront someone who was making your life difficult.
  • Perhaps 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 larger 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 sees this and knows it is tied, in part, to her identity: who she believes she is before God and others. The person who is most important to her is the person who has the most control over her decisions.

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?

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 thought of her had more influence over her, then 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.

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 most of all, but because she was criticized so much by her father, she has a hard time believing her heavenly Father thinks any differently about her than her earthly father.

Imagine living in a world where you tried to please people and God by the decisions you made because you were uncertain of their affection for you. Suppose you lived under the ever-present pressure of being rejected by anyone who had an opinion you valued.

If you have a wrong view of how God thinks about you, then you will inevitably make a bad decision. The purest and most perfect way to make a decision is to make one based on a right view of who God declares you to be.

You make your decisions based on your identity: who you believe you are before God and others. Mable thinks she is God’s child, but she relates to the Lord based on her works, rather than based on the works of His Son.

She loves the Lord, but she has a distorted view of how she thinks about the Lord. She is a God-pleaser. The truths of Hebrews 11:6 and Ephesians 2:8-9 are not entirely her own.

Key Question: Are you fully resting in the works of Jesus Christ? This idea is what your identity should be. If you are, you’re in the best possible place to make a decision because the fear of others and an unhealthy fear of God do not bind you.

Moses re-established his identity with God. He refused to continue his identification with the world, even if it meant his life would take a radical turn toward hard times. He was in the safest place he could be to think about his next steps.

Priority Question – What Is Most Important?

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

After Moses had reconnected with God, he was able to make the right decision. This reconnection released him to have true biblical clarity for decision-making. A good relationship with Christ is the right path to discern and respond to life’s challenges biblically.

As Mable begins to unhook from the desire to please God and others, she will start to experience a newfound freedom in decision-making. This victory will help her to figure out what her biblical priorities should be.

  • If your decision-making is influenced by what others may do to you (Pharaoh), your decisions will be affected by what you believe the negative responses may be.
  • If your decision-making is secure in Christ and you knew 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 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. 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 important decisions in life. You would make them as God would. You would be free from fear-based and fear-motivated decision-making, a kind of decision that has a self-protective element to it. Self-preservation was not Moses’ most pressing concern.

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 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” would suggest he made a horrible mistake. His life seemed ruined. At this point, you want to be careful.

If success and victory are wrapped up in not having difficulties or not making hard choices in life, you will not persevere in life. The more you try to avoid trouble, the more trouble you will experience.

Moses did not factor into his decision-making process what others thought about him. He was not living in fear of others, and he certainly was not living in suspicion of God. He lived by faith–a faith that 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 major part of your identity or do you still feel as though 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 loss for the greater treasure you have 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.

Faith is a telescope

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