When I don’t know what to do as I face a situation where it seems clear that something must be done, I sometimes descend into a paralysis of mind, heart, and soul.
Sounds dramatic even as I write it. Self-talk in times like this is sometimes harsh, but purposeful. It reflects my desire to get moving again:
“You’re trying too hard–exaggerating to get the reader’s attention.”
“If you freeze like this, how can you possibly have anything useful to say to anybody else?”
“Get over yourself, your message isn’t all that critical to anybody – you’re just not that relevant or important here.”
You would think under such self-bullying, one might just give up… but the self-talk wasn’t destructive, just a reality check to ground me in the task at hand. I push back against my own thoughts, wielding the sword of a sober estimate of myself gained through years of turning to the Lord in tough situations. Mostly in retrospect, I find Him faithful to provide what I need in the moment.
Often that need of the moment comes through someone else’s story. It may be an anecdote about living through a time similar to my own trouble; just as often it is a testament of hope in circumstances like mine. Sometimes the moral of these timely stories includes practical tips that help me figure out the next steps. But what the sharing of their own lives always stirs in me is the profound relief that comes from realizing: I am not alone.
And often these days, the stories told remind me of my own past experiences of God’s provision, and the promises of scripture that sustain my faith.
Having said all that, I will share a few bits of my story, praying that the reader discovers God’s provision for themselves as well.
But first, an aside, moving from paralysis to my next stage of writing—distraction through research: My go-to online dictionary listed dozens of synonyms for “paralysis.” The list starts with “a wise passiveness.” I kept reading word after word till I finally was brought up short at the thirty-third suggestion, “do-nothingism.” I recognize I am in danger at this point of missing the opportunity of offering even a shred of wisdom, and getting nothing done!
A Couple of Mini-stories and Scriptures
A Matter of Perspective: I was once at a point in life feeling the weight of a broken marriage and wounded children, and a boatload of regrets for my part in it all. The overwhelm found its way into my prayers, “Lord, I can’t do this… it’s just too much, I can’t do this anymore.”
A verse rushed to mind. I had to look it up to make sure I remembered it right. From the Living Bible I read, “You have never yet struggled against sin and temptation to the point of shedding great drops of blood.” (Hebrews 12:4)
Talk about a reality check! The stark contrast between the suffering of Jesus and my situation hit my head and heart at the same time—it was ludicrous—and I laughed at my hubris. My very real pain shrank to its appropriate place in the scheme of all things, and I was strengthened. I don’t know how that worked exactly, but as I looked back at my situation standing in the Lord’s presence, I knew I wasn’t alone in it. He was there showing me the truth, answering one of my earliest commitments to Him, “Lord, I don’t ever again want to make a decision without you.”
An eternal perspective trumps other ways of seeing things!
Limited Vision: Since childhood, (except for a brief period during my teen years), I have known that I don’t know everything. But it wasn’t until I was in my thirties before I realized that this side of heaven, I wasn’t ever going to know enough to be sure I was making the right decision. Several business decisions, though well thought out, went terribly wrong and I went bankrupt. My mistakes in parenting, even after I took the Steps to Effective Parenting class, cost my children dearly.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (I Cor. 13:12)
The phrase, “see through a glass, darkly” that is used in the King James translation refers to the reality of those times. When a person looked into a mirror, they could see their reflection, but skewed and distorted and unclear, because of impurities that clouded the image. The glass couldn’t reflect much of the real picture. Today, the principle underlying this phrase in Scripture still applies to us: we must acknowledge that we only see a caricature, a hint, and a few real points, of course. But many relevant points, possibly most of the real picture, is obscure to us – we don’t have all the facts or a deep understanding of much of anything.”
Our point of view is only a partial picture, we only “know in part.”
So, when we say, “I saw it with my own eyes”, the statement is often meant to be proof, at least to ourselves, that we know everything we need to know about the situation at hand. But scripture tells us in this verse, what we believe we know isn’t necessarily so.
Yes, it is true that I don’t know much; the older I get the more I know how much I don’t know. But I have committed this yearning to know the truth to Truth Himself, and of this I am increasingly confident, “I know Whom I have believed, and He is able to keep that which I’ve committed to Him…” (2Timothy 1:12)
In the meantime, the good news this side of heaven is … we are learning and able to see more clearly every day we follow Jesus. And one day, we will see all things clearly and understand it all.
Until that day, the day of entering into the knowing-face-to-face, my prayer for us all is that we will drop the hubris, the arrogance, that keeps us under the impression that we know all we need to know about anything at all. Instead, I pray we will camp at the feet of our Father in prayer, follow our Savior Jesus, and flow in the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit as He guides us into all truth. We can do that.
Let’s do that together!
Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motivation. Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, independent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.
Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.
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