Back when I was a fairly new Christian, I think I had erroneously come to believe that walking by faith meant I was supposed to ignore my feelings, lay aside all logic, and say yes to everything that appeared to be the unselfish thing to do. This belief system complicated the decision- making process unnecessarily.
I’m going to share some samples from my 1992 journals, but in case you don’t have time to read the examples, I’ll begin with what I’ve learned.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, we can ask ourselves the following questions (and perhaps discuss them with a trustworthy, objective person):
- Laying aside, for a moment, our thoughts about what’s right or wrong, selfish or unselfish, how are we feeling right now? Overwhelmed? Confused? Frustrated? Unappreciated? Tired? Or at peace, cheerful, refreshed, etc.? God doesn’t ask us to ignore our feelings. He asks us to talk to Him about them. I love the Psalms in the Bible because they contain all the human emotions. God’s big enough to handle them. Yes, He’ll still love us even if we tell Him we’re mad at Him or we think life’s unfair. He’s a great listener. Its ok to vent. But then we should ask Him to reveal the cause of our feelings and show us what to do about it.
- If we have a husband or children, it helps to ask ourselves how they are being affected by our present decisions and how the decision we’re considering will impact them. The same applies to other relationships as well, such as friends, co-workers, etc. But I believe that, next to God, our family should be our top priority, so it’s good to begin with them.
- Ask God to reveal our fears to us. Do we need to entrust a loved one to Him? Our finances? Our reputation? List our fears.
- Pray for wisdom and wait for clear answers and peace of mind. (The Lord may need time to help us work through our fears or our erroneous beliefs.) In moral decisions, we should let Scripture be our guide, and prayerfully follow our conscience.
I will now share some examples from 1992. At that time, our special needs son, Shon, was 11 years old and in 4th grade. Our daughters were 8 and 6 years old (Heather and Kristy). My husband, Tom, and I had known the Lord nine years. Neither of us had been raised in Christian homes, so we had a lot to learn and change came slowly. Things that are so obvious to me now weren’t obvious then.
The first story I’ll share centers around our son, Shon. Over the course of his school years, I home schooled him at times, acted as his aid in school at times, and other times he was on his own in public special education programs. At the time of the situation I’m about to describe, he had spent two wonderful years going to a private Christian school part time. Now, he was in the 4th grade and the work was much harder. They graciously allowed a number of situations: he would just be in class for certain subjects, or I would be in class with him (sometimes with six – year old Kristy at my side) or we hired an aid to assist him. As the year progressed, we were faced with a difficult decision: was it time to place him in a special needs program in a public school? If I had followed the advice I outlined for you, the answer would have become clear fairly quickly. But we did not see the solution until we’d spent a year trying everything we could think of to keep him where he was, including trying to get a special needs program going at the school.
- How was I feeling? Most of the time, I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. But I tried to embrace God’s grace and I asked Him to help me be unselfish and uncomplaining. He did comfort and strengthen me, but I wasn’t hearing His solutions.
- How was this affecting other people? I found this note from Heather written on one page of my journal: “Mom I want a kiss. From Heather to Jorja.” Kristy would periodically break down in tears and sometimes opt to leave a fun activity so she could have some snuggle time with me. Shon’s teachers and aid voiced their concern about how much of his class time was wasted. (Ironically, I had been a teacher for eleven years and I doubt that I would have tolerated such a situation.) He couldn’t read, so things had to be read to him, which either disturbed the other students or he had to be taken outside. I barely managed to keep up with the laundry, housecleaning, and cooking, and was exhausted by the time Tom came home from his exhausting day at work and long drive home. I did my best to meet everyone’s needs but often felt like a failure.
- What were my fears? I feared that Shon wouldn’t be morally strong enough to face what he might be exposed to in public school. I wanted to keep him in a protected Christian cocoon. I had to learn to trust God.
- I did pray for wisdom (and God finally got through to us) but for a long time I wasn’t sure if by faith I should trust Him to open the doors for Shon to stay there, and persevere, or if I was supposed to trust Him to take care of Shon in public school. When our situation became intolerable, I looked into public school. In time, we saw that the public school special needs program best met his educational needs and the Lord protected and blessed Shon there.
Here’s a second example. During the same year, our church said there were Russian children who needed homes. We were praying about it and in this case, I did list my concerns. (When you read this, you’ll see why I praise God that our kids turned out so well!) Here’s an excerpt from my 1992 journal: “If I look at our circumstances, I say ‘No way!’ Kristy’s showing signs of stress, wanting more of me. We don’t always even get the kids’ teeth brushed. They get baths about every two weeks or less. I have no idea how involved with Shon I’ll be, next year. Tom’s just starting a second job, and both of his jobs are taking increasingly more of his time. I know it is mainly my shoulders this burden would rest on. So, there’s no way I’ll do this unless I’m convinced it’s God’s will, for I could never do it in my own strength. Also, Tom and I rarely talk, as it is. Now enter an emotionally traumatized kid, who doesn’t speak our language or eat our food–and I’m a rotten cook, on top of it. I can’t find one logical reason for saying yes. Yet my heart is open and my two greatest fears–the age and the sex–have been removed. So, this could be the Lord. (If you’re wondering why our kids weren’t more independent, that’s another story.)
When I finally shared all my thoughts and feelings with Tom and asked if he could be content with the three children we already had, he simply said, “Sure,” and that was the end of it!
In those days, we too often made decisions based on our emotions or we failed to communicate our feelings to the other person. Thankfully, we have learned to take our time, listen to each other, and prayerfully analyze the situation.