15th December 2020

Life-giving choices that lead beyond pain 

Do you ever think that your walk as a Christian seems to resemble the Israelite’s experience in the desert? Do you feel spiritually dry and as if you are going over old ground time and again? This might include sin-confess cycles, being stuck in past hurts or in unhelpful behaviour patterns. Do you feel somehow that you are not able to lay hold of God’s promises for your life? Many people do. Do you know, perhaps with a deep ache, that your heart and life need to change for the better? Do you long for a way through that no matter what bad choices you have made in the past or whatever wounds you have been given, you can choose to change today, not tomorrow, because God’s way joyously gives you freedom? If this is you, here is real hope:

While different reasons can contribute to this situation, one key aspect – which is at the heart of many of these struggles – is easily overlooked: the importance of the choices we make. Our choices play a big part in our growth as people.

The truth about choices

1. God has given us free-will choice.
The fact that we are free to make our own decisions, shows that God loves and respects us. He will not force us to do anything we don’t want to do. He will counsel us to do what He knows is best for us, but the choice is ultimately ours.

2. Our choices have consequences: good or bad.
This relates to all areas of our life, e.g.

  • Time: How we spend our time.
  • Relationships: Who we spend our time with.
  • Actions/Behaviour: How we treat others and ourselves.
  • Money: What we spend our money on.
  • Faith: Who or what we put our trust in.

3. Our choices start with a thought
All our choices, big or small, begin with the thoughts we choose to think. These then turn into the words we choose to speak (over ourselves, others or our circumstances) and the actions we choose to take. As far as words are concerned, the Bible says very clearly that they can either be life-giving or destructive (see Proverbs 18:21). We choose which way it’s going to go and therefore what the consequences look like.

4. Only we can change the choices that we make
When it comes to living a fulfilled life, we are neither at the mercy of others nor at the mercy of our circumstances or our past. This truth is both challenging and liberating.  Changing the choices we make will change the direction of our life. Nobody can do it for us. If we choose to live according to God’s ways, He will help us accomplish it. He also promises to bless us: “Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!” (Psalm 128:1)

Hindrances to growth and change

The question is, what keeps people from making these important decisions and moving forward in life? Some of the main hindrances are:

  • Blaming others
    Unfortunately, we live in a broken world which means that people hurt us along the way: sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally. The wounds inflicted on us can scar us deeply. Yet, we will never be able to move beyond the pain and lead fruitful lives if we adopt a victim mentality and always blame others for our struggles. Pinning every failure and lack we experience today on those who have hurt us or not given us what we needed in the past, will keep us from maturing as people.
  • Being passive
    As children or teenagers we might have felt unheard or powerless to effect change. Over time we may then, instead of taking the bull by the horns, have developed a passive attitude. Some Christians also come to the faulty conclusion that God does whatever He wants and that there is no point in showing initiative. This fatalistic mindset fosters a sense of hopelessness in us. We end up believing that our dreams and desires don’t really matter and therefore we stop pursuing them.
  • Developing unhealthy coping strategies
    When we experience painful or overwhelming situations (like rejection, disappointments, loss, separation etc.) we usually develop coping strategies. They are supposed to help us deal with these difficult situations but many of them turn out to become blockages to our growth. Often, they also have a negative impact on our relationships. Among these strategies are control and manipulation, perfectionism, withdrawal and silence, aggression and anger, pride and rebellion, fleeing into addictions.
  • Having a broken will
    Our will can be damaged for various reasons, such as: having been subjected to ungodly control or irrational fears, not having been taught to make age-appropriate decisions when growing up, overprotective parents, recreational drugs, traumatic life-experiences. A weak or broken will can cause us to avoid making decisions or give up easily when we don’t see any progress.

Becoming mature children of God

Learning to make good and godly choices is an integral part of maturing as a Christian. What are some of the steps we can each take in order to leave the ‘desert’ behind and enter into the ‘promised land’ God has for us?

  • Choose to stop the blame-game. Yes, people may have failed and hurt us; it’s really important to acknowledge that. But if all we do is accuse or blame them, we’ll stay a prisoner of the past, unable to move forward. Instead, we can choose to forgive those who have caused us harm and release them out of our judgment. We can hand them over to God and let go of our expectation that they must right their wrongs.
  •  Invite Jesus to heal our hurts and pains as well as our broken will. Jesus cares deeply about us and He wants to mend our broken hearts. We can spend time in His presence. The more we get to know Him the more we will be anchored in His love. This will enable us to make good decisions.
  • Take responsibility for our own life. What changes could we make personally and practically in order to live a healthier and more abundant life? We can ask God to help us overcome any passivity and commit to becoming a mature follower of Jesus Christ. Studying the Bible diligently can teach us how to walk in God’s ways. It will also strengthen our identity as God’s child.
  • Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal any sinful coping strategies and behaviour patterns. We can own the fact that, as a response to pain, we have chosen to act in ways that only compounded our problems. We can ask God’s forgiveness and decide to no longer rely on these strategies (like self-pity, explosive anger, manipulation). It might be a struggle at first, because these behaviour patterns are like well-trodden paths. But if we let the truth of God’s Word change the way we think and strengthen our inner being, we will be able to act in new ways.

As we learn to make one godly decision at a time, we will not only grow in maturity, but our life will also become more and more fruitful.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Ellel Ministries By Ellel Ministries

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