Relief and confidence often immediately follow when we’ve finally made a tough decision. After spending days, weeks, or maybe even months gathering information, listening to counsel, and processing with the Lord in prayer, we’ve finally come to the decision. We’ve signed the job contract, placed the down payment on the home, or gone through the church membership class.
While I wish I could say those moments of relief on the other side of decision-making steadily remain, they’re often overshadowed by an enemy: fear.
“What if” questions pop into our minds at the most inopportune times. What if I chose to become a member at the wrong church? What if I joined the wrong sorority or chose the wrong major? What if I was missing a very important piece of information when I made my decision? What if I thought I was listening to the Lord’s guidance, but I was really chasing the approval of my trusted advisors?
Fear steals focus from God’s ability and wisdom, wrongfully placing a myopic focus on self. Through fear, self looms so large that we begin to believe that one decision can throw off God’s plan. Fear shrinks our infinite God and enlarges self in a way that robs God of glory and ourselves of peace. Fear forgets that the same God who spoke galaxies into existence holds our lives together. Fear forgets that “he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).
Fear steals focus from God’s ability and wisdom, wrongfully placing a myopic focus on self.
Thankfully, God knows the frames of his fragile and fear-filled people. We’re not alone in our battles against fear, doubt, and regret. Throughout the Scriptures, God continually reminds his forgetful people not to fear. When Abram was crippled with doubt about the decision to refuse an earthly reward, the Lord came to him in a vision, saying “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great” (Gen. 15:1).
Timothy, the apostle Paul’s spiritual son and mentee, was prone to fearfulness and timidity. Like Joshua who had succeeded Moses, Timothy felt the weight of the mantle being placed on his shoulders. However, Paul reminded him that God had not given him a spirit of fear, but “of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Corrie ten Boom knew a thing or two about fear and worry as one who lived through the Nazi occupation of Holland and made hard decisions to hide Jewish families in her home. She had ample reason to worry but learned, experience by experience, that worrying about the future didn’t change it.
Rather, she learned from her faithful father, Casper ten Boom, that God will give us just what we need, just when we need it. In her book The Hiding Place, she recounts his encouragement in a moment of worry: “And our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things, too. Don’t run ahead of him, Corrie.” We, like Corrie, need to be gently reminded not to run ahead of our faithful Father.
Taking Thoughts Captive
Paul wisely recognized the inverse correlation between fear and self-control. When we allow fears to run amok in our hearts, minds, and lives, they rob us of the peace Christ purchased for us. Paul urged the believers at Colossae, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Col. 3:15). The Greek word brabeuó, translated “rule,” literally means to act as an umpire or an arbiter. Paul borrowed this word from the Greek games with which his readers would have been familiar. The image invoked is that of a referee stepping into the human heart to create order where fears and truth are wrestling for ascendency.
When we allow fears to run amok in our hearts, minds, and lives, they rob us of the peace Christ purchased for us.
When doubts, fears, and regrets crowd in upon the spaces of our souls, the Word of God and the character of God are meant to act as referees, throwing fears back to the sidelines and preserving the peace that we have in Christ. When speaking to the Corinthian church, Paul uses another powerful image regarding unwanted thoughts and fears. Paul writes, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
When we begin to doubt the goodness of God or his ability to providentially steer our lives, it’s helpful to consider the very nature of our God. As Paul so powerfully reasoned with the Romans, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Having provided his Son for our greatest need, will we choose to doubt his ability to provide for us in the smaller things (Rom. 8:32)? If God can work beauty out of the cross through resurrection, can we not trust him to work good through our past decisions?
This article is adapted from Aimee Joseph’s Demystifying Decision-Making: A Practical Guide (Crossway/TGC, 2022).