My mind runs at a million miles an hour most days. I can analyze myself into a frenzy and dispute an issue until I become insufferable. From theological truths that, while interesting, don’t require application to pertinent decisions that demand action, I often find myself getting stuck in a loop of thought or debate. Is it good or is it bad? Is it true or is it false? Does it fall into a grey area? Is your definition of good and true the same as mine? What references support this point of view? Is there a solid base of fact to counter oppositional ideas? Have we come to this conclusion based on a correlation/causation fallacy? Maybe it is true and good, but are we assuming a generalization is applicable when there is room for reconsideration? This exhaustive questioning happens more times than I want to admit. I am certain I could round up a few people who could testify to that. I wear myself out and am prone to do what I have previously determined to be good, right and true for me. There are times when that has resulted in positive outcomes; God has helped me establish some great habits. I will own the fact that this is not always the case. I have some bad habits that I repeat over and over because I have allowed my own reasoning to guide me. This circular reasoning entrenches me in some behaviors and emotional responses I would rather be rid of. But whether there is a positive or negative result, this path is far from being still, as directed in Psalm 46:10; it is the antithesis.
We are called to trust the Lord and to walk by faith. Proverbs 3:7-8 advises us to, “be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” It is the foundation of our faith to trust in God, but we are also called to test the spirit behind what we are hearing and thinking. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world,” says 1 John 4:1. In 2 Corinthians 2:5, we are also told to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” The question regarding how to accurately distinguish the truth we are to trust in remains. It is easy to fall back into the trap I so often do, and allow our own reasoning to be our guide. But as mentioned previously in Proverbs 3, as well as throughout the scripture, my thoughts aren’t always going to lead me to the truth. Proverbs 16:25 warns, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is death.” We can, with surprising ease, reason our way down the wrong path, misinterpret scripture, and build habits based on falsities. The process of finding the right answer can not fall on ourselves, but then we are left trying to determine how to ask the important questions that will ensure we aren’t led astray.
I have started asking one question to begin dismantling my habit of over-analyzing. Is it God-honoring? Rather than a slew of questions and am an extensive search for loopholes, that one question has been getting me to the nitty-gritty of my opinions and decisions. Earlier I mentioned Proverbs 46:10, it reads, “be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Instead of the long list of considerations, there should be one thing of importance. Will the result of my point of view one that exalts God? Backing up to another aforementioned scripture, 1 John 4 continues on in verse 2 to say, “by this you know the Spirit of God every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Does my proposed action, course of thought, or potential speech speak of Christ’s sacrifice for me and others and embody the love, grace, and redemption of His life? Or to restate, is it God-honoring?
This is a new habit I am in the process of forming. I am not great at it. Hurts come and knock me off my feet. In response, my tendency and desire is not to honor God but for self-protection. When my self-discipline wanes the easiest and most convenient option for me is usually one that speaks to my own comfort or self-assurance. There is then the urge to criticize myself after the moments of failure and punishment seems a more effective weapon of behavior change than grace. As quickly as I can, I am working to stop and base my next action on what is a God-honoring way to move forward.
Let’s be clear, to say this will solve every issue that arises would be a gross oversimplification. Consistent prayer and time with the Lord are crucial. The Word of God needs to be hidden in our hearts (Psalm 119:11, 2 Timothy 3:16). We have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and guide us (Ezekiel 36:27, John 16:13). The local church is intended to be equipped with a pastor who shepherds us in truth (Ephesians 4:11-12, Jeremiah 3:15). We are responsible to become a part of a community of believers in which there is mutual accountability and encouragement (Ephesians 4:16). Those are the tools that will equip us to answer this question when we fight our own reasoning. As we struggle with thoughts, plans and opinions, whether self-derived or coming as advice form others, we can learn to bypass our own reasoning. We can choose to utilize the tools given to us and begin to filter our pursuits based on whether they are God-honoring or not.