re there any other women out there who are nearly constantly second-guessing themselves? Wondering if they’ve made the right decision, from small and inconsequential things (like whether or not to pay for a waterslide pass at the pool) to significant things that actually matter (like discipline, finances, family life, and this maddening election)? The mind-games in my head of "ifs," "buts, "what-ifs," "should haves" and "could haves" have been exhausting this summer and need to stop. Last week one day I exclaimed, “Paul what is with me! I cannot make one decision without fretting about it all day!” I've experienced depression/anxiety in the past and I'm certain this is not that...so what then? Well, thankfully in the last week or so since I named this problem out loud and started taking note of this mental interference, the burden has lessened. I’m certain that the enemy of my soul has been whispering lies of doubt to me and is now aware that I’m on to him and his devious schemes. That’s a good thing. The enemy should always know that we are on to him and that we will not tolerate his deception.
This second-guessing thing though…ugh. What an effective way to strip joy and confidence from a woman. The kids and I will be at the pool, and I’ll find myself fretting that I should be doing housework instead…which is very unlike me, so I’m pretty confident it’s just a devious scheme to strip away the pure maternal joy of sitting at the pool with my kiddos. I’ll let myself sleep past 6am but then wonder all day if I’d be parenting better if I had gotten up to run that morning instead. My kids will be playing nicely with their kindles, and I’ll be worried that I should have handed them each a book instead…even though they read all the time and their kindle games are (mostly) educational. I’ll send a child to his/her room for sassing me, and then find myself doubting my parenting, wondering if their sass was actually my own fault. I’ll eat a bowl of ice cream and then feel guilty because sitting by the pool every afternoon does not actually burn the same calories of swimming in the pool. I'll post a blog and then delete it, worried that people will think I'm crazy. It took me two weeks of research to finally purchase on new shoes for my school-agers, going over and over my choices to ensure that I was making the "perfect" choice of a good shoe at a great price. Good consumering is one thing, but obsessing over such an insignificant decision is downright crippling.
Part of my struggle is prompted by the fact that one woman cannot possibly be all things to four little people, meeting all the various needs and emotions all the time. Of course I don’t have to be; actually it's my job to teach them that only God can satisfy their every desire...I can't do that if I'm trying to be everything for them. When I do try to simultaneously satisfy each kid's emotions and needs, my brain gets all tied in knots, seriously stunting my decision making capabilities. Rather, it is my responsibility to do a better job in advance of praying about and then pre-planning my reactions and decisions, so that I can walk in confidence. Just this afternoon I faced a little (and very unimportant) conundrum that felt like a big deal, with four kids wanting four different results, and I was stumped with how to make a decision that would at least satisfy 50% of us. Doubting my own authority led me to get more frustrated with the situation than necessary. All afternoon I second-guessed my reactions and decisions; I’m still not sure that my final decision was the right answer (but it’s NOT a big deal in the scheme of life, so I’m choosing to own it and let go).
By this point some of you think I’m crazy. You might be right. However, my presumption, based on observation and conversation, is that self-doubt and second guessing nearly every.single.decision is a battle for many women (just think about the vast numbers of women who shrink back from making a decision about what restaurant to eat at!), and I am absolutely convinced this is a tactic from hell to prevent us from living as the strong, confident, compassionate women God created us to be. There is an enormous and critical difference between the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin, causing healthy regret that leads to repentance, and Satan lying to us, causing us to doubt ourselves and lose confidence in the work we’ve been called to do. Healthy self-examination and introspection is crucial as a human sinner. Kind David was no stranger to sin; in fact, he was so very aware of his sin nature that he asked God to examine his heart, find the “offensive ways” in him, and then set him right (Psalm 139:23-24). But he also walked in surprising confidence, making hard choices for an entire nation, without wallowing in self-doubt afterwards. He prayed hard and then acted in power. Same with the Apostle Paul. Even though he considered himself amongst the worst of sinners, wrote honestly about the thorn in his flesh that reminded him daily of his own weakness (2 Cor. 12:7-9), and admitted his sin nature caused him to do the very thing he hated (Romans 7:15), he also had the confidence to tell the church in Corinth “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Wow! That is confidence! He knew the depth of his own sin, yet walked in striking power because he was received his confidence from Christ.
These two biblical heroes are proof to us that we cannot be as effective for Christ when we are stuck wallowing in the ‘should haves,’ ‘could haves,’ ‘and what if’s’ of life. When we are hovering in self-doubt, worrying about every decision we’ve made that day, we actually, unintentionally, become obsessed with ourselves. The thoughts in our heads are not able to focus on loving and serving others because they are instead are all tied up in knots, second-guessing our own actions. Our mood is turned sour and defensive because we are living in the past trying to justify our choices rather than just letting it be and embracing the joy of the moment. Our posture becomes doubtful and timid rather than confident.
With all that going on internally, we cannot be effective imitators of Jesus. When we discover Jesus in the pages of the gospels, we see him as shockingly confident. Not once, in all that we read about Jesus, do we see him doubting himself. Obviously he’s perfect, having no reason to doubt himself, and we are not perfect, but we must learn to be like him. Jesus was in constant communication with his Father, seeking his Father’s will in everything. Many times he said that the Son only acts by authority of the Father. If we follow suit, I’m certain that our days will be filled with more confidence as well.
Jesus’ days were also filled with joy. Understandably, the Bible also says he was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53), because every morning he awoke with the cross before him. Yet, he celebrated life to its fullest without being filled with regret from the past. Of course, he had nothing to regret, but my friend, in Christ, if we've repented, neither do we. The past is gone for those in Christ – we need not let it strip away our joy or cause us to second-guess ourselves for one more minute. Jesus lived in the moment. When the children were sitting on his lap, he was in that moment fully. He wasn't fretting that he should be doing other things. When the woman was anointing his feet, Jesus was fully in that moment. When the hemorrhaging woman fell at his feet, she told Jesus “the whole truth” (Mark 5) even though a huge throng of people were urging Jesus to hurry along to Jairus’ dying daughter. I’m guessing her “whole truth” took more than a few minutes, and Jesus was in that moment, right there with her, not second-guessing himself about whether or not he should be spending his time differently. Joy is a direct result of living in the moment; doubt causes us to live in the past, stealing our joy.
Jesus could confidently live in the moment because he knew the future and was certain that every decision he made was flawless. Clearly, we are not the same. But we do have the same Father who is ready to listen and assures us he will give us wisdom if only we ask (James 1:5); we have the same Holy Spirit who indwells us and teaches us all things (John 14:26); and we have God’s living, active, authoritative, written Word to guide our actions and decisions. 2 Timothy 4:17 says that because Scripture is God-breathed, “the servant of God may thoroughly equipped for every good work.” That absolutely includes mothering, so if I’m in the Word and working to apply the Word to my daily decisions, letting the Spirit guide me and asking the Father for wisdom, then I need not second-guess myself all day long in every decision I make. Rather, I need to trust that God really is guiding me, in the small things and the big things, and walk in freedom, joy, and confidence. God did not give me a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) I need to claim it and act like it, and that often means telling the enemy to leave me alone and stop trying to intimidate me; I’ve been sealed in the Spirit and I am confident in Christ.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to spend a day with a woman of faith that I respect greatly. She is a scholar and teacher of God’s Word, so I took the opportunity to ask her many various questions, not only about theology, but about life in general. As we talked, I was taken aback a number of times by the confidence in which she spoke. It wasn’t prideful, but it was audacious and striking; captivating. Finally I asked her about it, “You are so confident in every response you make. Don’t you ever doubt yourself?” I’ll never forget her response. She laughed (confidently!) and said, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I’ve learned from them, and God keeps me on a very short leash.”
Oh my, I want to be like that. I want to walk with God and be kept on a very short leash. I want the confidence that comes from closeness with him to ooze out of me, so that when people encounter me, they can see the truth of Jesus, within whom there are no shifting shadows. I want to be like the Apostle Paul and be able to say to my children with integrity, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
I have far to go. But I'm working on it. Join me?
Let’s throw off doubt and walk in confidence.