Making a "Good" Choice or a "God" Choice
- Thursday, February 03, 2005
The great sixteenth-century theologian Martin Luther had an almost humorous view of mental fantasy that is relevant even today. "You can't keep a bird from flying over your head," he said, "but you can keep him from making a nest in your hair." The theology of thought is like nest-building. By the act of your will you cannot keep every thought pure and godly, but you can control what thoughts build a nest and take up residence in your mind. Scripture teaches that there's nothing wrong with being tempted. It's what we do with temptation that matters.
The Singles Cycle
The road to poor choices is so predictable among singles that we can define it and give it a name: The Singles Cycle. Here's how it works:
1. Blessing. Through God's goodness (literally translated "divine nature") you are provided everything you need for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3).
2. Ungratefulness. Something plants a seed of discontentment in your soul and you start to feel left out and irritated. As you focus on what you don't have, you become unhappy and ungrateful. What you do have no longer seems to be enough. These feelings may have been triggered by a friend who just got engaged or married. Or maybe you found yourself alone on a Saturday night with nothing more to think about than the ticking of your biological clock. Or maybe it was something small like a song lyric, a movie scene, or an answering machine with no messages. "God, what about me?" you say. Everybody but you seems to be having fun and experiencing intimacy. In your mind, God has provided what you need.
3. Depression. You may feel angry at yourself for passing up someone you were once interested in or for getting out of a relationship that had the potential for marriage. Singles often condemn themselves for being single and may even start believing something is wrong with who they are. It's inherent in our natures to assign blame when life isn't going well. Depression is part of self-blame. If you don't believe you're to blame, you won't get depressed. But if you blame yourself for being single, you'll suffer from depression. It's hard to keep from being depressed when you're focusing on what you don’t have. What starts with self-pity or self-blame can progress to depression, resentfulness, anger, and bitterness. After you blame yourself for awhile, you may even start blaming God.
4. Poor Choices. Once you start to tell God (consciously or unconsciously) that you don't like the way He's running things, you may begin to take matters into your own hands. That's when the poor choices start, choices that are sometimes irrevocable. You may start believing that your standards are too high and anybody is better than nobody. You might return to a failed relationship or begin a sexual affair, perhaps even with a married person. You could find yourself dabbling in pornography or becoming engulfed in unhealthy coping mechanisms like addiction and eating disorders to medicate the pain of loneliness. You could even panic and marry a person who will keep your life confused and torn.
5. Discipline. In the midst of all the poor choices, you may feel guilt and condemnation, or conviction and godly sorrow. Satan aims to bog you down through the emotion of guilt and somehow convince you that your sin is too terrible to be forgiven and you'll never be of use to God. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, uses conviction to bring your sin to the light of Jesus' love so the problem can be resolved. The result will be godly sorrow, not guilt. Instead of the feeling of failure, you'll experience deep spiritual growth in your life.
6. Deliverance. When you determine by the act of your will to be grateful for whatever situation is yours, you will begin to be thankful. This trust in the Lord will lead to contentment and joy. God is in every circumstance – good or bad – that He allows to come to you. He will step into your life to change even unhappy or disastrous situations when you begin to thank Him for the situation itself. "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). A spiritual inventory of your blessings will help you realize that although you may be lonely, God has blessed you and ministered to your needs in many ways.
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