How To Separate Fact from Feelings When Making Decisions

How To Separate Fact from Feelings When Making Decisions

Way back in the day, I was our church pianist, and my husband sang in the choir. That left our two grade school-aged children alone on the front row during the music time every Sunday. This was slightly terrifying.

The piano I played was a shiny black upright, which offered a perfect reflection of the row where my children sat. I’ll never forget one Mother’s Day when all of the children were called forward to collect a carnation to give to their mothers. So precious. Except I was at the piano, so my children had to hold onto their flowers until I came and sat down. As I was playing a hymn, the black upright reflected a clear image of my son using my carnation as a sword in an imaginary sword fight. Blessed motherhood.

Dallas Willard, in his book Renovation of the Heart, says this:

Feelings live on the front row of our lives like unruly children clamoring for attention. They presume on their justification in being whatever they are –unlike a thought, which by nature is open to challenge and invites the question “Why?”

When I read that statement, I picture Caleb playing swordsman on the front row. All I could think about on that beautiful Sunday morning was how much longer the hymn was and how soon I could get down there and give that unruly child a real picture of Mother’s Day.

In the process of making decisions, we have so many feelings that seem to demand our attention: fear, worry, reluctance, a longing for safety and no risk. Feelings act up.

What we need is to let truth have our full attention.

Tricky, though, to sort out truth from feelings, like in our recent huge decision we had to make regarding the carpet in our rental house. The previous renter had allowed pets to ruin some of it beyond fixing. But the rest of the house was iffy. We could have just made the new renters live with it, which would have saved us a boatload of money.

My feelings were a small child throwing a tantrum. Pay off carpet expense in the thousands? Fear. What if we can’t pay for this expense? What if something else comes up? What if? What if? What if?

One truth kept running through my mind, though. Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 NIV)

In a firm, clear, voice, Truth asked me a question:

“If you were the renter with three kids, how would you want to be treated? Would you want to make due on barely-okay carpet?”

When I took time to pray and listen, truth made itself heard over those very naughty children on the front row. We made the decision to replace the carpet, and the Lord has already provided, in an unexpected way, for us to pay back a big chunk of the expense! But we didn’t know how God would help at the time. We only knew the truth of how he wanted us to treat people. That was enough of a basis for making a good decision.

So decision-making requires knowing God’s heart. We need to study and memorize Bible verses, because these speak to us about which way to go. An ignorance about who God is and how he feels about things means the unruly feelings in the front row of our minds will get too great a voice in our decision-making.

What decision are you working through right now? Take time to go to the Bible and write down some basic truths that pertain to your situation. Let these truths override your feelings about the decision.

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  1. I love this!! So true about thoughts vs. feelings. {Of course I’m also dying to know how God provided for your carpet expenses ….}

  2. Thank you again! With two little boys, there are so many decisions every day and feeling do seem to be truth at times. Thank you for turning me to The Truth.

    1. It’s astounding how many little decisions we make every day. I experience that as a teacher, too. I feel like I’m still learning how to make decisions NOT based on my emotions. (Maybe it’s harder for us girls to learn!)

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