Respond or React

In an article on Psychology Today, Dr. Matt James differentiates between responding and reacting. Below is a summary of what he says.

Reacting and responding may look the same at times, but they certainly feel very different from one another. In review of my most memorable times of reacting and responding, I definitely find this to be true.

When I think of those times when I’ve responded instead of reacted versus those when I’ve reacted instead of responded, some patterns emerge. Before delving into those patterns, understand that everyone has reacted when they should have responded. To do so is part of what it means to be human.

It’s those times, seasons really, when we seem to live in reactionary mode that are cause for concern. During these seasons, the following are usually true for me and need dealt with in order for me to move back into respond mode.

Busy and Overwhelmed

When I have too much to deal with mentally or physically, my overall quality goes down in pretty much every area of life. Often, this happens because of Decision Fatigue when there’s just too much stress for me to process life with any clarity and focus.

Off Track

Being off track is basically a loss of focus. It means I’ve stalled and am no longer moving forward. It means I need to get back on track before I’ll be able to be consistently healthy and productive again. Essentially, since focus determines reality, this is a time to Reset Your Focus.

Reacting instead of responding has become a sign that something is off in my life. I now use it as an opportunity to take stock and see where I need to adjust or even reset in some way.

Sometimes, it means I need to simplify again. Others, it means I’m letting my feelings instead of the facts dominate my thinking. Whatever the root cause, a time of evaluation — usually accompanied by resting — helps me see what needs adjusted.

Always, this process includes lots of prayer. At the source of this prayer during these assessment times in my life are a few key Scripture that I’d like to end with and to encourage for meditation.

“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
(Proverbs 16:9)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Truth. Wisdom. Discipline. Discernment. (Proverbs 23:23)

Praying Proverbs 23:23

 

“Get the truth and never sell it; also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” (Proverbs 23:23)

This is my prayer for my two boys right now. They’re learning to live on their own, one in college and the other getting ready to head into the Navy, and I’m learning to let them. Prayer is a major part of this process.

They have their own faith and are now learning to live with less parental oversight. I’m learning to trust God and put that trust into action by praying more than preaching or interfering in their lives.

The four elements listed in Proverbs 23:23 will help them live their faith successfully. It will also grow their faith and bring them closer to God. As much as I want to be a part of their lives, I want that more.

Truth.

I pray my boys know why they believe what they believe. I pray they base their morality on God’s absolute truth expressed through Scripture and not on any relative truth the world tries to sell them.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Timothy 2:15)

Wisdom.

Wisdom from God will shape my boys’ lives in ways nothing else can. Having God’s wisdom gives them guiding principles that will keep them walking in the Truth. It will also protect them and move them into success the world cannot give.

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and though it cost you all you have get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:6-7)

Discipline.

The habits my boys establish now are crucial as they transition to adult lives. The earlier a life of discipline is established, the stronger their faith will be when times get tough.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)

Good Judgment.

Also known as “discernment,” good judgment is the mark of maturity. Having discernment means my boys are making efforts toward progress in their faith walks. It also means that truth, wisdom and discipline are active.

“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)

Praying Proverbs 23:23 for my boys also serves as a personal reminder. These elements need to be active in my own life too. Partly, this is to set the example for them, one adult to another. Largely, it is because I want to make progress in my faith too and to continually grow closer to God.

Knowing God’s Will

Beyond the Basics

Growing up, I thought of God as a distant ruler, kind of like a Gamemaker. I knew his word gave instructions for how to live life how he desired, but I failed to see beyond basic right and wrong.

Over the years, he’s shown me that he desires so much more than a life of basics.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b)

A life beyond the basics involves knowing God’s will in an increasingly intimate way. God wants us to know his will. What a powerful revelation! He wants us to know what he wants of us.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

God gives us these instructions, so we can know his desires. As we chose to follow him over the world — our culture — and as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, our thinking is renewed. This renewal brings discernment, which simply means we show good or outstanding judgment and understanding of what God desires.

Knowing God’s Will Takes Effort

Read Romans 12:2, above, again. Do you see the effort — the testing — required to know God’s will?

When we put forth this effort, we confirm our choice to make following him a priority. Actually, we make him THE priority of our lives. In essence, we acknowledge the importance of knowing God’s will.

“For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)

Knowing God’s will is important because it means we’re part of his family. Being part of the family of God is the starting point for knowing God’s will.

Begin With the Gospel

While our efforts do matter and significantly impact our knowing God’s will, they in no way earn anything for us. They simply reflect our choice to make Jesus Lord and Savior.

Knowing God starts with Jesus. Repenting of sin and trusting Christ as Lord and Savior is the only door leading to knowing God’s will.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.’” (John 14:6)

If you want to know God’s will, open the door. Pursue Jesus. Choose to follow him over the world. Be led by his Holy Spirit, and let your mind be renewed.

With Jesus as Lord of your life, with the price for your redemption paid by his blood, you can move fully and confidently into the activity of knowing God’s will.

How to… Develop Wisdom

As stated in How to… Be Victorious, there’s a big difference between knowledge alone and knowledge with understanding (Proverbs 4:7). But what exactly is that difference, and how do we move from having knowledge to living with wisdom?

In my health journey, I obtained a lot of knowledge from a lot of different sources. This knowledge led to several lessons, which I detail in How to… Obtain Knowledge, that I still use today as I struggle through to victory in other areas of my life.

Yet, I remain aware of the fact that knowledge means very little without application that demonstrates understanding and that also shows the growth of wisdom.

When I was very sick over 2 ½ years ago, I crashed. For me, this meant that I could not handle my life as it was at the time, and something had to give. I was simply physically and mentally spent and exhausted. My body gave up on me. We had also just adopted our youngest son, and this took an added toll on me mentally and spiritually. He needed things from me that I just didn’t have to give.

So, my husband and I made some tough choices, the first of which was me quitting my job. Not an easy decision considering the extra money it brought in and that it was offering even more… a move from ¾ to full time. We did this so I could focus on getting healthy.

My two top priorities then became my own physical health and the mental health of our new son, who also had a great deal of healing of his own to do.

So where does wisdom fall in all of this? The following points detail the growth of wisdom during this time in my life, aspects which continue growing still today.

  1. Wisdom sometimes comes through wise counsel (Proverbs 13:10). Not all the advice I received was wise even though it came from knowledgeable sources. Several doctors simply got the diagnosis wrong, but one godly source got it right and gave me a tremendous amount of wisdom that led to the health I now experience today.
  2. Discernment plays a huge role in going from knowledge to wisdom. How did I know when advice I received was truly wisdom for my life? Discernment. Discernment comes from God (James 1:5; 1 Corinthians 12:10) and from His Word (Acts 17:11) as we go to Him on a consistent basis and not just to put out fires.
  3. Fear of the Lord can be a tremendous motivation. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that wisdom begins with fearing God. I knew that being constantly sick, tired and irritable was not only not God’s will, but it also took me out of following His will in almost all other areas of my life. Being healthy and strong to be able to please and serve Him to the best of my ability pushed me toward healing

Over time and through small revelations that added up to make a big difference, the Holy Spirit led me to a place of understanding and wisdom with regard to healing in my life. About the time that journey began, I was lead to read the book of Isaiah. One portion of Isaiah is not only highlighted but also has the date “Spring 2010” next to it.

“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do a brand new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Every time I read these verses, their truth resonates in my spirit. I felt and still feel like God was giving me wisdom by saying to me, “I will show you the way through. I will refresh you along the way.” That was my turning point. That was the place where I knew I was on the right track for healing.

DISCUSSION:  What advice can you add regarding obtaining wisdom?

Related Posts:

A Father’s Wise Advice

Overwhelmed with God

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