When You Have to Make a Hard Decision
A Word of Encouragement from Libby Handford
Many choices in life are perhaps simple. There's a right thing to do, and a wrong thing to do, and the choice then is no choice at all; you simply do the right thing.
But sometimes there isn't an easy, obvious answer. Neither choice is intrinsically right or wrong. But what you decide may affect the lives of others for good or ill. It will affect your own financial and emotional security. Either choice may bring both good and bad results. To put further pressure on you, you may have an inexorable deadline.
I always knew, when I saw my husband Walt with a yellow legal tablet in his hands brooding with bowed head at his desk, that he was considering the merits and liabilities of some important decision he was having to make. He'd draw a line down the middle of the page, label one column "pros" and the other column "cons."
Under each heading he would write down every conceivable effect of the decision, even the trivial ones. He would look long and carefully at each entry. And then I'd see him bow his head and ask God to give him the wisdom to make the right decision.
Sometimes the decision he made brought hardship with it (nearly every important decision of life certainly does have some hardship). So when hard times came, he'd take out that yellow pad and read again the reasons he'd chosen that particular path, then take up his task again, reassured that God had led him aright.
What a comfort it is to know that God Himself wants to give you clear leading in life. Proverbs 3:5,6 says:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
This promise from God doesn't say that the path He leads us on will have no obstacles, no by-passes, no conflict. It does promise that the Holy God who created us with such love will choose the best path for us and that He'll be by our side every step of the way.
I remember a time in my life when I had to make a truly huge decision, one that would affect the rest of my life. Although I prayed all night about it, in the morning I still had no assurance of which choice was right. I made the decision the best I could, and caught the train that would take me on a difficult and lonely half-year journey. It ended well. (Someday I'll tell you the story of how I met my prince charming at the end of that lonely journey.)
I honestly had no assurance the morning I caught the train, that I had made the right choice. But I did have God's assurance that He would not let me make a wrong choice, when I honestly wanted to do right. Isaiah 58:10 says:
Who among you fears the LORD?
Who obeys the voice of His Servant?
Who walks in darkness And has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD
And rely upon his God.
So sometimes, when we've asked the Lord for guidance in a decision, we may still not see how it is going to work out right. We will still "walk in darkness and have no light." What must we do then? "Trust in the name of the Lord and relay on your God! Simple. And comforting. When we look to God for guidance in our decision-making, He will give it, no matter how we might feel. "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
Don't Blame the Messenger for the Bad News
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
"Bad news, sire!" gasped the runner when he was brought into the Greek king's presence. "We lost the battle. Our army is destroyed!" Then he collapsed.
Did the king thank the poor man for his faithful reporting? No. Instead, he killed him. But that didn't change the truth of the news the messenger brought.
I had a conversation with a friend the other day. "I've changed doctors," he said.
"Why?" I asked.
"My doctor had the nerve to tell me that I was morbidly obese." But changing doctors didn't fix his weight problem.
A mother had a conference with her son's teacher. "He has a very difficult time paying attention in class," the teacher said. "I think it would be wise to have him tested. He may have an Attention Deficit Disorder."
The mother immediately withdrew her child from that school. "Huh! If she were a good teacher, she could keep his attention." But moving him didn't fix the child's learning problem.
The FCO brought a quarterly profit-and-loss statement to his CEO. It showed an alarming deficit in income. The boss said, "You've got to find more ways to save us money."
"Sir, I think we've done all we can do in that area. We've cut costs to the bone. I think we must focus on ways to increase sales."
The boss fired the man. But that didn't stop the hemorrhaging losses.
I would tell you that I certainly wouldn't do anything stupid like that, would I?-I wouldn't blame the messenger for bad news! Maybe not. But I remember once thinking, "I'm not enjoying reading my Bible. It makes me feel guilty. Maybe I just won't bother to read it."
The Bible is God's messenger to me. Of course reading it made me feel guilty, if I didn't change my life to conform to what God's messenger told me.
I am fascinated to discover that King David struggled with this. He said, in Psalm 119:67-72:
I used to wander off until you disciplined me;
but now I closely follow your Word.
You are good and do only good;
teach me your principles. . . .
I delight in your law.
The suffering You sent was good for me,
for it taught me to pay attention to your Word.
Your law is more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver!
I'm asking God to help me never to blame the messenger for bad news. I'll listen carefully and take responsibility for things that really are my responsibility. And how wonderful it is to open God's Word and enjoy hearing His personal message to me!
You may sense the same need in your life. If so, you will find sweet relief in accepting the responsibility for things God brings to your attention.
The "Good Old Days"? Not for Me!
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
You understand, I had a very happy childhood, even if I did grow up in Texas during the terrible 30's depression and the dust bowl. Times were very hard, but we had lots of joy in our home. But I don't pine for those days. I like too many of today's luxuries.
And believe me, you'd think air conditioners were a luxury, too, if you'd tried to sleep at night when the temperature was 107 degrees. The sheets were hot to the touch, but you had to sleep under sheets to keep the mosquitos from biting.
Washing dishes was always a messy chore, since globs of grease floated on the dishwater, unconquered by the Ivory soap we used. I count detergents a major luxury.
And what a luxury refrigerators are! In the "good old days," the ice man delivered to your ice box 50 or 75 pounds of ice each morning. But woe to be to the little girl who forgot when it was her turn to empty the drip pan under the ice box. The next morning the kitchen floor would be covered with melted ice water.
Rachel Carson hadn't written "Silent Spring" yet, but we didn't know anything about pesticides. We were too busy swatting flies and scratching chigger bites and trying to remove ticks intact.
We endured whooping cough and measles and polio and other terrible contagious diseases when I was growing up because there were few immunizations available. There were no antibiotics to control strep and staph infections. No, I don't pine for the "good old days" -
- Except that I so wish children could stand in the class room and say the pledge of allegiance to the flag, and sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee." I wish their hearts could be stirred by the stories of faithfulness and bravery of the people who fought to protect this precious country of ours.
And I wish that the ethical standards we were taught as children could still be taught to children today without its being said we were being "hateful." I wish people knew it is wrong to murder, and bear false witness, and slander someone, and covet what belongs to somebody else. I wish that dads and moms would be faithful to each other and love each other and their children. I wish parents could teach their children right from wrong and not be considered judgmental by those who call good evil and evil good.
To a culture similar to ours, the prophet Jeremiah preached what God told him to preach:
So now the LORD says,
"Stop right where you are!
Look for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls."
"But you reply, ‘No, that's not the road we want!'" Jeremiah 7:16
The people responded then just as too many people in our culture today answer. But they have not found "rest for their souls," either.
Yes, I'm in favor of progress, when it really is progress. But I also believe that some values and moral standards are neither modern nor old-fashioned, but of eternal importance and ignored to our infinite hurt.
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
One evening the perennial guest in my childhood home said, "Libby, run upstairs and get my glasses."
"But, Miss Lola, I'm so tired!"
"Nonsense," she said, "children don't get tired."
But Miss Lola was wrong. Of course children get tired. So do teenagers. So do mothers and fathers. So do old people. Every human being gets tired.
I have a friend who works herself to exhaustion day after day, and she almost brags about it. She seems to think that's the way to prove you're a really good Christian! But there's danger in that kind of thinking. If fact, sometimes the most spiritual thing you could do would be to take a nap! We make new resolutions about diet, about exercise, about work projects, but rarely do we even think about putting on the schedule: "A full night's restful sleep." Ignoring fatigue isn't wise. It isn't healthy. And it certainly isn't what God has in mind for His children.
Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is useless.
Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to His loved ones. Psalm 127:1-3
S. D. Gordon, in his book Quiet Talks on Home Ideals, warns: "Excessive fatigue is a subtle foe, to be earnestly fought. Fight it for character's sake. Fatigue is a terrible demoralizer. Countless temptations are yielded to because the body is all tired out. Many a sadly blighted life turned the doom-corner at the point of bodily exhaustion."
Dr. Marian Hilliard, head of Toronto Women's Hospital, wrote, "I believe fatigue to be the greatest enemy a woman ever faces, and tragically enough, the one she is least likely to recognize. Fatigue, carried to its extreme, can shorten her life or lead to mental illness. It will sap her strength and leave her at the mercy of transient infections. It can break up her marriage by turning her into a shrew, and blight the lives of her children. By keeping the safety catch off the trigger of her temper, it can lose her her best friends. Most terrible of all, it robs her of the joy and vitality without which any life is gray and meaningless."
You might protest that bone tiredness is inevitable in your life, that you can see no way to lessen the pressures of your life to get the rest you need. But it's better to take the time to rest now rather than to lose the time in bed later because of illness. King Solomon said, "Those who are wise will find a time and a way to do what is right. Yes, there is a time and a way for everything, even as people's troubles lie heavily upon them." (Eccl. 8:5.6)
And Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light" (Matthew 12:28-30). Jesus wants to give you real rest, carefree, beautiful rest.
With this in mind, why not look over your schedule and see what you need to change?
September 2, 2019
A Promise I Made to My Child
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
She was six weeks old, this tiny scrap of humanity Walt and I had adopted. She had thrived in the five weeks she'd been in our home. But that morning her eyes were red and swollen. She would try to open them, blink, and close them again. My first thought (because a mother's imagination tends to leap to the most sinister diagnosis) was that Judy was going blind.
When we adopted our first child, the judge had asked us, "Do you understand that if there should be natural-born issue of
this union, this child must inherit equally with them?"
"Yes, of course," we eagerly answered. "That is exactly what we want. This child is our ‘bairn,' our ‘borne one.' We pledge him our love and care until the day we die."
I think most parents feel that way when they hold their newborn child, whether adopted or born of their own bodies. They, too, whisper: I am committed to your welfare, little one, no matter what the future holds. You belong to me, and I will love you with all my heart and protect you with all my strength as long as I live. There is nothing you can do that will keep me from loving you. I make this solemn vow before God. And that's what I whispered to my infant daughter that morning. "If you are blind for the rest of your life, I will take care of you."
But Dr. Breme, our pediatrician, smiled at my fears. "Her tear ducts are just now developing. It's a normal condition. Use this prescription until it clears up."
Judy's eyes healed almost immediately. But my vow to her did not expire. She was still my beloved daughter, and I had made her promises I intended to keep.
Has there ever been a time, in the years since, that I regretted that vow? No, never. Sure, there have been some tense moments in our relationship. You, as a parent, understand that. Her teen years were as stressful as they are for most teens. As an adult, she has faced challenges. But never have I been tempted to break my solemn vow to her. Never.
A business man of my acquaintance signed a huge contract for a certain piece of property. A few days later, he learned that the property he had originally wanted was again on the market. So he said to his lawyer, "Look for loopholes in our contract so we can get out of it."
"That's going to be difficult, sir. We wrote that contract so it couldn't be broken."
"I know, I know; but you're the lawyer. Find some way to break it."
In Psalm 15 King David asks the question, "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?" The Psalm enumerates several godly traits God wants to see His children develop. Verse four says,
"Who keeps his oath even when it hurts." Psalm 15:4
That means, "I will stand by the contract I signed. I may lose money by it; it may cause me loss. But I will keep my promise."
Human relationships require trust. And we ought not to break a trust, even an unwritten one, in our relationships with others, whether marriage, parenthood, employment, or citizenship.
May God help us to "Keep our promises, even when it hurts."