“Dear Abba…”


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 130; 148, Jeremiah 38:14-28, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Matthew 11:1-6

How often do we seek actual advice? Not like calling your cousin who works in IT to find out which computer you should buy, but asking for input on some serious decision-making that will have a real impact on your life. And how often do we put the cart before the horse, only seeking advice after we’ve effectively made up our minds? At that point what we seek is probably no longer advice, but support for a (possibly questionable) course of action we already want to follow, or a nudge to do something we already know we should but don’t really want to. When this is the case, we become pretty selective about whose “advice” we seek; we usually have a good idea what any given friend or family member will say about something.

King Zedekiah, besieged by the forces of Babylon, was ambivalent about listening to the advice of the prophet Jeremiah. For a while he sought the prophet’s counsel and prayers, but eventually he seemed so opposed to it that Jeremiah, fearing he might be put to death, grew hesitant to speak to him at all. Only after Zedekiah swore a secret oath to let no harm come to Jeremiah, the prophet told him to surrender to the king of Babylon or his enemies – who had been joined by many of his former allies and citizens – would sack Jerusalem. Zedekiah didn’t like this advice, and threatened Jeremiah with death if he spoke about it to anyone.

We can all be Zedekiah, avoiding people and ignoring advice that really matters. There is no hard and fast rule about decision-making. We repeat the folk wisdom which teaches the difficult choice is usually the right choice, but that’s not always true. The friends who pride themselves on “telling it like it is” can speak with blunt confidence and still be wrong. And sometimes we just need to go with our gut.

Maybe the trick to good decision-making is learning to listen to the words and ideas we want to resist without becoming defensive or fearful, and to the ones we welcome with a lot of skepticism. Sources we don’t much respect can still be right, and people who offer us unconditional support can still be wrong. And most importantly we should spend time in humble prayer, asking what God would have us do, receptive to what we need rather than what we desire.

Comfort: You do not have to face difficult decisions on your own.

Challenge: Don’t reject ideas just because they don’t appeal to you.

Prayer: I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. (Psalm 135:10)

Discussion: Who do you turn to for advice?

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