When I was living through my fifteen-month church-led reconciliation attempt, we had a team of eight adults (campus pastor, mentor, counselor, mediator, mentor couple, and elder couple) surrounding us with support, prayer and constant wise counsel. It was an absolute gift. I didn’t know what I was doing and I was battling overturning a couple decades of ongoing emotional abuse that left me completely unsure of myself, and had I been left to my own devices during that dark, confusing time, I’m not fully sure how that scenario would have played out (but if I had to guess, I may have cut and run sooner than would have been mature and I’d still be reeling from poor choices).
Scripture talks a lot about seeking out other’s advice.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. –Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. –Proverbs 19:20
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. –Proverbs 15:22
This is especially helpful when you are stumbling through the dark, or when you’re going through something that you’ve never gone through before. I totally believe that God gave us each other for a reason.
However, I am not who I was back then during that dark season. The role of victim or damsel in distress was temporary, situational. I have come out on the other side of that disaster. There is very little rubble left of my marriage’s crumbling apart. I am physically, emotionally, spiritually, and (as) relationally (as I can be as far as it is up to me) healthy. I am not sad all day every day. I no longer cry myself to sleep. I am sleeping well. I am eating well. I have good friends. I am mothering well. I am doing good work that I love. I am resting when I need to. I am having fun. I am in a relationship with a sweet, sweet man. In other words, I am more than okay now.
I no longer need to ask twenty people a dozen times a day what I should do in any given situation, how I should live my life.
Now that I’m healthier and not in devastating emotional pain every day that is skewing my perceptions and my intellectual capabilities, I actually have the capacity to make all of my own decisions on my own. Yes, I would be foolish to eschew getting input, and yet, there comes a time when I must realize that I am responsible for my own life and choices.
And that time, for me, has come. But I am struggling with this.
I have been writing and teaching for a couple years now that only One opinion of me matters, but that lesson came out of all the backlash I had received from my writing. But I am realizing it holds true in all the other areas of my life as well, good and bad. I desperately want the permission – the blessing – of my closest circle (and, well, everyone else in the world apparently) on every life choice that I make. My life would be easier and happier if they all agreed with my every choice, I tell myself.
But I think I need to revisit what I felt the Spirit say to me a few years back when I was so upset over two conflicts that were pounding down on me at the same time. I felt him say to me, as clear as day:
Only One opinion of you matters. You care too much what other people think of you. Only my opinion of you matters.
In fact, Paul says it super clearly:
As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you… –I Corinthians 4:3
To further cement this, I recently met with a woman I have respected from afar for several years now. She went through a painful divorce after her husband left her and has come out on the other side wiser and stronger and yet softer as well. She recently remarried and basically, I wanted to pick her brain and hear her story, and after an hour-and-a-half of us asking and answering questions about our relationships, she said to me something that I wasn’t expecting.
“I think God is weaning you from caring about other people’s opinions,” she said. (Oh snap.)
“So, what you’re saying basically is that I’m a grown-up and I can and should be making all my own decisions?” I asked.
“Yep,” she said. Huh.
So, yes, it is wise for us to seek out advice when we’re stumped or we’re up against a new thing. But then, we must remind ourselves that God gave us a sound mind, that we have the mind of Christ, and at the end of it all, when we stand before God, I do not believe we will be holding anyone’s hands – not a friend’s or a counselor’s or a mentor’s or a small group leader’s or a pastor’s or even a spouse’s. I believe that we alone will be held accountable for our own words and actions and choices.
And – and this is probably the most important part – no matter what we choose, there is grace. And the only opinion of us that matters is God’s, which is informed by love and love alone.
So, sweet ones, as you get healthier and your life falls back into place, keep praying, keep reading Scripture, yes, feel free to ask for help if you need it, but know that it’s okay to start making more and more of your own decisions. The Holy Spirit will guide you. And even if someone doesn’t agree with you, it’s all going to be alright.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. –John 16:13
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Having been though the darkest time in my life, after a divorce five years ago, I can relate to leaning on my wise friends. Luckily I had a small group of women who knew me and were woman of strong faith. Asking them to pray and surround me by listening and praying and being there for late night calls made a world of difference and helped me come out the other side stronger. I would encourage all women not to be an island but build that group of faithful trusted friends who will be there for each other during a time of need such as mine, this woman above or when you find yourself needing support. I hope my words encourage you to not wait till you are in the valley. God made us to be in fellowship with others please reach out and make the time to build that support group.
In the years since getting though a difficult time as this and working in the church God has brought many women who are in different degrees of similar brokenness and pain and I have been there for them, given advice and encouraged them to keep moving forward, “one baby step at a time”. But the reason I took the time to type this is because many women often ask me how to know what God’s opinion is about them. They want to know what God wants for them and and how to hear from God. Everyone hears from Him differently. Do not expect to hear from Him as you hear others do. The way to know God is not only to pray speaking words to Him but also to “listen”…find a quite place daily and thought out your day to be open while having your eyes and ears open. The Bible is God’s love letters to us. It is alive and can speak to the Holly Spirit inside us and instruct us better than any fleshly friend here on earth. But to know God and hear from Him we need to know what His word says. Attending weekly live sermons or through good Godly speakers on TV or on the internet is good but we NEED to open the Bible daily and “learn” directly from God.
I know the darkness that brokenness and pain of being in the valley. Maybe you have NO idea where to take your next step? I pray that if you find yourself there now that you reach out to God. For me getting out in nature and walking (just put one foot in front of the other) and holding my right hand as if I was holding Jesus’ hand helped…maybe it can help you too…then open the Bible and a good daily devotional and spend time with the one who loves you more than we can imagine.
My accountability partner said pretty much the same thing to me just this morning! I love how the Lord sends sweet confirmation – so specifically!! I AM LOVED BY MY HEAVENLY FATHER!!!
I also went through a challenging divorce a few years ago and so grateful to have come out the other side but completely agree and understand the reliance of a trusted network during that period. But oh the irony of that wise woman – her opinion was to pull away from other’s opinions!
Oh so hard to take that advice! Especially for those who get caught up in abusive relationships. I’ve learned it isn’t just the relationship itself that makes us second guess ourselves. Often, we did this BEFOREhand! Yep, that’s right. We were the kind of people more likely to be abused, that is why our abuser picked us! We were timid about standing up for ourselves, and he either knew this at the beginning, or tried some mild abuse on us early on, and we didn’t protest, so he kept it up, getting worse and worse over time. I guess I should say I instead of WE, but from what I’ve seen and read, it isn’t just me, this holds true for many women caught up in abuse.
What’s my point? Yes, its hard, so give yourself some grace. This is a skill we didn’t learn as children, and need to slowly catch onto now. You’re getting better at it. So am I. God loves us no matter how good we are at it! Blessings friend.