It sounds like a big title but here’s how it works. When you are making a decision, you do your due diligence and get all the facts. Instead of making the choice and taking the first step you stop and want more facts to examine. Pretty soon procrastination sets in because you can’t make a decision and the opportunity is lost. In another scenario a person makes the decision but instead of going wholeheartedly they stop to wonder if they have made the right decision and get stuck on the top of the fence, also known as “fence sitters.” These are classic cases of paralysis through analysis.
It’s amazing the power one feels when the first step is taken. Just think of Peter in the Bible, who is often the target of criticism for his failure to keep his eyes on Jesus when Jesus called him to walk on the water. He didn’t analyze the situation to death and let the opportunity pass him by. No, he took the first step and got out of the boat. Remember the scene?
Matthew 14:22–33 (ESV) — 22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The first step in anything is often the hardest; fighting off the fear of failure or all that could go wrong and the need to stretch from the comfortable into the unknown. You may call it Paralysis from Over-Analysis. Peter probably went through all of the above, but the command of his Lord superseded any “over-analysis” attempt to hold him back. Granted he made a mistake and fell down when he looked around, essentially returning to the comfort of analysis, but Jesus tenderly reached out to him. Jesus even took the occasion to help him grow through his collapse and never treated him like a failure. Think of what he would have missed had he never taken that first step.
What’s holding you from stepping out of the boat in your life, particularly in things that God has shown you that it’s time to move ahead? Are you held back by a fear of failure? Are you paralyzed by over analyzing the situation, or are you reluctant to move from the comfortable to the unknown? Like Peter, you may fall; but like Peter found, the Lord Jesus Christ is there to pick us up and help us get back in the race of life. Failure is not the problem because we learn from our mistakes. Paralysis is the problem.
When it comes to life, we all need wisdom in order to make the right decisions. Thankfully, God has promised wisdom but when He provides it, He expects us to act – not start to move and get stopped by over-analysis as we go across the fence, becoming a “fence sitter.” He expects us to take the first step and take advantage of the momentum as we go forward, trusting in Him.
James 1:5–8 (ESV) — 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Notice that a lack of action, or taking the first step, only leads to more paralysis through analysis and that only leads to God saying, “Don’t expect anything.” Whoa! As with Peter, Jesus gives us wisdom but then expects us to take the first step, now.
In case you are over-analyzing and wondering whether the wisdom you think you have is from God or not – put it to the test. Read and pray through the following to see if the direction you sense is from God or not. If God provides the peace in making the decision and if it holds to the test, don’t question your decision by over-analyzing things, keep going forward.
James 3:13–18 (ESV) — 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Ask God for wisdom, act on the wisdom when He provides it, and don’t look back. The adventure begins when we take the first step and you’ll never get any momentum until you take the first step. That’s powerful! What’s holding you back? Is it over-analyzation that has you paralyzed or making you stop at the top of the fence because you are afraid of going forward? Instead of going forward, do you find yourself looking back and wondering if you are making the right choice? Here’s what Jesus had to say about that kind of attitude when it comes to following Him:
Luke 9:62 (ESV) — 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 17:32–33 (ESV) — 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
Don’t let over-analysis keep you from following Christ or from keeping you from momentum in making decisions. Step out of the boat and keep your eyes on the prize, the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s like that “all in” attitude the apostle described about his life of following Christ:
Philippians 3:13–14 (ESV) — 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.