Paralysis by analysis (what if?)

Farm CloudsPhotography by James Collier

Paralysis: 1. The loss of the ability to move or function. 2. The loss of the ability to do something.

Paralysis by analysis: The state of over-analyzing or over-thinking a situation so that a decision or an action is never taken, in effect, paralyzing the outcome.

“Those who watch the wind blow and wait for perfect weather conditions will never plant seeds. Those who watch every cloud, worrying it will bring rain, will never harvest crops.” (Ecclesiastes 4:11)

Sometimes I get really overwhelmed with the choices and decisions I have to make on a day to day basis. I over-complicate things to the point that I go over and over them in my mind until the sheer quantity of the analysis paralyses me and prevents me from making any decision. Some of the choices are big ones but others are not. Yet it seems as though every decision I make comes with so many different options. Unfortunately though, sometimes, rather than just make a choice, I wait for the “perfect conditions” and the decision never gets made and the opportunity gets missed.

I get stopped from making a decision by two small words.

What if.

What if I make the wrong choice? What if my decision is the wrong one? What if it’s not what God wants me to do? What if it affects someone else? What if others don’t like the decision?

What if it rains? It might.

But what if it doesn’t?

Paralysis by analysis. It’s just another word for fear.

I look at the choices and decisions before me and sometimes I don’t have a clue what to do. But this verse in Ecclesiastes reminds me to be bold and act. to be strong and courageous. It encourages me not to play it safe all the time. It exhorts me to live confidently. It dares me to stop being overly cautious. It tells me to stop hiding and avoiding making decisions out of fear or worry. It proclaims that God is with me wherever I go. It says take a risk! Because with risks come rewards.

The farmer who waits for the perfect moment to plant his seeds when there is no wind to blow away the seed will never sow. The farmer who waits for the perfect moment to harvest his crops when there is no chance of rain will never do anything except sit around watching the clouds from the safety of his shed. True, it might rain and destroy the harvest this time. True, the wind might blow away some of the seeds. Today’s work might be ruined and I might have to do it all again tomorrow. But that’s okay. Seeds that don’t get sown don’t grow and become crops that can be harvested.

As I continue my faith journey I’m constantly learning that it’s all about trust. Trusting God day to day. I have to stop being frozen on the spot because I don’t know what God wants me to do. I have to avoid being overcome by paralysis to the point that I lose the ability to function or move or feel or indeed to even act and do something. Anything! I must not wait for perfect conditions because they are never going to happen. Therefore I must stop worrying, doubting, fearing and over-analyzing every decision.

Because, what if I make the right choice? What if my decision is the right one? What if my decision does affect someone else. What if it does rain? Then the seeds that I have sown will grow. And that’s a good thing.

I love how The Message Bible translation puts it:

“When the clouds are full of water, it rains. When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls. Don’t sit there watching the wind. Do your own work. Don’t stare at the clouds. Get on with your life.”

Or, in the words of Nike “Just do it”.

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9 thoughts on “Paralysis by analysis (what if?)

  1. Nicki,
    Sometimes certain seasons bring that about for me. Having a broken foot brought me to a standstill…the “fear” of reinjuring it keeps me paralyzed. I am just now getting comfortable with moving. Old good habits need to be reestabished and bad habits retrained. I need to get out of my head and “move”.
    Great post as always. Keep sharing.


  2. Needed this today Nicki. This is wonderful and as I was just feeling overwhelmed with so much going on, I started to feel frozen – paralyzed. At that time,I came across your blog. I feel like now I can make a list of things to do to move forward and hand things over to Him. Thank you!

  3. Hi Nicki,
    Thought provoking blog! It reminds me of when we were contemplating coming to Uganda. I’m not a risk taker by nature and all the ‘what if’s’ of coming to Uganda could have been overwhelming….but, when you hear the call of God you can rest in the knowledge that ALL THINGS will be taken care of.

    We have grown deeper in our relationship with Christ in the last 6 months than we had in the last 30 odd years because here we have no option other than to trust God for all things, to pray about everything everyday! We could be gripped by fear on a daily basis but we are not because we are confident that God called us to this work and therefore He has everything covered. That does not negate us from our responsibilities but it is reassurance that in Him all things are possible.

    The rewards for our family have been overwhelming because we stepped out in faith, we put aside our fears, our ‘what if’ questions and we ‘just did it’.

    It’s also been deeply challenging to see our Ugandan brothers and sisters of faith live out their daily lives. Many deeply impoverished but content in the knowledge that God reigns and if they are faithful with what they have they will be rewarded. They often don’t have the luxury to ask ‘what if’ questions. Their faith is simple and so pure. It often makes me question the over analysis of the developed world’s view of Christianity / faith. We have a lot to learn.

    Look forward to a catch up when we return,
    Karen xx

    1. Karen, you and your family are such an inspiration to me and so many others. I can’t even begin to imagine how many “what if” questions you must have faced before deciding to leave Australia for a year as missionaries. But, as you say, when God calls, there’s no point questioning! I am constantly challenged when I hear of your struggles and successes in Uganda. I too look forward to catching up and hearing many more stories when you get home.

      Blessings and love

      Please check out the awesome work that Karen and her family are doing this year in Uganda.

    1. Hi Ellen. I don’t send out daily emails – just an email each time I write a post (which had been a couple of months!) there’s a spot on the right hand side to enter your email address and then you will receive my new blog posts as I write them. Hope you were blessed by what I wrote.

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