The Painful Fence

I’ve spent a lot of time considering where pain comes from.  Now consider this – I’m not really addressing physical pain here, that is a whole topic by itself.  No, I’m looking at emotional pain and the suffering associated with it.

To be sure, some emotional pain we suffer is not our fault and is often unavoidable.  When we lose a loved one, when relationships don’t work out as planned or hoped, when someone does us wrong, when we are betrayed by a friend.  These things are very painful emotionally, and often unavoidable, meaning simply, there was nothing we could do to make it turn out differently.

But, if I had to make a wild guess, I would say the above covers about 20% of the pain we often suffer.  What about the other 80%?  Where does it come from, and what can we do about it?

After much contemplation and study, I believe the remaining 80% of our emotional pain and suffering come from what I call “fence sitting.”

That’s right, we can’t decide which side of the fence we want to be on, or need to be on, and, therefore, spend our time sitting on the fence.  Very painful.

And here is the worst part of it.  It’s not a pain God will fix.  He could fix it, but He will not.  Why?

Because it is a pain we must fix for ourselves.

Why do we spend so much time ‘on the fence’?

The answer to this question is really pretty simple, although the situations vary a great deal, and the details are always interesting – we simply cannot decide and commit to a course of action.  Why is this?  Generally, it is because we may be required to give something up.  Something we desire, something we love, something that brings us pleasure, something we hold dear.

Other reasons for fence sitting have to do with once a decision has been made we have no commitment to see it through.  Everyone knows it is much easier to make a decision than it is to follow it through to completion.

In my early life I had great difficulty with this concept.  I would start things, but found it was much harder to finish them, so I left many of them uncompleted.  It plagued me for many years, until I finally got the lesson.  The lesson was not so much completing what I had started as it was to be more careful about what things I committed to in the first place.  I started committing only to those things I had some assurance I could complete.  My list of commitments, therefore, shrank to a reasonable size and I was able to finish those things I committed to without too much difficulty.

People make ‘deals’ with God all the time.  “If God will do this, I will do this.”  But, how often do we fail to follow through with our commitments?  When this happens it creates pain in our life.  Emotional pain.

Most of the major decisions in my life were preceded by much pain and anxiety.  Wondering if this was the right decision or wrong one?  Wondering how things would turn out?  Wondering if there were things I had not considered?  Wondering if I should get a second, third, or even fourth opinion?

Interestingly, once the decision was made, and I was committed to it, things got better.  The pain level receded, and I began focusing on achieving what I had committed to.  But, fence sitting is hard.

A careful study of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) tells us many interesting things about Christ.  He was gentle, but He was also demanding.  He required people to make a decision.  He was not happy when they flip-flopped or couldn’t make up their mind.  Half-commitment didn’t work for Him.  Indecision is not something God is acquainted with.  He is never in a quandary about what to do.

But, there are many reasons for indecision.  We are not sure what the future holds.  We are not sure how our decision will affect those we love down the road.  What if our decision is the wrong one?  If we are not careful we could end up spending so much time sitting on the fence that we lose the opportunity.

Sometimes we ask God about a decision, but we don’t want to hear the answer.  Truth is, we already know what the answer is, but we may not like it.  There can be no doubt God asks us to do things we often do not want to do.  Or asks us to do things that require more of us than we are willing to give.

Paul, in talking to the Corinthians said it this way – “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”

Now in our modern times, this might be phrased something like this, “Listen, it’s time to put on your ‘big boy’ pants and take it like a man.” [Editor’s note, ‘man’ means men and women.]  What Paul was really saying was, “Stop sitting on the fence, make a decision, and stick to it.”

But I’m scared.

Yes, well, it’s healthy to be careful.  It’s also healthy to be cautious.  But, there are times when it is time to move.

Although I served in the military during Vietnam, I was fortunate and did not have to engage in actual combat.  However, I have been told by others who saw combat that fear and cowardice can get you killed in a combat situation.  That, there are times when it pays to be forceful and have courage, even when you are afraid.

Well, we are in a combat situation.  There is an enemy, and he seeks to destroy and kill.  He is happy when we continue to sit in our foxhole and are too afraid to engage in the battle.  He is happy when we are too afraid of what might happen to us if we stepped up to the challenge.

There are several kinds of Christians in the world today.  One group is too afraid to do anything so they do nothing, or very little.  One group attempts small tasks, and tries to stay hidden.  One group is sitting on the fence and doesn’t know which way to go.  I don’t think the devil is too concerned about those who fall into these groups.  But, there is another group – this group engages in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy on a daily basis.  This group is not just concerned about their own safety, but they are engaged in warfare for souls that are in the balance.  This group has blood, sweat, and tears on their face, and sometimes show the scars of warfare.  But, they serve a Savior who is holding the flag, and who is cheering them on, for their reward is great.

Fence sitting is hard.  It is painful.  Don’t you feel it’s time to join the battle?  There is still time…

And to those of you who are marred by the scars of battle, I salute you, as one warrior to another.  Keep up the fight…


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