New moms face choices as they enter the fray of the mommy wars.

Fat is bad. Carbs are bad. Sugar is bad. Stevia is bad.

Don’t have caffeine when you’re pregnant. Don’t raise your arms over your head when you’re pregnant. Don’t sleep on your back when you’re pregnant.

Don’t have a c-section. Don’t use formula. Don’t breastfeed. Don’t breastfeed in public. Don’t breastfeed with a cover.

Don’t have children. Have children, but not too many. Have as many children as physically possible.

For mothers of young children, life can seem like an endless series of choices. No matter what choice you make, someone will be there to let you know that it was wrong and that if you really loved your baby, you would have done X instead. It’s enough to drive a person crazy.

In light of this, lets talk about two concepts: discernment and fear.

What is discernment?

It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to “weigh up” and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements. – Sinclair Ferguson

Discernment is good. It is good to examine the information you have and to make an informed decision. Christians are in situations where discernment is required every day.

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. – Hebrews 5:14

This verse is part of a passage about the different needs of new and more mature Christians. As we grow in our walks with the Lord, we learn more about what He would want us to do in various situations. The right choices become more clear.

What is fear?

The Bible mentions two different types of fear. One type of fear is meant to convey being in awe and being reverent towards God. Fearing God in that way is a good thing. We ought to respect God.

The other type of fear is being scared of something or someone. That sort of fear is discouraged. Many verses begin with the phrase “Do not be afraid.”

Both types of fear are different from being discerning.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. – John 14:27

In John 13 and 14, Jesus was talking to His disciples about how things would be after He ascended to heaven. He talked about His deity, His power, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to Christians. In a passage rich with theological depth, Jesus began to conclude by commanding His disciples to be unafraid.

By definition, the distinction between discernment and fear seems clear cut. Reality is not always as obvious.

When making a parenting decision, I try to think through these questions:

Am I making this choice because I’m afraid? Is it a healthy or an unhealthy fear?

I’m afraid of my baby getting hurt if we hypothetically got in a wreck. That’s a healthy fear, so I make sure he’s securely fastened in his car seat every time we get in the car. Fears of rejection, unpopularity, and loneliness are not healthy fears.

Am I making this choice so someone else will be impressed with me?

What impresses someone else isn’t necessarily what’s actually best for my child. Parenting is not about me and my own self-glorification.

parenting is not about me

Does the Bible speak specifically about this issue? If not, is there a more general Biblical principle that I could apply to my situation?

The Bible contains examples of many situations, but there are some issues where we are left to wonder if we can apply a general principle. Further, there are some situations where there is no morally right or wrong answer at all. The Bible does not discuss cloth diapers, though we know historically that’s what everyone was doing. Disposable diapers are not a sin.

Outside of the parenting realm, healthy living tends to fall into this category. Individual dietary needs vary, as I personally discovered in my own family. There is more than one way to be healthy.

Use the information you have. Pray. Choose. And do not be afraid.

Have you had to fight between fear and discernment in your life? How did you decide how to make the best choice?

I’m linking up to Christian Marriage & Motherhood.

13 comments on “Discernment vs. Fear”

  1. This is really good advice for young and old(er) moms alike! We need to examine our motives for certain decisions, understanding the difference between fear and discernment. What can appear to others as a choice based on fear or mistrust of God can actually be an application of biblical principle, and vice versa.

  2. The question “Am I making this decision because I’m afraid?” is something I needed to hear! I’ve often made decisions that way but trying to discern between “panic” mode and what’s a true healthy fear. The rest I can just trust God with!

  3. Great post! I was reading and found myself in it! I didn’t realize I was living in fear in one area of my life. Thanks for posting!!! That’s going to be a prayer point for me now.

    • I’m glad it touched your heart! I find myself falling into the trap of fear too often, which is why my word of the year is brave.

  4. So grateful for this post. We’ve had a chaotic first pregnancy (where my water broke at 24 weeks and our baby was born early and in the NICU for months) and since fear is a constant nag in my decisions.

    Thank you for your encouragement to trust in the Lord and make choices without fear or self-glorification being the lead.

    I’ll be back for more thoughts!

  5. Thank you for these insights. It was a timely reminder for me to pause and consider whether I’m acting out of fear or discernment.

  6. Yes!! I know that I myself make choices that other wouldn’t or don’t. The biggest way I have learned to support other mommas is through my work as a birth doula. My job is to support the momma no matter the choices she makes. Whether she decides to use pain meds or not, whether she decides to push on her back or squatting, whether she decides to circumcise her baby boy or not. My job is to support her, not look down on her choices. I have been learning to take this same idea and apply it to all the other women/families that I know. My husband and I decide what ia best for our family, but not the whole world.

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