“Thus says the Lord: Stop at the crossroads and look around you. Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it. You will find rest for your souls.”
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Both the Ephesian passage and the Jeremiah passage instruct us to look before we act. In order to make wise decisions, we must look carefully at the situation (situational-awareness), and we must look carefully at ourselves (self-awareness).
Situational awareness is an essential skill. Your ability to respond to a situation will only be as effective as the clarity with which you see it. The verse in Jeremiah says “look around you.” The verse in Ephesians says “look carefully.”
The word that Paul uses for “carefully” is the word akribos, which means “diligently and accurately.” The admonition here is to see situations with clarity, courage, and wisdom.
See what needs to be seen, not just the immediate and the obvious. Have the courage to see the reality of the situation. Beware of avoiding realities you don’t want to see. Have the wisdom to see what God wants you to see. This takes time and work, thus the need to Stop and Look.
The challenge is that we see through a narrow and limited lens. We see through a filter. We see selectively and subjectively. We have blind spots. As a result, what gets our attention sometimes distracts us from what really matters.
“The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” (Proverbs 14.8)
What also gets us into trouble is that although our perspective is limited, it feels complete. We think we see more clearly than we actually do. The truth is that we don’t see as clearly or completely as we think we do.
We tend to see situations in a way that justifies how we see situations. “Look carefully” and “Look around you” is hard work, but you must do it, and you must get good at it.
Again, the old default nature is narrow, selfish, and driven by deceitful passions. Our new nature in Christ is redeemed and empowered to see with clarity and courage. The new nature has the discipline and discernment to do the hard work of situational awareness.
“The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” (Proverbs 14.15)
As you navigate through situations in life and at work, here is the key question you should ask: What does this situation require of me? In order to answer this question, you must stop and think, and look carefully to get situational-awareness and self-awareness.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14.12)