Paralysis by Analysis

In Ecclesiastes 11, Solomon is speaking to his hearers, for a moment, about issues related to finances and working toward the future. He has good warnings and helpful counsel to offer. And in reading that counsel, I find myself focused on a single thought, one I often need to hear for more than financial health.

Ecclesiastes 11:4

He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

In a mainly agricultural society, this little proverbial phrase is not difficult to understand. A man who is so focused on watching the sky and making sure that conditions are perfectly safe will neither plant nor harvest. If a person becomes so focused on all the circumstances that could go wrong, if a person becomes so afraid that they might fail, they will never move forward.

In my own life, I know that I can give myself too much to analyzing a potential course of action. Obviously, we do not want to act thoughtlessly or brashly. It is good to get a little data and study it to make sure you are making a generally wise decision. But once the collection of data and the analysis of a problem takes up too much of your time, you might be paralyzing yourself.

Solomon has pointed us to a simple wisdom. Do not give in to paralysis by analysis. Yes, look at the problem or project you face. Yes, do your diligence. But in the end, you will have to make a decision. Otherwise, you will simply never move. And there is no growth in wavering between one position and another.

There is also a significant sin that Solomon is helping us to avoid, though we do not see it spelled out in this verse. What is at the heart of over-analysis of a situation? Is it not that we want to so control our futures that we do not allow the possibility of failure? We are not God. We cannot control the future that much. God requires that we make wise decisions, but that we walk forward in faith. At the end of the day, we need to make the best decisions we can make, we need to be submitted to his word, and we need to trust that the Lord is the Lord over the details. Only God can guarantee an outcome, and he is not revealing to us his secret plans for the future. We need to be humble enough to realize we cannot see the future, we cannot predict the future, and we must trust God with the future.