Today, I'd like to talk about worry; fear, anxiety. Whatever name you give it.
I'd like to tell you how we struggle with it, at my house. My version is different from Aaron's.
My anxiety looks like waking up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding, unable to convince myself that I'm not going to die before morning. In the broad light of day, I can't resurrect those same feelings, but in the night I am sure.
My worry says these things; What if you can't do enough to support your loved ones? What if you never accomplish anything with your life? What if you're all talk, like your father? What if you can't get your family health situations collectively figured out. What if you pick the wrong road and don't realize it until it's too late to get back to the right one? What if you try all your life to do what you love and find out you're still not good enough to do anything that matters to anyone else? What if you never have a family and you end up old and alone.
Truthfully, those things cloud a lot of the choices I make. Or they paralyze me into making no choice at all.
Aaron's worries and anxieties are different and they're not mine to share, but here's what I know. Him allowing me to know and understand what he worries about has helped me to see the result of making choices rooted in anxiety versus making choices despite it. Aaron is such a leader in this area, in our family. He is a problem solver by nature, which is great, except that to solve problems you first have to see them. So he deals with a lot more "the sky is potentially falling" moments than I do. And yet, he is full of courage and trains himself continually to respond not based on the feeling but rather to determine what he believes is true, and react based on that, no matter what.
A few months ago I was studying the word on this topic, because I was starting to feel as though the waves of disastrous circumstance were increasing in frequency and intensity. This is what I found;
“Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Isaiah 41:10
There are at least 44instances in the bible, where God himself instructs;
Always at moments of insurmountable challenge, great need, or in the path of world-changing events, there is this is a declarative statement, punctuated by a period.
It isn’t a suggestion
it’s a non-negotiable directive, whose requisite response is obedience. He’s saying; “this must happen for the rest of the plan to work.”
So I'm reading through all these instances where God is instructing someone not to fear and I start to see this amazing, clear pattern to how God responds to these pivotal moments in life.
Each time it's the same. It starts with an instruction, followed by an ask, and finishes with the same faithful provision.
Here’s how it goes.
First, the instruction.
Even the fact that he takes the time to say this shows how beautifully He knows us. He knows how easily our hearts bow and tremble. And by the way, it’s not just you. Look how many of the pillars of faith he had to repeat himself to. He had to remind the following giants about the not being afraid;
David, Abraham, Joseph, Jehoshaphat, Moses, Joshua, Hagar, Mary, Peter, The Collective Children of Israel, The Collective Church, Daniel, Paul
That’s just a few. But I’m pretty sure you know their names.
To worry is human. So, the good news is, God already knows that your faith is puny. You’re not going to get to heaven and have him be like …*GASP! I was planning to let you in, but now that I’ve realized how meager your faith was….I think I’ll pass.”
He’s working on that, in us. In fact, if you've ever wondered why the Lord allows us to go through things, keep in mind, it's those very places allow him to demonstrate his trustworthiness, his power....his largess, which grows our faith.
So, right up front he tells us the secret to getting through whatever valley, unscathed.
I know. It's not as easy as that, right? No, it's not easy. But God didn't phrase it in the form of a suggestion or a request. It was a direct instruction, and he wouldn't give us one of those if we didn't have the capacity to obey. Obedience implies choice, ergo we get to choose. It may not be easy, we may not feel like it makes any sense not to worry. But you are not a prisoner to the thoughts in your head. You get to pick whether you subscribe to them, or whether you discard them.
When your mind says "you're going to fail" or "there won't be enough" or whatever the worry is, that's a question, posited in the form of a statement. And you get to answer that thought. You can answer that worry in the affirmative, you can hold on to it and nourish it and expand upon it, or you can listen for your Father's ask.
The Ask. The second part of the pattern.
Now that we’ve decided to reject the fear/worry/anxiety, he’s going to ask us to have faith. To demonstrate it. Probably in a way that seems a little nuts and is utterly counter-intuitive.
Like “You’re blind? Do you believe I can help? Yes? Great.” *hawks a loogie. Grabs some mud* “Hold still” (John 9)
or “Do you believe it's me? Go ahead and get out onto the water, with your feet, and walk to me. I double Dog Dare you.” (Matthew 14)
and “I see that your situation is that you’re up against the most fearsome, murderous army you’ve ever faced. Don’t worry, I have a plan. Send out your joyful women and children, full of music and praise, in front of your army. Let them lead the charge against the biggest threat your world has known. Tell ‘em to sing and dance. Don’t forget the tambourines. tambourines are awesome.” (2 Chronicles 20)
See, sometimes God likes a little music while he works.
All the while, you're thinking he's asking you to wreck yourself, to make a fool of yourself, to be some ostrich, willfully blind to the obvious impending catastrophe. But he knows.
HE KNOWS that fear and faith can't live in the same house. One's going to cancel the other. And since he's about to ask you to demonstrate faith, he needs you to first evict the fear.
(Isn't it beautiful how, even in similar but different stories throughout the word, the patterns are perfectly ordered and consistent.) So;
Step one. Choose to resist anxiety. Choose FEAR NOT.
Step two is the moment of faith. That act of defiance against the worry.
The beautiful truth happens in that third step in the cycle. That's God's part. It happens when He shows up and delivers. He delivers on his promise, he delivers what we need, he delivers us.
When we take the leap of faith, God never leaves us hanging. In fact, he only asks us to have faith to begin with, so he can be the one to do the heavy work of accomplishing the impossible on our behalf.
And while our faith is still puny, truth is, we aren't necessarily going to get relief from that niggling feeling that we are walking on the fine line, that precarious edge between miracle and disaster.
But we should choose this pattern anyway. We should choose to respond the way he asks us to.
Because when we choose to reject fear. When we answer his ask; 'do you have faith in me? Will you demonstrate it?' with a yes, that's the moment we invite him to do what he does best; provide, comfort, heal, restore, conquer and calm our storms.
See us rejecting fear and demonstrating faith aren't for his benefit, they're for ours. Just like how writing things down and saying them out loud helps us to not only lean but also remember; the act of demonstrating faith despite the odds solidifies in our memory the moment he MEETS US at the point of our need and delivers us.
The moment he catches us, after we jump because he promised that he would.
Here are some of my favorite fear not's from the bible.