It’s been a recurring feeling over the past few days. I turn on the tv and within minutes my body tenses, my heart rate elevates slightly, and my mind attempts to process the ever changing reality of what life may look like for the coming weeks. I don’t want to be anxious, but it seems impossible in these moments to find complete peace in the face of such unfamiliar circumstances.
But then a secondary thought process jumps into my head in times like this. Maybe it’s the childhood full of Sunday school lessons or maybe it’s the repertoire of worship songs that I’ve sung over the years, reminding me that I’m instructed not to fear. I mean, it’s pretty clear in scripture, “Do not fear, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10), “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34), and “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6-7).
As much as I’d love to be fearless or even immune to the circumstances around me, the reality is that when faced with daunting and unpredictable circumstances, my first response isn’t always what I’d like it to be. Although I wish I would immediately respond in courage and confidence, the truth is, I more often feel unease and anxiety. Anyone else feeling that right now?
It’s not easy to admit fear in Christian circles. We’re not supposed to be afraid. To admit fear feels like admitting failure. To admit fear feels like confessing that I don’t have what it takes, that my faith just doesn’t measure up, that maybe I’m not as strong as the other Christians who seem to have it all figured out. And worse, maybe my admission of fear makes it seem like God isn’t big enough, and that puts him in a bad light to the rest of the world. None of this invites honest conversation about what we’re really feeling.
What does God really think about my fear? Is he disappointed? Is he irritated?
I’m reminded of the story of Joshua, where God is laying out instructions and incredible promises as Joshua takes over the leadership role for the people of Israel. Early on, God tells him to “be strong and courageous” in the days ahead. Then, not long after, he tells him a second time, this time adding “do not be afraid or discouraged.” Later on in the chapter he repeats it a third time! Now, why would God tell him this, not once, not twice, but three times? Is it possible that Joshua, the guy that led the Israelites around the walls of Jericho, was actually afraid at times? The reality is that fear is a natural and human response to things that are beyond our ability to control. It is not something to hide, be ashamed of, or live in denial of. The real question is not whether or not we will experience fear, it’s what should we do with our fear?
You see, God does not condemn us for being afraid. Whenever a strong storm blows through our city, my boys, who are three and five, always freak out when the lighting flashes and the thunder is close enough to shake our house. I understand in those moments how something so powerful and unfamiliar could scare them, so my response, even as a wildly imperfect father, is not judgment, or criticism, or withdrawal. Instead, they get hugs, encouragement, and reassurance that they’re going to be ok. We ride out the storm together. To me, their response to the fear is much more telling than the fear itself.
God, as a perfect and wildly generous father, longs to give us the same comfort and reassurance today that any parent would offer their own children.
It’s ok to be afraid, but what are you going to do with your fear?
5 things to do with fear:
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” –Psalm 34:4
1. Admit that you’re afraid
Own your fear. Admit it. Call it what it is. You can’t fight an enemy you haven’t named. Being ashamed of fear simply gives it a big advantage in your life. Find someone you trust and open up about how you feel and what you’re worried about. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you bring your feelings into the light. I’ve never met a person that’s completely fearless, although I have met many oblivious to their own fear.
2. Focus on bigger truth
Your fears and concerns may be completely valid, but you can still choose to focus on something greater. When you’ve lost something, remember what you still have. It’s ok to grieve the losses you are experiencing, but don’t forget to hold on to gratitude in the midst of it. Don’t let your fear and worry continuously rob you of joy.
3. Don’t let it paralyze you
Fear begins to win when we stop moving. Make a game plan. How can you best deal with the changing circumstances? What advice would you give to a friend struggling with the same feelings?
4. Guard your eyes and ears
If the TV is the cause of your anxiety, limit your exposure. If Instagram leaves you stressed and worried, then it’s time to put it aside for a while. Be sensitive to how you’re feeling as a result of certain activities. Find the things that bring you more peace and step those up!
We may not be in control, but we can choose to put our trust in a God that loves us and promises to walk with us in every circumstance. Trust that He will provide all that you need. If you’re like me, you’re used to God providing well beyond what you actually need, so even in a season where there may be less, trust that your needs will be met, even if not all of your wants are.
God is still good. He is still faithful. He still loves you. We are all being given an invitation into peace and rest today. Let’s receive it together.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” –John 14:27
For more help on finding peace, get your free download of Peace: Finding Rest in a Stressed-Out World.
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