Okay, not everything. But a lot of things. I grapple with quite a bit of fear and anxiety, if I’m super honest with myself and God and you.
I’m scared of this crazy scary world.
I’m scared that I’ll always feel a little bit sad.
I’m scared all of my daily work is for nothing, that my ministry will never actually reach all the women out there that it could, that I don’t actually add all that much value, that I could stop what I’m doing and no one would notice.
I’m scared that my children will get hurt or killed in car accidents. I think about this one a lot. I hate when I know my kids are driving anywhere.
I’m scared of my husband getting hurt or killed on the job. His job can be dangerous and stories like this make me sick to my stomach.
I’m scared that I’ll get some kind of cancer. I’m not sure why, but I kinda assume I will and that it’s just a matter of time.
I’m scared that that our divorces will emotionally plague our children forever and change the courses of their lives and influence all of their most profound decisions in yucky ways.
I’m scared of the dentist.
I’m scared of the future.
I’m scared of scary movies.
I’m scared to walk into a room full of people I don’t know.
I’m scared of really loud lightening.
I’m kinda scared to talk on the phone.
I’m scared of a few people.
I’m scared that I make some people’s lives more painful just by my being in the world.
I’m scared that the consequences of my poor decisions will haunt me the rest of my life and that my shame will follow me around like Pigpen’s cloud of dust.
I’m even scared of Christmas. Maybe scared isn’t the right word. Okay, Christmas isn’t the right word either. But I get anxious the moment I think about the holidays, all the presents and family gatherings and too much to do in such a short amount of time for this less-than-normal-energy’d introvert, and all that fake happy I have to muster up.
There’s more. I know there’s more, more I can’t say out loud here. And I think about all these things when I go for walks or bike rides, when I’m in the car, when I’m in the shower, when I’m putting make-up on, when I wake up in the middle of the night.
I just heard someone refer to themselves as fearless. I don’t think I have lived one fearless day in my life. Fearless moments here and there, perhaps. But to live as a fearless woman eludes me. I rehearse the past. I obsess over the present. I invent the future. And worry. Oh, do I worry. And I’m anxious and I’m scared. Not all the time, mind you. But it’s more than I feel I should be, for sure.
All this while following Jesus for over thirty years.
All this while knowing things like do not worry about your life and do not fear and do not be anxious for anything; instead through prayer, present your requests to God and perfect peace will overtake you and perfect love casts out fear…the one who fears has not been made perfect in love.
Can I be super honest here?
I don’t really like those verses. Yes, they are encouraging. Yes, they have met me in my time of need over and over and over again through the years. And yes, I have clung to them.
But the guilt I feel. The shame. The disappointment in myself.
God tells us not to worry about our life because he promises to take care of us even more than the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. And he has and he does. God is beyond faithful.
So why am I still worrying? I must be doing something wrong. Or not doing something right enough.
And God tells us not to fear three hundred and sixty-five times apparently. And I’ve heard that this isn’t supposed to be taken on as a command (like do not lie or do not steal) but as reassurance that we do not have to fear, because God is with us. Gorgeous and meaningful and heart-building.
So why am I still worrying? There must be something wrong with me.
And God tells us to pray instead of worry and that his peace will fall over us. Which is great. But don’t you think I’ve prayed a million prayers trying to rid myself of worry? I have a hopechest filled with thirty years of journals (that I really should probably just burn at this point before they fall into the wrong hands) that are filled with prayer after prayer after prayer.
And only a fraction of the time have I felt the kind of tangible peace that can’t be explained. So there must be something wrong with me.
And God tells us that perfect love – his perfect love – casts out fear, which is great and uplifting. But the one who fears has not been made perfect in love. Really? So, me basically. Me, the girl who has been trying to get to know God and follow God and obey God and stay close to God and hide under the shadow of his wings has apparently not yet been made perfect in love and I’m guessing it’s because I have failed at that that I still fear, when I shouldn’t be fearing, shouldn’t be worrying, shouldn’t be anxious about anything.
I am still worrying which tells me there must be something wrong with me.
Here’s what I know about fear and anxiety and worry:
They are legit things.
I don’t see my fears and anxieties and worries dissipating anytime soon.
I think realistically I will remain a slightly anxious, fearful person for the rest of my life.
And here’s what I know about God:
God is real.
He will never leave me.
He will love me for the rest of my life.
Beating myself up for not being supposedly yet perfected in love or for not having enough faith to rein in my worry does me no good. (It does us no good.) This is my reality. This is who I am. (I am, however, less anxious than I was, say, ten, twenty, thirty years ago, so there’s that.)
So here’s what I suggest we do with our fear.
Tell ourselves that when God commands we not be afraid, it’s not the same kind of directive as ‘do not lie’ or ‘do not steal’, it’s actually a reassurance. So the next time you hear or read the words, DO NOT FEAR, think to yourself that what’s He’s really saying is YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FEAR…because I AM HERE.
Remind ourselves what we know about God’s character in the middle of our worrying – that he is always loving, that he is always kind, that he is always good, that he is always faithful, that he has gotten us through the past however many years (so therefore why wouldn’t he get us through the next day??).
Pray about it. Over and over. Envision yourself handing over each worry into the hands of God. And then do it again and again.
Talk about it. Say it out loud. Not to every pour soul in our lives but to maybe one or two who you trust, who will say either, “yeah, that is hard and that sucks and I’d be scared too”, which can be oddly reassuring, or “you know what, I think you might be blowing this a bit out of proportion…I think this one is going to be okay…”, which can help keep us in check. Plus, the moment we say our fears out loud, we take its sting away, we lessen its magnitude and power in our lives.
Worship God in the midst. I remember hearing that the part of your brain that is engaged when you worry is engaged when you worship, so it’s impossible to both worry and worship at the same time. I don’t know if there’s science to back it up, but I have proved it in my life. When I am belting out a song praising the God who loves me and carries me, my mind is stayed on him in those moments.
I will more than likely always be a bit of a worrier and a bit fearful by nature. But it’s okay. Progress not perfection, right?
I may not have yet been made perfect in love, but I am certain that God, who began the good work within me, will continue his work until it is finally finished.
If this post resonated with you and you need someone to talk through your worries with, I’m here for you.