What we fear tells us a lot about where our focus is.
I want to be brave. I want to be strong. But there are days when I let fear get the better of me. Days when I lose sight of the solid rock that's underneath me. Days when I don't guard my heart and I end up carrying the heavy weight of anxiety on my shoulders. Days when I feel like I'm standing all on my own.
God has been peeling back different layers of fear and anxiety in my life for years--showing me what's underneath and what needs to be healed. And I have found, in the process, that what I fear reveals three things for sure:
Where I am looking.
What I am holding onto.
What I believe about God.
Maybe I'm anxious about what someone thinks about me. Or about what will happen to my kids. Maybe I'm worried about where money will come from to pay that bill. Or about losing something I think belongs to me. Maybe I'm afraid of getting hurt. Or of having to say something when I don't know how. Maybe I'm fretting about things I have absolutely no control over.
I'm learning to start facing my fears and to ask the questions: what does my fear in each of those things tell me about where I'm looking? How does it reveal what I'm holding onto? What does it show me that I believe about God?
How about you. What are you afraid of?
Fear robs us of the very courage and strength that we need to withstand what comes against us. It soaks up our time, our energy, our focus, our trust.
In the face of uncertainty and all the what-if's that are in our faces today and every other day, we need to plant our feet on the truth. Truth that remains the same, no matter what is going on around us.
Here are three questions that can put fear in its place:
1. What's the worst possible thing that could happen?
Go there. Picture it. Right down to the details if you have to. Imagine the scenarios you dread most. Find out what it really is that's weighing down your heart.
Once you've identified what it is that you're really looking at, what it is that you're truly afraid of, choose to shift your focus off of whatever situation or potential circumstance has stolen your gaze. Lift your head from the temporary to the eternal. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Ask Him to let you see it the way He does.
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing the glory that will be revealed in us," (Romans 8:18).
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
'For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered,'" (Romans 8:35-36).
2. Can this separate me from God's love and His plan?
After staring your fear in the face, ask this next question. It will help you to see if you're elevating anything above God. If even the worst possible thing I can imagine were to happen, would that be able to tear me away from God's love? Could any part of it somehow slip outside of His reach or His plan? Would it be a surprise to Him?
The answer will always be, "No," in case you're trying to find a way to rationalize your particular fear case right now.
I've been there and tried it. I've spent plenty of time trying to convince myself that somehow my situation at a given time is outside of what God must be doing. I could have avoided a lot of pain in certain situations if I hadn't spent so much valuable time believing that God might not have cared about my particular need. The truth is: He always cares. And He's always working it out within His Sovereign, strategic, soul-saving plan.
If I think that I care more about my life than He does, or that I love my people more than He does, or that I know how to order my life better than He can, something's out of balance. If I think I could do a better job with this planning thing, or that I can't live without whatever it is I'm clinging to, I might be putting it before God. That's where I can begin to see that I need to let go and leave the rest up to Him.
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Romans 8:37-39).
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose," (Romans 8:28).
3. Will I choose to praise God anyway?
If we can face our fears, and we can recognize that nothing can separate us from God's love and His plan, then we can lay this last question on the line.
When the rubber meets the road, we find out what we really believe about God.
Do I think His Word really means what it says, and that He is really all that He claims to be? Am I living like I believe that God is more than enough? In response to this situation, are my actions and thoughts proof that I trust that God is always in control, always faithful, always loving, always good?
God doesn't change when our circumstances change. If the worst thing happens, will I choose to praise God through it anyway?
"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God," (Psalm 42:11).
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus," (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
God, we need you. Help us in our weakness, in our fear. We want to live like we truly believe that you are always who you say you are. Help us to take our eyes off of our circumstances and fix them on you. Give us courage to face whatever is in front of us, and strength to stand through it. Write your song on our hearts, that we might give you every ounce of praise we've got, no matter what happens. Increase our faith and trust in you. You are our King and you reign over all the earth. Amen.