Overcoming Fear in Doing the Will of God

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As believers, we’re called to serve God and offer ourselves as “living sacrifices for His glory” (Romans 12:1). However, there are real obstacles that threaten us in the midst of being faithful in living out His will for us. One of the major obstacles Christians face is fear.

As I explained in a previous post, Matthew 14:28-32 gives us a good illustration of what it looks like to falter in our walk of faith. In the passage we see that Peter goes on a faith walk towards Jesus but then begins to sink when he looks at the obstacles around him — the wind and the waves — and becomes afraid. Jesus pulls him up and chastises him for his lack of faith, but Jesus does not leave him in his failure. He tells him why he was sinking, and the two are able to climb back in the boat together and get to their destination.

However, Peter had to get past his very real unbelief and fear he felt in the moment, and Jesus addresses it. Similarly, many of us are desiring to be obedient to God, but we are dealing with crushing fear or another obstacle. How do we get past our fear when we are attempting to follow the will of God?

Not too long ago, I asked God this very question as I had been dealing with my own fear. Sometimes God answers me right away, and other times He waits for a season to respond. This time His answer came just a day or so after I had posed the query. I was looking for a calendar in a desk drawer, and a sheet of notes I had taken on Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life caught my eye. I’ve read this book from cover to cover on a few different occasions, but I have no recollection of taking these notes and can’t remember why I wrote down these ideas.

However, when I glanced over the scribbled words, God gave me an answer. Yet, as He often does, God didn’t respond in the way I thought He would. He gave me an entirely different response that I want to share with you.

Lessons from Rick Warren that we can apply to overcome our fear:

1. We have to understand what it means to rely on God and operate in His power.

While we may think of relying on God as a passive endeavor — one where we do absolutely nothing and He does everything — that is not the case. As Warren stresses, reliance on God doesn’t mean we don’t do anything. Trust in God means that we are co-workers with God. A few of the ideas I jotted down from Warren’s book:

  • Christ-likeness is not produced by imitation, but by inhabitation. We allow Christ to live through us.
  • We choose to do the right thing and trust God’s Spirit to give us His power, love, faith, and wisdom to do that.
  • The Holy Spirit releases His power the moment you take a step of faith.
  • Obedience unlocks God’s power.
  • God wants you to act first — move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of your fears. That’s how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
  • Effort has nothing to do with your salvation, but it has much to do with your spiritual growth. At least eight times in the New Testament we are told to “make every effort” in our growth toward becoming like Jesus.

We need to pause for just a minute and let these wise words sink in. When we follow in God’s way, we won’t necessarily feel an absence of fear. However, God’s power meets us when we act in obedience. Psalm 63:8 says, “I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.” The King James 2000 Bible version says, “My soul follows hard after you: your right hand upholds me.” Some of us are waiting to not feel fear before we act or waiting for our feelings to line up with what God would have us to do. However, it is in taking the steps ordained for us by God that we are met by the Holy Spirit’s power.

Similarly, another place in Scripture where this concept of walking in trust and God’s power is illustrated is John 6:28, 29. In this passage, a crowd asks Jesus what they should do to do the work of God. Jesus responds by saying, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (v. 29). The word “believe” that is used can be translated in the Greek as “pisteuó,” which means to “believe, entrust.” According to Helps Word-Studies, this means “not only to be persuaded of something, but means to be persuaded by the Lord: it is belief that leads to/proceeds from God’s inbirthing of faith.”

The word “pisteuó” is a verb. So, not only does it mean what we believe in our thoughts — it refers to a giving up of oneself to God. This kind of entrusting leads to action in our lives as we follow His lead. According to the Encyclopedia of the Bible, faith is “that which responds to and is sustained by God’s faithfulness.”

A few years ago, I went through a hard season where God had me go back to my previous place of employment. He was walking me through healing from an addiction to others’ approval, and one of the hard tasks He had me do in walking out of my people-pleasing behavior was do the thing I fear the most: face people and reveal the ways that I had fallen short.

I had been a former high school teacher, and I had spent years cultivating the worship of my students. As a young teacher, I was flirtatious and had a male fan club in every class. Though my actions were not those that constituted an inappropriate relationship or illegal activity, I knew that I had not been a Christian role model for my students. God nudged me to make some hard contacts with my former classes and administration and apologize for not being a Godly role model and state that I was making a turn in my Christian walk.

This was difficult for me in many ways. You might think that I had great courage that enabled me to do this, but that isn’t the case. I knew I had no choice. I was terribly afraid, and it was not an easy task. I knew that that was the way God was pointing and for me to continue to walk with Him, I was going to have to obey Him. I did those actions in fear — but God enabled me in the process as I did what He asked, and He gave me grace as I was speaking to people.

2. Spiritual transformation is a process.

Saying spiritual growth doesn’t happen instantly is not a cop-out. Certainly, it says nowhere in the Bible that we should sin because it really does not matter. In fact, the Bible tells us the opposite. It tells us that if we know the right thing to do and don’t do it, for us it is sin (James 4:17). However, we need to know that spiritual maturity is a process that does take time. God gives us opportunities to learn and grow and become more like Him.

Warren emphasizes that God uses His Word, people, and circumstances to shape us. Therefore, our transformation away from fearfulness to courage — the kind Christ had — is not automatic. It will be gradual. In fact, God puts us in particular situations so that we can practice Christlikeness (Warren).

If we are having an issue with fear, He is going to put us in circumstances where we can practice breaking through this barrier to do His will. We may literally be shaking as we type up the email to send, tell our testimony to someone, or step away from a safe comfort zone (perhaps a stable job or living situation) to answer God’s call on our life. However, as we encounter more and more situations like this, we will become less fearful and more like Christ.

Salvation is worked out in each of our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit. In other words, God is always working in us to know and do His will (Philippians 2:12, 13). Warren explains a few things about this:

  • There are two parts to spiritual growth: work out and work in.
  • “Work out” is your responsibility. You don’t work for your salvation because you can’t add anything to Jesus’ work. You work out to develop the body, not get the body. We should make every effort to grow spiritually.
  • “Work in” is God’s role — as we make efforts to grow spiritually, God makes us more like His Son.

Again, we have here the idea, just as we discussed in the previous point, that overcoming our fear is a collaborative effort with God. It doesn’t happen right away. Whatever obstacles are hindering us from answering His call are those that we can overcome with His help when we believe that His power is enough. But He gives us lots of opportunities to work on making gains against whatever is holding us back.

Conclusion:

Fear will often prevent us from doing what we know to do in the moment of following God. However, we are not left alone in our fear. God promises us in His Word that when we step out in obedience into what feels like thin air, we will feel a solid rock under our feet. He will uphold those who put their trust in Him and follow Him when it feels hard, it feels scary, and we don’t know what to do.

The more we adopt this philosophy of believing that God will meet us in our weakness and stepping out even when our own strength is small, the more victory we will have in breaking past the obstacles that prevent us from being obedient and following Him. This isn’t a willpower thing — this is “I can do all things through Christ” kind of thing (Philippians 4:13).

Let’s pray: Dear God, help us in those times when we want to follow you but are afraid. Help us believe in your promises in the Bible and trust in Your power that You have made available to us as Christ followers. Forgive us for the times we have fallen short of Your perfect will. Help us be more bold in the future as we follow You. Amen.

How about you? Do you struggle with fear? Share with us in the comments!

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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2 Strategies for Combatting Fear

2 Strategies for Combatting Fear

Recently, I read an article written by a mother coping with the grief of her teenage son’s death. The article was a poignant account of how she was having difficulty going in her son’s room now that he was gone and the last moments of his life as a heroin-addicted drug user.

The article included a picture of her handsome son in his hockey uniform. Nothing about his demeanor or face suggested he was anything but a happy, healthy adolescent — yet, the last moments of his life were spent vomiting while his mother screamed helplessly as EMT’s worked to stabilize him. The mother’s words literally bled from the page as she shared her honest struggle navigating life without her boy.

The mother’s words stayed with me in a haunting way after I put her article down. After reading her account, I couldn’t help but think of my own children, and I felt a sense of fear myself. I began to think about how fragile life is. I began to irrationally worry for them. They were heading out for an outing at the swimming pool with my husband, and I could feel a frenzy of anxious thoughts stir. I was worried for their safety in the water that day. For their safety in the van while they were en route to the pool. For their safety every day.

Just as my emotions threatened to reach a fever-pitch, I realized I needed to cleanse these anxious thoughts from my mind. I got alone with God, and I whispered these words: “I am afraid. Help me. I am afraid.”

I told Him what I was tied up in knots about. I prayed for my children and asked Him to help me re-focus my thoughts. I immediately felt a sense of peace wash over me. Later in the day, I opened up a devotional and read these words by author and in(courage) contributor Lisa-Jo Baker: “The older I get the more I battle fear. And I know it’s because the older I get the more scary things I see in the world.”

I exhaled a little more and let the truth of her statement wash over me.

We live in a world where things go terribly wrong. People get hurt. Parents lose children. Relationships get broken. Being a mother, I feel a tremendous sense of love for my children. And with that love comes fear — because I know I can’t protect them from everything.

Scriptural Advice for Combatting Fear

In 2 Timothy 1:7, we see a young minister of the Gospel struggling with timidity not in his role as a parent, but in his role as a minister. Paul exhorts him with these words: “We have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV).

Though these words were given by Paul to strengthen and encourage Timothy in his ministry, as commentator Charles Ellicott states, these words can be taken in a more general sense, as applicable to all Christians.

The verse assures us that we as Christians have been given the exact opposite of fear: “power … love and … a sound mind.” That is — we don’t have to accept fear when it comes because it is not from God, and we have the means with which to resist it and send it packing.

You may be reading this, thinking, “But you don’t understand how strong this fear is. I am literally paralyzed by it. I want it to go, but I am totally overwhelmed by it.”

I understand because I have been in similar positions, as in the scenario I described with the frightening article, and I continue to have bouts of fear. Quite frustratingly, I have dealt with more fear as I’ve pressed into God these past few years — not because God has sent it to me, but because as I’ve become a more potent weapon for his kingdom, the attack against me has become very strong and very real.

There are days when the fear has been so thick that it is palpable, and I feel immobilized.

But Paul assures Timothy and Christians that we don’t have to remain in that place of feeling overcome. The “power” mentioned in the verse that we have at our disposal is the power that rests in us because of the Holy Spirit. This power we are given helps us discern and identify when wrong thoughts or ideas come against us — whether this be through Satan trying to plant these thoughts directly or through Satan working through the actions or words of people.

The “love and sound mind” part of the verse suggests that this counsel we have is such that we can reprove others in love when they offer ideas that counter God’s Word and walk in peace and stability of thinking, not only for our own sake, but the sake of others.

On a practical level, then, here are two ways we can tap into the Holy Spirit’s power and take a stand against fear:

1) Pray.

We make ourselves easy prey when we don’t make time daily to pray and spend time in God’s presence. God assures us that His peace guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). Sometimes, right in the moment when I pray I feel instantly at peace and my fear dissipates (as in this instance). Other times, when the fear is so strong, I will get a verse later through a friend or family member, a line in a sermon, or by some other means.

That verse will be one that I can cling to that acts as a stabilizing force for my mind. As believers, we should expect that God will come to our aid, and we can call out for this rescue during prayer (Psalm 31:2). In my most recent situation fretting over my children, before I prayed about it, I had this thought: “Praying isn’t going to do anything.” And that was a lie straight from the enemy!

I pressed through and prayed anyway and felt better. And it was just a little later in the day that I came across Baker’s devotional which further encouraged me and helped me get over the anxious thoughts I was having.

2). Take every thought captive.

The power of the Holy Spirit Paul speaks of helps us to take every thought captive that is not of God. We can know when a thought or idea is going to derail us; instead of accepting that idea, we can keep our mind clear and at rest by resisting wrong thoughts.

As 2 Corinthians 10:5 states: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I love how author and Proverbs 31 contributor Renee Swope describes this process of filtering thoughts in a recent devotional. Her son Andrew was apparently struggling with anxious thoughts about school. To help him, she explained 2 Corinthians 10:5 and advised him to “catch” each anxious thought he was having like a baseball and toss it back into “outfield.”

She concludes her devotion by emphasizing that there is nothing “more powerful than our hearts hearing our lips proclaim our trust in God’s truth” — truth that not only children but adults can find assurance in.

What do you believe about fear?

Both prayer and right thinking help us to meditate on God instead of the scary person or circumstance — but it also boils down to belief. We have to believe that God doesn’t want us to fear and trust that He will help us.

Unfortunately, some of us embrace fear and hold onto those worrisome thoughts that come our way because we don’t believe that there is the power available to us to overcome it. We accept it thinking there is no other choice, but Scripture indicates that God has a better way for us.

In addition, many of us beat ourselves up for having the fear at all. Rather than do any of those things, we must realize that God does not intend for us to cower down to fear or feel down that we are feeling so timid. Instead, He wants us to look to Him and know in the depths of our being that He is bigger than anything we face.

As Swope advocates in a different piece, “Fear goes away when we actively trust God more than what we fear.”

Join us for a live Blab chat Monday, April 11 @9 or watch the replay.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar ‘Friend’

Letting Go of Fear When It Has Been a Familiar 'Friend'

I’ve been frozen for almost eleven months now. Frozen in fear. It’s debilitating and it’s crippling and it’s exhausting. But, as sick as I am of it, I’m stuck. Or at least it seems that way.

Almost a year ago, my daughter was born two months ahead of schedule. I had severe preeclampsia, and an emergency C-section was performed to save both of our lives. I visited my little girl in the NICU every day for the longest month of my life.

She was so tiny, and to me, so fragile. She had to learn how to eat and breathe on her own, and I wasn’t familiar with how to care for a full-term baby, let alone one weighing 3 1/2 pounds. Her nurses assured me that she was one of the strongest preemies they had ever seen and that I had nothing to worry about, but I am embarrassed to admit that most of the time I didn’t see her strength.

I saw her feeding tube. I saw her IV and her blood pressure cuff. I saw her heart and oxygen monitors and I heard the jarring alarms when her heart rate dropped too low. All of it terrified me.

I knew she was a miracle. I knew that we were watching God form her before our eyes. I knew deep down that we were all going to be OK, but the spirit of fear that had seized me wasn’t loosening its grip anytime soon. When the day I had been praying for finally came and our little baby got discharged, I remember asking her doctor, “Are you sure she’s ready? Should she stay longer?”

The doors of the NICU were at long last opened wide for us to leave, but I’d become so comfortable there, enclosed in that small wing of the hospital, that I was scared to do the thing we were meant to do, the thing I had longed for — go home as a family.

Home we went, and our daughter was and is perfectly fine. She has excelled in every way, and now is virtually indistinguishable from a baby born at full-term. It’s me who’s not fine. I remember all too well the alarms, the monitors, the tubes and the lonely, sleepless nights without her.

I obsess about her health, my heart sinks when I hear her crying, and I fear getting the slightest thing “wrong” because if I screw up some awful thing might happen. Basically, I’m a mess, and when anyone asks me why, I point back to the NICU.

My paranoia understandably annoys those closest to me. Quite often, I find that I can’t enjoy time with or without my daughter because I’m too worried about her. This, naturally, creates tension for everyone around me. My family has been incredibly patient during my many meltdowns over the last year, but the thing about living in fear is that it not only paralyzes you, but everyone around you. My fear controls me, but my family experiences the bondage as well.

I’ll admit it — the traumatic events surrounding my daughter’s birth have become my go-to. The NICU has become my justification for agonizing over every detail of her life. It’s not right or healthy, and at some point I’m going to have to let it go, but I have no idea how to do that.

One of my favorite songs by Jason Gray says, “There’s no thief like fear.” And it’s true. Fear has stolen my joy, my peace, my sanity, my sleep, my health and my identity. Not only is fear a thief, but it’s deceiving. When you’re afraid for as long as I’ve been afraid, you swallow the lie that there is no other way to be. You cling to your fear. You justify it. You defend it.

I was in tears one afternoon at my parents’ house, trying to get up the nerve to leave my daughter with them for a while so that my husband and I could have some much needed alone time. I was listing all the reasons why I was scared to leave her, why I had no choice but to be afraid even though it was destroying my life.

My father, in growing frustration, was shooting down my pitiful excuses one by one. Finally, I said, “None of you … not one of you knows what it’s like to visit your baby in the hospital every single day for the first month of her life.”

My dad calmly said, “Well, you’re right. But it’s time to leave the hospital.”

It’s time to leave the hospital. My daughter had been given a clean bill of health and had been discharged for several months. And I had never left the hospital. Rather than allowing myself to experience the freedom we had waited for, I turned my nose up at the miracle in favor of the terror that something, anything might go wrong. That the other shoe would eventually drop.

I’m reminded of the story of Lazarus, which is found in the Gospel of John. You may be familiar with it, but the long and short of it is that Lazarus, a man Jesus loved, fell sick and died. In fact, Jesus knew he was going to die, and allowed it anyway, so that God would be glorified (John 11:4). Jesus knew the outcome; He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, gaining all the glory from his suffering and that of his family.

And even though He knew the ending would be a happy one, Jesus still wept when He reached the gravesite, knowing and feeling the pain that His children experienced as part of God’s perfect plan. The Bible says that in a loud voice, Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the grave, and out he came.

Here’s where I draw the comparison to my story. What if, when Jesus called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb, the man had refused?

No, Lord. I’m too afraid! You don’t know what it’s been like. You don’t know how sick I was. I could get sick again. I could get hurt. I could die all over again. I just can’t do it. I’m just going to stay here. It’s too scary out there.

It’s more than a little ridiculous. But haven’t I done just that? The Lord had miraculously delivered me, in the nick of time, from a potentially fatal illness. He had gloriously rescued my daughter from my failing womb. And when she was strong enough and His timing was right, He had called her out of that hospital and home with us.

Only I had stayed behind. Physically, I’ve been home with her and my husband nearly 11 months now. In my mind, gripped by fear, I’ve been in that little rocking chair in the NICU, staring into that isolette at a baby much too small.

The reality is that God’s plan all along was perfect. My daughter was born early by our calendar, but not God’s. He saw, ahead of time, the sickness and the suffering, and He knew the purpose of it all. He allowed the pain and planned the miracle, knowing He would take the glory. And I, in so many ways, have refused the miracle in favor of the pain.

My dad’s words to me ring in my ears almost every day. It’s time to leave the hospital. Just like it was time for Lazarus to leave the tomb. Who am I to say no, to continue to live imprisoned when freedom Himself calls to me?

It’s time for me to do what I should have done a long time ago, and that is to obey the voice of Jesus rather than the voice of fear. The voice calling me to “Come out!” instead of the voice telling me it’s safer in the dark. So much has been waiting for me on the outside.

My little preemie, almost at her first year birthday, is about to take her first steps, and so am I.

Sharon Early

With a bachelor’s degree in English, Sharon Early did not actually put her English background to use right away. She began a job as an animal trainer out of college and then moved on to become a marketing writer. Her latest role is now stay-at-home mom to her infant daughter, Mellie Christine. Married for almost 3 years to her pilot-husband, Sharon has lost 3 babies to miscarriage and is currently pregnant with a brother or sister for Mellie. A Lord of the Rings fan, Sharon once tried to learn Elvish, and dreams of visiting New Zealand where the movies were filmed. She also loves musicals, particularly Phantom of the Opera. Over the course of her life, Sharon has struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and promiscuity before coming to Jesus at the age of 23. Because she still struggles with many of these things, Sharon believes that the worst thing she can do as a Christian woman is pretend like these issues do not exist. Because she has been the recipient of judgment and criticism from other Christians for battling these demons, Sharon is passionate about letting other Christian women know it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s only when we admit we are not okay that we can begin to fully rely on God’s grace. Sharon firmly believes that we defeat the lies of the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).

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Overcoming Anxiety With One Simple Question

overcoming anxiety

At the beginning of the summer, we put our house on the market.

To get the house ready, we painted, scraped, re-grouted, and deep-cleaned. I was a little tense and snappy with my family during those weeks as I struggled to work on the house and care for my small children at the same time. I felt a little stressed at a few intervals; however, we finished the work to the best of our ability and got the house listed.

After that, I felt some of that tension go away. Of course, the pressure didn’t completely subside. My perfectionistic tendencies were tough to keep at bay as I worked to keep the house looking picture-perfect for the stream of would-be buyers coming through.

About two months into our house listing, we got the promise of an offer. Not only did we get news of one offer coming in, we found out shortly after that that we had a second more generous offer coming in. We were ecstatic. However, our feelings of elation soon tanked after the potential buyers retracted their offer after the inspection and our other interested buyer decided that he no longer wanted the house.

In the week following the broken contract, I started having difficulty sleeping at night. My heart was racing uncontrollably during the day, and I was struggling to control my runaway thoughts. Recognizing the symptoms that had plagued me at other key points of my life, I knew I was suffering from an anxiety attack.

I tried prayer. Quiet time meditating on Scripture. Calming thoughts. But the anxiety just seemed to worsen.

A History of Anxiety

Because I’ve experienced anxiety at other intervals of my life, I know anxiety tends to hit when I am faced with one of the following scenarios: I’m in a season of new when I am faced with a lot of change; I am given a task that I don’t feel adequate to meet; or I sense that someone else doesn’t like me and I perceive (rightly or wrongly) purposeful rejection.

What I learned a long time ago about my anxiety is that it is caused by fear. I generally get anxious when I feel ill-prepared, inadequate or unworthy. These feelings tap into my biggest fears as a person. Therefore, getting a handle on my anxiety in the past has meant being able to identify the underlying fear I am experiencing and asking Jesus to help me with that fear.

For instance, the first anxiety episode I can recall occurred in my college days. My anxiety affected not only my emotional well-being but my physical well-being. I was rail thin. I had digestive problems that had never been diagnosed, but I believe would have been diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. I felt jumpy and nervous all the time — and, if you have ever had IBS, you know that it makes your stomach emit weird grumbling sounds at extremely inopportune times. I found this problem could be helped with exercise, but it still made it very awkward for me to sit in quiet lecture halls and classrooms.

In one pivotal spiritual moment one day at church, God told me why I was having the problems with anxiety that I was: I had a fear of failure. When I got this revelation, I knew at the core of me that I was really afraid that I wouldn’t pass my college courses. I didn’t think I was smart enough. I had a high grade point average, but that wasn’t enough to convince me that I wasn’t going to miserably fail at some point.

And I realized something else: I could trust Jesus with my college courses. I could stop worrying about failure and just do my best. And for whatever reason just knowing what fear I was dealing with and the cause of my anxiety in that scenario helped it go away. Once I addressed the anxiety, the digestive problems went away as well.

Anxiety cropped up in small ways again when I moved on into a career in teaching, but I could usually identify the fear behind my emotions and get calm again. And when I later left teaching and had a major episode of anxiety that included a panic attack on a stage — the answer explaining that became fairly clear right after the fact.

However, this particular time, in the case of my house sale, I didn’t know why I was anxious. I didn’t know why I couldn’t sleep and why it felt like I was running a marathon each day even though I wasn’t even jogging.

The Solution to My Problem

And, just like I have so many times before, because I didn’t know how to make the anxiety stop in this case, I took my question to Jesus, and I asked Him: “God, what am I afraid of?” (Oh, and by the way, Lord, can you make my anxiety stop?)

I didn’t get an answer after that prayer session or even the day after. In fact, a few days went by and then I did receive an answer in a way that I wasn’t really expecting.

My mom had been in frequent communication with me about the house since we had put it on the market. When we lost our buyers, and I told her I was having a tough time, she sent me a text a few days later with a Bible verse she had received from the Lord for me:

For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Habbakuk 2:3 –KJV)

After she sent me the verse, I had to meditate on those words. I even went so far as to read some commentary on the verse to help me shed light on its meaning for my circumstance. And it wasn’t until a few days later that what had been an extremely fuzzy situation began to clarify, and I realized something: I did have an underlying fear, and here’s what it was: I was afraid that what God had told me about moving wasn’t going to come true.

And if it didn’t come true, that was very bad for me because I had announced to everyone that this move was God-orchestrated. I had written an entire blog post about how God had directed this move as a deliverance for me out of my situation.

You see, if you look at the Habbakuk verse in context, the verse is written by the prophet Habbakuk for the nation of Israel to trust that God would bring down the powerful Chaldeans and not allow them to destroy Israel. He instructed them not to give up just because it hadn’t happened yet and to wait for God’s appointed time (Matthew Henry Commentary). And not only that, the words indicate a waiting not only for deliverance but God’s counsel, God’s direction.

I was feeling a little like the nation of Israel. I had been given a word of what was to come, but the circumstances with my house not selling speedily were making me doubt that it was going to happen.

Over and over, the phrase from the Habakkuk verse “though it tarry, wait for it” just became one that I began repeating over and over because the truth was, I hadn’t heard a single thing from God since the botched offers. I was worrying that maybe I had missed something. Maybe there was something I hadn’t done right. Worry just consumed me.

This simple phrase from Scripture helped me to stop and reassure myself that God had told us to move. He would have to worry about our house selling and every other detail. And for that moment — I wasn’t to worry or to fear — only wait.

Getting Rid of Anxiety With One Question

Everyone is different. Not everyone suffers anxiety for the same reasons as me. I get that. It may seem a little silly to have a “formula” of sorts for beating anxiety. But I believe that anxiety will be a problem for certain people like me again and again. We may get through one bout but another will come. And, although every time is unique, this situation with my house reminded me of what I had done at other key points when I was experiencing anxiety — the solution I had turned to again this time.

The moment I feel anxiety coming on, I need to do the following: Ask one question of one Person.

The question I need to ask is “What am I afraid of?” and the Person I need to ask it of is Jesus. You see, I couldn’t detect the reason for my anxiety in this most current instance just by asking the question alone. I am not saying that we can’t ever identify our fears or seek help from another wise person or counselor, but for me, I needed to just ask the question of the One who already knew.

I didn’t know initially because I didn’t ask God right away. I was asking the question, but I didn’t ask Him the question until a few days went by. I tried to figure it out by myself.

One passage of Scripture that has taken on new meaning for me this year is the Samaritan woman at the well passage. She said of her encounter with Jesus: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (John 4:29).

I believe that not only did Jesus look into her soul and know her deeds without anyone telling him, I believe that He told her the why. That is why she got so excited. He gave Himself as her solution to her deepest soul problems.

The same is true for me and you. Christianity isn’t a dead, has-been religion with a god made by human hands. The Jesus of the Bible is as real and true today as He was for the Samaritan woman at the well. He is the only One who can look into me and see why I do the things I do.

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And that why may be the key to overcoming problems in my life I don’t know how to deal with on my own.

Yes, even those making sleep leave my eyes and a tremble invade my heart.

Do you struggle with anxiety? What are some ways that you have been able to cope with fear in your life? Share in the comments below.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How Past Wounds Turned Me Into a Fearful Control Freak

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I sit in the dim room with other women. As the video starts for the new Bible study, panic rises inside me like fast-moving mercury in a barometer on a hot July day. The speaker, Ann Voskamp, tells about the death of her sister. As she describes the delivery truck pulling up the drive, the screams of her mother, I grow uncomfortable. Tears surface, a softball-size lump forms in my throat. I rehearse in my mind, “Do not cry. Do not cry. Do not cry.”

I try to think of something funny. Like one of my daughter’s jokes that has no punchline. And it’s hilarious because she thinks it is. And she laughs like it is possibly the world’s best joke. When actually it may be the world’s worst one. Thinking about this helps me remain calm, though I am hysterical on the inside.

Why am I having such a hard time listening to Voskamp’s story? Why does it upset me so much that I want to leave the room?

It is not until a few months later that I realize why I had the reaction I did to Voskamp’s story. I reacted the way I did because I have control issues. I have been there in her story — crushed beneath delivery truck moments I didn’t see coming. And because of those occasions, I have had problems with trust and problems in relationships.

How I Became a Control Freak

I didn’t always have the need to anticipate things, the fear of the unexpected to the extent that I would try to micromanage my circumstances. But out of my childhood was birthed the need to be able to have a say, to be able to have some decision over the outcome.

I didn’t get to pick the fact that I lived in a house that I was ashamed of. I didn’t get to choose the fact that I didn’t have any clothes to wear in high school. I didn’t get to have a say when my father came home angry and yelled at us. Which happened a lot. I wasn’t asked when a person in a significant relationship chose to break up with me and leave me outside his house with nothing but a letter. So, I made the decision as a young woman to never let anyone hurt me again. (As if I could realistically manipulate every element in my environment.)

That choice probably didn’t appear pivotal, but it was. Because of that resolution, I put myself in the unrealistic position as one who can control what happens to me. And I really can’t. I can’t anticipate the actions of others and manipulate the people around me so that I can avoid feeling a certain way. But that’s what I’ve tried to do.

And although my struggles stemmed mainly from failed male relationships — my father who ignored me and the boyfriends who left me — this pain translated into destructive tendencies in all my relationships, particularly friendships with women. I asked God why this was, and He told me: I’ve been chasing after power. Because if you’ve ever felt voiceless, then you know that you never want to feel that way again.

When I Let Fear Turn Me into a Mean Girl

Underneath that need to control has been something larger: fear. When I find myself in situations where I don’t like how events are turning out, I get afraid. Afraid of getting hurt. And it’s in that place of fear that I act in ways I shouldn’t.

I circumvent circumstances or hurt people before they can hurt me.

Some time ago, after losing a baby, I felt like I had sufficiently healed from the wound. I felt that I was at peace with what had happened. There was another woman I knew who was pregnant at the same time as me. A woman whose belly kept expanding even as mine was shrinking. A woman who got to go through all the milestones that I would never get to go through with the baby I lost.

I was really struggling with the fact that we had gotten pregnant around the same time. I was angry that God would bless her and allow her to continue on with her pregnancy — and not me. But I knew I needed to do the right thing, so I called her up and told her that I was happy for her, and I wished her well with her pregnancy.

But weeks later, when we attended an event together, I struggled knowing she would be there — reminding me of a loss I didn’t want to be reminded of. Knowing that she would be looking very pregnant, I dressed in a form-fitting dress. If I couldn’t be pregnant, I wanted to out-do her in some way, knowing that she would be weary of her swollen ankles and protruding stomach.

After the event, I knew I had acted in the wrong way. I felt like God wanted me to admit to her that I was having a hard time with the fact that she had her baby, and I couldn’t have mine. So I apologized to her.

Flaunting my skinny body in front of her was about trying to get the upper hand in a situation where I felt helpless. My problem really wasn’t with her. It was about fighting with everything I had against the perceived injustice of a situation.

You see, that “harmless” vow I made as a young person to never allow a person to hurt me made me feel I had to manipulate that situation.

Giving up Fear and My Need to Control

Jesus knew a few women in His time who had difficulties with relationships. A few women who probably felt like me — that life handed them circumstances they didn’t ask for.

In John 4:4, Jesus initiates a conversation with one such woman at a well. She had had five marriages and was living with a man she wasn’t married to, though we aren’t told whether her previous marriages ended because she had committed adultery or her husbands sent her away. Whatever the case, she had no husband when Jesus found her. Maybe she had decided that she had had enough of marriage and had decided to live outside the boundaries of matrimony to preserve her heart.

Maybe like me, she felt that if she could just control x, y and z, she could prevent another heartbreak. Another catastrophe.

Jesus does two really important things when He talks to her. He tells her that He knows all about her past string of husbands and the man she is living with now — establishing Himself as the one who knows her secrets. And then, He gives her a solution when He brings up a conversation with her about “living water” (v. 10).

The solution He offers the woman at the well and offers to you and me is Himself. The ultimate power source. She doesn’t have to hope for a better situation or figure out how to make that happen, Jesus shows a better way — which is not to try to change those around her, but be changed herself. To allow His eternal wellspring of life to live in her.

When we recognize Him as the one in control, we don’t have to be in control. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves “drawing water” from our own wells that will eventually run dry. We have in Him a never ending source of contentment, peace, satisfaction and belonging that fills all those places of neediness where we were never loved or noticed by the people we counted on the most.

The woman at the well drops her water jar and runs to tell the village about Jesus, saying, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” (v. 29). By leaving her jar behind, we see that she is leaving behind her old methods of satisfying her thirst and embracing Jesus.

As commentator Alexander McLaren notes, the interesting thing about this exchange between Jesus and the woman is that she has no idea who He really is at first, and the truth gradually dawns on her. So it is when we walk with Jesus. We don’t really understand Him or His ways until we get to know Him better.

Not only does the truth of who He is dawn on her, the truth about herself dawns on her as well.

My need to control has not really been a problem with control — it’s been about a problem with trust. I didn’t know that I could trust God in my situation with the pregnant woman. Even though it would appear that I was acting out against her, I was shaking my fist at a God who I felt didn’t notice or care.

But I don’t have to be Carol control freak. Carol walking around with past wounds. He says, “Come to me. I have all you have been looking for. You will find it nowhere else but in me. And your desire for stability, knowing what outcomes in situations will be — I know it all. I can help you better than anyone because I know the end before you know the beginning.”

Those delivery truck moments — we can’t avoid them. They will come. We can’t waste time worrying and trying to avoid pain. We need to rest in the knowledge that Jesus will walk us through those trials.

What I can learn from Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well is that instead of controlling out of fear, I can trust.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Not Being Brave

Danee DeKonty

True confession time: I’m not brave. At least I don’t feel like it a lot of the time. That may shock some people who know bits and pieces of my story because I am someone who will pack up my life in a couple suitcases, sell my car, and move halfway around the world without much thought. But staying put is something you have to force yourself to do. Because when you stay put, people learn how to read you over time. When you stay put, you risk hurting people who you actually care about, or worse — disappointing them. When you stay put, you either live behind a protective wall with a safe, boring life or choose vulnerability and risk the pain but live a grand adventure.

I’m also the person who quit my job with benefits when I felt God was telling me it was time to go. It wasn’t scary. It was actually easy. I knew He’d bring another job — or more correctly, I knew I could get another job. I’m hard working and have loads of common sense. What I lack in skills, I can usually make up for in creativity and determination. But when God asked me not to look for a job, but to trust Him to show me one when it was time, that was hard. Common sense says I can work way more than the part-time I’m doing.

Faith for me says writing and finishing my dream is the right work for me, right here and right now.

Yes, to many people who know me but don’t know the secret places of my heart, I am brave. But to those who see me, I mean really see me, they know I am just wired differently. The things that scare other people don’t even cause me to sweat, but the things that terrify me are no-brainers for most of the people in my life.

Do it Afraid.

I heard that years ago when I was watching Joyce Meyer, and it stuck with me.

I may fail…

I may not be good enough…

I may not be enough…

I may miss God… again…

What is it that terrifies you? Is it quitting your job? Is it asking someone out? Is it going back to school? Is it downsizing your car to get something less fabulous so you won’t have payments? Is it stepping out to what God has told you? Is it stepping back to wait for God to show you the next step? Is it joining a small group? Is it leading a small group? Is it staying in your small group?

What scares you? What do you want to give up on?

To be honest, most, if not all of my fears boil down to not wanting to miss God. Did I really hear from Him?

When I was younger in my faith, God honored where I was at and filled my life with miraculous confirmations: the stranger in a store speaking comfort to me, the sermon that said what I needed to hear, friends sharing encouragement when they didn’t even know I was struggling. There were also the times of prayer where it felt like acquaintances had read my journal because their words spoke so deeply to my soul.

Then over time those became less of a necessity because I fell in love with the Bible. I didn’t need writing on the wall because I knew what the wise choice was. I still had wise counsel speaking into my life, but I had learned how to discern the voice of God. Something, by the way, no one can really teach you. From my experience, it comes over time from reading His Word, praying, listening, and just chatting with Him through the day.

Then He asks you to do something that scares you, and you’re so close to the finish line, but still it feels impossible. That’s when I start to ask for the confirmation. I now want the writing on the wall.

Did I really hear from You? Is this REALLY where You’re leading me? And in His grace, God confirms through someone giving you encouragement about your talent and using you in the way you know you were made for, and you again know deep in your knower that you have heard from God.

And that lasts for a bit before fear creeps in again.

And it’s in times like this that I look to what Paul said about maturity and realize that stepping out in faith is part of the process, and that means there are no guarantees. My job is to sit with Him, to be reminded of His love and His leading, and then go in His strength.

When fear gets to be too much, I have found that I’ve often forgotten to lean on Him and am trying to do it in my own strength. When fear throws its best at me, instead of white-knuckling my way through it, I sit with The One Who Loves Me Most and am reminded that He kicks fear in the butt every time.

When I know He is the One leading me, I can do it afraid because even if it doesn’t turn out the way I’m hoping it will, when God leads me in something, it is the best of all options.

Related Bible Verses:

Daniel 5:5 (NLT): “Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, and his face turned pale with fright.”

1 Cor. 13:11 (NLT): “When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Romans 8:28 (NLT): “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”

Interested in reading more of Danee’s thoughts about her faith? Get more of her spiritual musings by stopping by her blog. Post adapted from original version published January 16.

 

 

 

Danee DeKonty

Danee DeKonty

Danee DeKonty currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the years she has been able to travel and live in Eastern Europe, attend Bible school in Barbados and travel to several other countries. She is currently a nanny and is in the process of writing her first book "Scorpions, Scones and Solo Cups." Danee gets her fashion sense from Rosie the Riveter and Lucille Ball. She likes spending time outdoors -- taking random drives in her favorite possession, a beat-up, old jeep. Danee grew up in the church and is passionate about helping other people discover their worth and value in God.

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