I’m not proud of it, but there is no way I can begin to write a post with this title and not come clean. So here it is, front and center: fear, in many ways, has always been my friend. At least you’d think it was my friend the way I’ve doggedly clung to it in the past.
This phenomenon was especially true during my childhood. A particularly fearful child, I was the girl with the orange bubble strapped to her back, clinging to the side of the pool for the entire Fourth of July party, simply too scared to let go. And those common, everyday scrapes? Forget it! I was running to my mom for assurances that I was up-to-date on my tetanus shot and that my wound was properly cleaned (at least three times) with hydrogen peroxide. Or that sudden pain in my belly? Though likely a gas bubble, I would lie awake in bed, monitoring my stomach for more disobedient bubbles, anticipating an operating room visit by midnight, my appendix ripped from my body by morning.
My fears led to many stresses as I grew—often changing to worries over my future instead of fears of death. In high school, I suffered a grand mal seizure, a direct result of fear and anxiety and the intense pressure I put on myself. After this, I began to recognize God’s Spirit calling me to Himself. It was a long journey, but I couldn’t deny the inner peace He started to give me as—in baby steps—I began to trust Him.
I still can’t pretend I do this perfectly. Because the fact of the matter is that, living in Jesus’ Kingdom while still very much living in a fallen world, we will be tripped up with anxiety now and again. For those times, let’s put our focus on the truths we know. Here are five that help me, and that I continue to explore through the journeys of the characters in my novels:
1. Jesus has already won the ultimate victory.
We must preach this truth to ourselves. For if we belong to Christ, we might know in our heads that freedom was won for us in a sealed grave more than two thousand years ago, but we often have spiritual amnesia in regard to this fact. We don’t claim that freedom—that amazing revolutionary message that Christ died and then defeated death for us—and we don’t remind ourselves, or each other, of it often enough. Instead, we fight a war that is already won. We struggle to believe God loves us, we struggle to believe that our tiny mustard seed of faith is enough for Him to do a marvelous work in us. But it is!
2. God has our good in mind no matter what. He truly does care about us.
When we worry, we are basically saying to God, “I trust you, but . . . I don’t know . . . are you really trustworthy?”
Now don’t think God’s going to go crying in a corner because you’ve let Him down. No, He doesn’t need our trust—He’s God. But He knows we need to trust Him, and because He loves us, He commands us to do so. Then He gives us this beautiful promise:
“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, NIV).
3. God knows our tendency to be afraid, and He meets it in His Word over and over again.
Next time you catch yourself worrying about where the mortgage payment’s going to come from, how your kids are ever going to grow up to be functioning human beings, or why the growth of your church has become stagnant, don’t beat yourself up about all your anxiety. Instead, confess it as sin and then remember that Jesus has already met your fears with His love.
Our Savior loves making promises to those who don’t feel especially strong—the weak, the broken, the deserted and deceived, the betrayed and left out, the depressed . . . the fearful. And guess what? He promises to make it all better with the coming of His new Kingdom. It’s these very unfortunates to whom the gospel is promised. In fact, without realizing our brokenness, we can’t realize the enormity of God’s grace.
In this same way, God calls you and He calls me from the insufficiency of our striving. Of working hard to prove ourselves and make ourselves strong or less fearful or [you fill in the blank]. Instead, He says that His Spirit “helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26). We can be strong and courageous through Him.
4. He has a plan and a purpose.
Too many times I have agonized over how things weren’t going a certain way (ahem, my way). Why did that family member make such a terribly poor decision? Why did that coworker say such a hurtful thing? Why must I turn on the news and see countries and individuals bent on hurting one another?
Even when we can’t see how in the world He’s going to work it all out for our good and His glory, His promises are true, though we can’t always understand them. And they remain. Here’s a sample:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
5. God’s faithfulness is based on the firm character of who He is, not our ever-changing obedience.
The God of the Bible is completely sovereign. He is infinite in wisdom and perfect in love; therefore we can trust Him with every circumstance. He will allow nothing to spoil the good He is working out in us and for us, for His glory. We may not understand everything He does, but know this: God didn’t knit you together in your mother’s womb and make you fearfully and wonderfully just to brush his hands of you and walk away. He sustains what He creates.
I think as Americans we often get sucked into this warped, unbiblical view of happiness. We tend to look for God’s love in little tokens of pleasure. We might think, “I had a good day, so God must love me. My kids are behaving, my marriage is decent, green lights are coming, God must love me.” But that’s a health-and-wealth gospel, not the gospel Jesus died for. How can I know God loves me? By His Word, by His death and resurrection, and by His faithful and persistent work to conform me to look more and more like Him.
As we ground ourselves in these truths, we can truly start giving ourselves over to all He has for us—without clinging in fear to what we’re afraid to lose.
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