It has been a little over a month since my last post and there have been a number of topics I have contemplated writing on but just did not follow through with it. However, for the topic I am going to write about today, it has been a constant in my mind recently and God is definitely helping me work through this each and every day. That topic is fear.
I do not really know where to begin so I am going to attempt to type my way through the beginning and hope that it flows well into what I really want to touch on. From the time I was young, there have been fears that have haunted me and sometimes ruled my life, or even kept me from truly living the life God laid out for me. Fears such as falling to my death, being in an airplane and it crashing, being made fun of/picked on, etc. When I was in high school, I wanted to be accepted and popular so I did anything I could to fit in and be accepted. This in turn caused me to make choices that did not fit with who I was as a follower of Christ. I believed that I would eventually grow out of those fears and move on with life as it seemed most adults did, and in a way I did.
However, for many of you reading this, you know part of what I said so far is true in that you are able to “outgrow” some of your fears. But on the other hand, other fears come into our lives or some just take on a different form as you age. Fears grow with you. Right now I deal with different fears (and some similar) than I did when I was younger. I no longer deal so much with the same fears as when I was younger but other fears have grown in their place. A few I deal with now are failing as a husband or father or youth pastor, losing my wife or daughter, dying and not leaving enough to take care of my family after I pass are a few examples. The fear that comes to mind most frequently is that of losing my wife or daughter or something happening to them where I am helpless to save them. I seem to constantly be fighting this fear and pray God will protect them when I am not around. One of my current jobs is a part time dockworker at Fed Ex Freight where I work on a forklift unloading and loading freight onto trailers. Since I can do most of the work without really needing to use my mind, I have started listening to podcasts throughout the morning. This has served to challenge me in my walk with the Lord and I am glad I have this opportunity to be taught by people around the country. It is also one of the reasons I am so thankful for the job. But anyways, one of the podcasts I listened to Thursday was one by Britt Merrick, a pastor at Reality, a church in Santa Barbara, California. I cannot remember how I came across Britt but I am very thankful that I did. If you have some time, look up the blog prayfordaisy.com; it is the story of his daughter, Daisy, who has been battling cancer for a number of years now. At only 8 years old, she is in her 4th bout with cancer. The story saddens me, especially now that I am a father, and brings tears to my eyes. It causes me to think how I would respond if my daughter were to be in this position and how I would handle it.
The podcast I listened to was titled “When Sparrows Fall” and was his first time speaking at Reality for a while due to his family being away for a period of time as they tried different procedures and treatments, even going to Israel for a treatment and to spend some time as family, in hopes their daughter would be healed. Let me just say there were a number of times on my forklift while listening where I was fighting back tears but I could not help being moved. If you are reading this post, I encourage you to look up the podcast and listen to it. Britt speaks from his heart and shares his own fears through this whole ordeal. He speaks honestly and how he went through a period where it seemed God had completely left him to deal with his daughter’s fight for life alone. He says that when they went to Israel, he was out for a run and was trying to speak to God but it just seemed God was nowhere to be found and it left Britt completely depressed. I love the fact that Britt, a pastor, shares how he battled depression through this because I feel that so often, pastors are put on pedestals where it seems they never have any true struggles and hardships or have to deal with parts of life like everyone else does. This period of silence seems to go on for a while and it comes to the point where his wife basically tells him that he needs to snap out of it or his wife is going to lose it because she cannot be strong enough for them both. This is what eventually helps lead him out of the depression and to a breakthrough in his walk with the Lord where God is able to reveal more about Himself to Britt in a way that would not have been as powerful had he not gone through this time. I do not want to give away anymore of the podcast but I want to share what God really used to speak to me. Britt and his wife had just been told some unnerving news and they were just stunned when one of the ladies from their church sent his wife a text explaining that she didn’t know why but just felt that she needed to share a verse with them, Isaiah 41:10. This verse says:
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
This verse did not suddenly change their circumstances but it served as a powerful reminder and personal message that God is there. He is going to be the one to help them through this. God is going to give them the strength to make it through this ordeal. Apart from God, they did not have the strength to face another day, but with God, they could face it with His strength and with His power knowing that He was not distant. They were also reminded of Psalm 34:18 which says “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Those two verses were refreshing for Britt and his wife and gave them reason to keep pushing, to keep going and not give up.
Now how does this apply to me and my fears? If we dwell on our fears too much, they become paralyzing and take control of our lives. Fears can keep us from truly living and giving everything we have. Fears keep us from taking risks for God. Fears cause us to in some ways question God’s goodness, even when nothing bad is happening to us. Fear in essence causes us to worry. That is what many of my fears were doing to me. They were not drawing me into a more intimate relationship with God, they were causing me to not trust God fully with every part of my life. Many times, I fight fears in my life because of where I am in my life right now and where God has my wife and I. I have two jobs but cannot afford for my wife and I to have a house or apartment to ourselves and we have to live with her family. Now do not get me wrong, it is a huge blessing to be able to do this and in other cultures around the world, this is a normal thing. But here in America, it is not the norm and many times it causes me to doubt whether I am truly where God wants me. It basically causes me to fear. That fear causes me to worry and worry causes me to not trust God fully which is a hard place to be because then we try to take things into our own hands. This fear causes me to look at friends who appear to have so much more and wonder why God has us in this place. Why is God not blessing me like He is blessing others? Why can I not find a job that will provide for my wife and I to be able to have a home to ourselves? Why? Why? Why…
Honestly, I do not have the full answer right now. I do not know why God is having Marcie and I go through this period in our lives. I know and believe that in the future, when I look back, I will be able to see this situation from a different perspective and understand more of what God was doing and it might even make sense. How do I know this? Because I can do it right now by looking back at my life and seeing how God has already worked and brought me to where I am. I have to remember that God is with me. God is the one who will strengthen me in every area of my life when I need it. Going back to fear, if we dwell on our fears and let them rule our hearts and minds, we will be left depressed, discouraged, worried and so much more. We will basically be left with the life sucked right out of us. If fear rules our lives, we will never want to step out in faith. We will never want to take a step that might put our family or ourselves in a place of risk.
Is that the life God calls us to? Is that the life of true faith? Fear flies right in the face of faith. Faith is defined as complete trust or confidence in someone or something. If we have faith in God, then where is room for fear? For me, fear causes me to doubt the Bible and God when He says He has our best interest in mind. It causes me to think that God might not want what is best for me. If I was facing what Britt and his family was facing, how would that be for my good? I do not know. All I do know is that God has promised to be with me no matter what I face. He will not leave me or my family alone. He will help strengthen us just as He is helping Britt through this period of his life and struggle they are facing. If something were to happen to my wife or daughter, what would I do? Well, I would weep. I would mourn. I would try to face the days following and constantly remember the good times we shared. It would be extremely difficult. But what would really keep me going more than anything is that God has promised He would be with me. If something were to happen to me and my wife and daughter were still here, He has promised to be with them as well and He would help them through that time. And through all of that, we would come to know God in a deeper, more satisfying and intimate way which we would have never known before.
I hope that everyone who has read this far is not feeling sad of discouraged or even fearful because of what I have written. That was definitely far from being my intention. However, I did want to face write about fear and how God has challenged me through some of my fears and brought me to know Him more.
What is my response now that God has spoken to me in this way? Well that is a simple question to answer: to LIVE!!! To not allow fear to rule my life and paralyze me and keep me from experiencing life but to embrace it with all that it is, the ups and the downs. To live each day to the fullest and to live to bring God glory because He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. He has promised to strengthen me through any and every situation I face.
Matthew 6:33 says that we should be seeking God first and foremost with our lives and He will give us everything we need and then verse 34 says not to worry about tomorrow. Why do I think that verse is right after a verse about seeking God? Because it is a direct response to fear in our lives. When we seek God and His Kingdom and His righteousness first with our lives, He helps us see that He will provide for us everything we need for our lives. He will help us through each day. So if He is going to help us face today, why would He leave us tomorrow? Why do we need to worry about tomorrow? We don’t. We just need to live today. How do we face our fears? How do we gain victory to where our fears do not control us? By seeking God first and foremost in our lives because then we will know Him enough to know that He will not leave us to face our fears alone. What else helps me face today in spite of my fears? The Gospel. The good news that this life is not all there is and that God made the way for us to be in a relationship with Him and that because of what He did through the cross, we will be with Him for eternity.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I pray that it has encouraged you and challenged you in some way. Feel free to leave a comment as well. May God bless you today and make Himself known to you in a way that is specific to your circumstance and situation.