I used to really like watching horror movies. I hate to admit that out loud, but it’s the truth. It was never to see the blood or gore or anything like that, I liked it for the suspense and the fear. Instead of sitting there dreading the moment that the bad guy would jump out, I was eager for it. I liked the adrenalin rush that fear would bring.
Over the years I began to lose interest in those movies. Some of it was because the filmmakers were adding so much blood to the movies. It got to the point that it was just ridiculous and in a way, comical. The real reason that I stopped was that it got to be predictable. I knew who the bad guy was, who was next, when it would happen, and often the bad pun that would come with the death of the unsuspecting victim. It just got boring. No fear = No fun.
I believe God gave me the gift of an analytical mind. It comes in handy most of the time. I look at a problem and see the options, the possibilities, and somehow I can usually put together the outcome. As a result, I have really come to depend on that ability as I go through the “routine” of life. Problem comes up, weigh options, formulate and apply solution, move on. Most of the time it works. My life has a lot of routine, so the formula works for me. Even when things are crazy, the things I face are part of a period of routine craziness.
Sometimes though, things break from the routine. The thing that does that the most is the future. It is unpredictable. Too many variables when you start looking out more than a few weeks. Too much could happen. Too many people might be involved. Too much of it ends up out of my control or my sight. Then it happens. The fear sets in.
What I used to seek out and enjoy now unsettles me. It steals my sleep, clouds my mind, and isolates me from others. It takes up my time in thinking, planning, protecting, strategizing, and evaluating. I will look at what I want, what I need, what I can do, what I need others to do, what the effect could be for myself and others, who I will anger, who I will hurt, who I will disappoint. I see so many possibilities for good and for things to go wrong, and I feel terrified.
There are things I am working on in my career right now that are full of variables. There are choices that we are looking at regarding where we might live in the future. There are decisions to be made on our finances that are the result of past mistakes. Then there is the thing that really unsettled me. I am the leader of my home. I have a wife and two teens that I am responsible for, and those kids are getting uncomfortably close to getting ready to fly. Are they ready? Did I do enough? Have I hurt them?
These are things that are much more terrifying than a crazed, knife-wielding maniac. This stuff is important! These things matter in ways that affect future generations and kingdom work as well. They cannot be ignored, but they also can’t just be figured out.
So, there I am. Walking down the gravel road in the middle of the moonlit night. I’m looking around. I’m checking for escape routes. I’m taking inventory. What have I got? What is at my disposal? In a word, what I have to bring to the table is nothing.
Paralysis starts to set in, the sweats take over, and I get that clench in the gut that just makes me feel sick. I think that if someone were to look at me at that moment they would see that same wild-eyed look that a horse gets when it has been spooked. Then I hear the words in my heart:
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13
God brings this verse to my mind now whenever I feel that fear. Fear is the first step to despair when it comes to a lot of the matters I am talking about here. It is fear unchecked that takes us to the place that we enter into despair. We can’t see a way out in spite of all of our plans and we feel that we flounder in this place until we lose hope.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
Here is the hard part – trusting God. The struggle with faith in the face of an overwhelming feeling of fear. God tells is that He will lead us, but it takes trusting Him. It takes saying to Him, “I’m scared! I don’t know what is going to happen with the finances! I’m not sure if I am doing a good job as a husband or as a Dad! I’m scared about the lack of momentum I am seeing in those who are in charge of parts of my career! God! Where is this going? Please, I’m asking You to show me! I need to know that You are there and that You care!”
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10
God wants good things for me. I know He does. He tells me over and over again that He cares for me and that He will meet my needs. He sent His Son for me and anyone else to receive the gift of salvation. God is a loving Father who wants to give His children the things they ask for, to see us blessed so we can tell others about how great He is. He just wants our focus to be on Him. That is where I fail – where many of us fail. We see inside and horizontally, but we are not looking up to God the way we should. It’s hard. I want what I know about, the things I see. I fear the things that are crowding around me, the unknown, and the unreachable dreams.
“Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You.” – Psalm 38:9
“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4
And there it is. The thing I want to do, but the thing I struggle so much with. My desires are known to God. He hears my sighs and my frustrated cries. He knows every thought in my head even better than I do.
He wants me to put Him ahead of it all.
He wants me to be fulfilled in Him. He wants me to want nothing but Him. He wants me to be so close to Him that the things around me that bring me the fears and the frustrations fall so far away in comparison that they cannot touch my spirit with their power. There is the place that I will find the desires of my heart – as mine grows closer to His. It is there that I will see His hand at work in the things that have brought me fear as He works them out for His glory. It is there that I may see my desires change to bring Him glory. It is there that I may see Him bless me so I can give Him glory.
Then, after I think about all of these things, I feel the fear recede. I wish I could say it goes away. Some people might look at me sometimes and think it has, but I can assure you it hasn’t. It just lessens as I learn to trust Him more. It is a process, and it must be done on purpose, for a purpose.
The purpose is to believe the goodness of the Lord will be seen!
I hope sharing this little insight into my struggles with fear and despair will help someone else. If it has, I would love to hear from you.
In His Grip,