There is no doubt we are living in perilous times. The world financial markets are a mess, the elections of 2012 are on the immediate horizon, catastrophic storms overtake us, civil unrest looms, and the list goes on and on. Below is one of the first posts I wrote for this blog about my own struggles with fear. God has brought me a long way, but I continue to battle with fear on a daily basis, as do most others I know. We fight fear because we do not know our God. We do not trust Him to meet our needs, protect us, guide us, or help us deal with the results of our bad decisions. As you read “Fear Factor,” rejoice with me in what God has done in my life over the past two years. For those who also struggle with crippling fear, know this: our God is well able to keep us from harm when we place our trust and faith in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. Scripture is replete with example after example of His grace and His mercy.
No matter what you are facing today, encourage yourself in the Lord and praise Him for His goodness. When we turn to Him in our distress with a repentant heart, He is well able to safeguard us when the rest of the world is falling apart.
There is certainly no shortage of things in this world to be afraid of and, if by some chance you run out, there are those that will readily manufacture more for you. Fear is obviously the antithesis of faith and should have no part in a Christian’s life and yet most of us struggle with elements of it daily. I particularly struggled with fear after the first post for this blog. It reminded me of walking down the steps of the church after my wedding and thinking: “What have I done?” Somehow I had hoped no one would find out or actually read that post– wanting to be obedient to God without it costing too much. Unfortunately, my daughter placed the link on her Facebook page, telling everyone to take a look at it, while my husband told a friend of ours, who did the same. When I told my daughter about how panicked I felt after that first post, she laughed at me and said: ”Silly Mom, what good is writing a blog if no one is going to read it?” She is right, of course, but I felt incredibly exposed and vulnerable. My first instinct has always been to run and hide, and this time was no different–like the skittish cat who hides under the bed, thinking no one can see him, but whose tail is prominently sticking out, letting everyone know exactly where he is. I have tremendous respect for those who God has called to the creative arts and who continually overcome fear by taking the risk to show what is in their hearts; writing their stories on the stage, the page, or on canvas.
Fear is a merciless dictator. It leads us to places we don’t want to go and drives us to make decisions we later regret. Letting fear rule our lives is in direct opposition to what God has commanded us to do: “Fear not.” When we chose to fear, we are living out the belief that God is not able, not willing, or not loving enough to take care of us; that His will and provision won’t be enough. Faith is an active process, one that requires an effort on our part. Fear comes naturally–a direct result of the sin we were born into: faith leads to life, fear leads to death. It is our responsibility to choose which one will determine the outcome of the decisions we make each day.
Unfortunately, I learned how to be fearful at an early age. I have clear memories during the second grade of standing in a large gymnasium for my first ballet class. I had begged my mother for quite some time for the chance to take ballet classes and she had finally capitulated. On that first day of class, I found myself in this cavernous room with about ten other girls feeling totally intimidated and lost. I lasted for two classes before I told my mother that I didn’t want to go any more. She probably thought it was because I was no longer interested, but the real reason was because I was too afraid to be out in front of others doing something that made me feel so totally inadequate.
Learning to drive was the source of another one of my greatest fears. Although a relatively competent driver, I didn’t begin as a confident one. I can still remember watching a movie in driver’s education class in high school that showed, in graphic detail, car accidents which illustrated the horrific results of bad driving judgement. During a recent conversation with my father (in which we were discussing the challenges parents face as they help their children grow into adulthood), he told me how nervous he was as he watched me drive off in my first car (purchased after college graduation for a new job) with only three days of practice on a manual transmission. It must have been a disconcerting sight watching me lurch down the road as I left my parent’s house for the long drive back home and the challenge of Chicago traffic. His faith in me and in God’s protection was greater than mine. I wish I could say that when my daughter was learning to drive, I showed the same faith in God and in her, but that wasn’t so. I am convinced my fears did nothing to build her confidence and likely added to her existing ones. Initially our daughter was very hesitant about to learning to drive, and when she finally did, she didn’t like it much. In her defense, the traffic where we live isn’t for the faint of heart and can frighten even the most proficient drivers. It took our daughter a long time to overcome most of those fears along with her dislike of driving. It wasn’t until she made a long road trip with a friend for a summer ballet intensive that she gained more confidence and began to enjoy it some. The two-day drive each way was one of great fear and constant prayer for me. It wasn’t until she had arrived safely back home that those fears began to fade.
The socialization process for the grade school through high school years was an especially painful one for me, feeding an already fearful personality. It seems, in retrospect, that profound shyness appears to have been an open invitation for ridicule from many of my peers and, unfortunately, a few of my teachers. I can clearly remember the first time I voluntarily raised my hand to answer a question in my junior year English class. This particular teacher was one of my favorites and she had worked very hard to make me feel more comfortable and confident in this class. I will always be grateful for her patience and persistence.
These current turbulent economic times have been a source of great fear for many, including us. My husband has worked for many years in what has become, in the past decade, a very turbulent industry. Initially the telecommunications industry exhibited rapid growth and great prosperity. However, since the “Tech Wreck” of 2000 this has not been the case, as over and over most of the companies he has worked for have ceased to exist–a result of having been bought out or of going bankrupt. Each loss of job left us with nothing to show for all of his hard work, requiring us to start over again, usually in a city at the opposite end of the country. We are a living, breathing testament to God’s faithfulness, mercy, and provision as He has sustained us through often overwhelming financial challenges. We are grateful for how, each year, He has met our needs and covered over many mistakes with His never-ending love and forgiveness.
So, I am left to ponder God’s quiet words to my heart as my husband has, for the second time in the past year, recently been laid off yet again: “Are you willing to trust Me this time?”
I am working on it. Thankfully, His mercies are new every morning.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still water. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 (NKJV)
Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
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