How to Fight Fear {and actually win this time}

Fight FearThere we were, sitting on my family room couch. Nothing was too exceptional about the meeting other than the fact that we were both empty-handed. No steaming hot mugs of anything, which is pretty much unheard of in this house.  I have long believed that talking should always involve coffee drinking. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said anything worth repeating without a full-bodied dark roast in hand.

But that night, we had both reached our coffee limit and decided to practice some self-control. I had actually reached mine by noon – one of those days.

She was there to seek counsel about a dating relationship she was in. You know when things are starting to get serious with someone and you’re one big ball of conflicting emotions? That’s where she was and she knew the best course of action was to talk it over with someone completely outside the situation. As she talked one thing became very clear – the relationship was a bad idea and she knew it before she ever even walked into my house.

So why were we there? Why were we discussing the relationship? Why were we having the coffee-less conversation about the various strengths and weaknesses (mainly weaknesses) of a guy that was so obviously not the right fit for her?

The answer came in the form of a question she asked about halfway through the conversation: “What if nobody else ever wants to marry me?”

Did you catch those first two words? If not, go back and read the question again.

WHAT . . .

IF . . .

Powerful words.

Powerful enough to make an intelligent, Bible believing, Jesus loving woman run headlong into a potentially life-altering relationship with a guy whose life bears little to no fruit of godliness.

Terrifying.

Our “what ifs” are that powerful because they express some of our deepest fears – fears of the unknown. They stem from that nagging sense deep inside of us that the future is only what WE make it . . . that the uncertainties of life must be forced to submit to our own wills and desires . . . that no matter what, we must retain control.

Here’s the problem. Each and every day we are reminded that regardless of how much control we think we have over our own destinies, life happens.

Cancer happens.

Infertility happens.

Widowhood happens.

Job loss happens.

Miscarriage happens.

Foreclosure happens.

Marital infidelity happens.

Singleness (for WAY longer than you expected) happens.

Depression happens.

A gunman walking into an elementary school and shooting 20 precious children – that happens too. God help us.

Each and every tragedy that plays out before our eyes is a little seed that – if allowed to take root – will inevitably grow into a potentially paralyzing “what if?”

What if I get cancer?

What if I never get pregnant?

What if my husband dies?

What I lose my job?

What if I lose this baby too?

What if the bank takes our house?

What if my husband cheats?

What if I never get married?

What if this depression never goes away?

What if my child never comes home?

 

What are your “what ifs?”

More importantly, what do you do with them?

 

You basically have two options: First, you can try to overcome them by taking matters into your own hands, carefully manipulating and controlling your circumstances so that they fit your plans for your life. For instance, you can deal with the health related “what ifs” by making clean eating and exercising your family’s savior and lord. You can deal with the “what ifs” related to your children by being the overprotective, helicopter parent. You can deal with the “with ifs” related to having a baby by obsessing over that fertility calendar so much that getting pregnant becomes your full time job.

The problems with this first option should be obvious. First and foremost, most of our control is just an illusion. No matter how hard we try, life simply doesn’t fit into our carefully organized charts and graphs – and we know it. (Which is why the unknown can be so scary!)

Go with this option and you will end up fearful AND controlling – a miserable combination, if there ever was one.

So here’s our second option: We can turn our “what ifs?” into “even ifs.” Here’s what I mean by that . . .

“What if I never get married . . . ?” becomes, “Even if I never get married, my life still matters, I have a significant part to play in God’s kingdom, and God is going to meet every need that I have.”

“What if I never get pregnant . . . ?” becomes, “Even if another month passes without conceiving, God (not me, my husband, or the fertility specialist!) is the author of life, His timing is perfect, He knows how deeply I desire to be a mom, and He is able to make a way where there seems to be no way.”

“What if my child gets caught up in sin . . . ?” becomes, “Even if my child makes horrible choices, his/her life is in the hands of a sovereign God who loves him/her infinitely more than I ever could and is in the business of restoring sinful, broken people to a right relationship with Himself.”

“What if my husband loses his job?” becomes, “Even if my husband loses his job, God will supply all our needs according to His riches and glory.”

 

“What if” statements are based on speculation; “even if” statements are based on truth.

“What if” statements focus our eyes on the unknown; “even if” statements focus our eyes on the Lord.

“What if” statements fuel our fears; “even if” statements fuel our faith.

We can face the unknown with a bunch of terrifying questions, or we can face it with a storehouse of comforting truths – rock solid facts about who God is and what He has promised to do for us as His dearly loved children.

For every “what if” that haunts the hallways of our minds, there’s a fear-crushing “even if” in the pages of our Bibles. We just have to train ourselves to go there.

 

So what will it be? Upon what will you base your life –

Question marks or periods?

Speculation or truth?

Control or trust?

Fear or peace?

“Let your station in life change, and your property be gone; let your whole life be shaken, and you become weak and sickly; then everything flee away – there is one place where change cannot put his finger; there is one name on which mutability can never be written; there is one heart which can never alter; that heart is God’s – that name is Love.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Even if, sweet sister . . . .even if . . .

 

 

 

 

 

The Life and Death of Joy

The following scene has become pretty commonplace during playtime around here lately.

Shep ( 3 years old): Mom, come play trucks.

Me: Okay. What truck should I play with?

Shep: This truck. [He hands me his selection, I play for about 5 seconds, then he takes it back.]

Me: I thought that was my truck to play with?

Shep: No, you play THIS truck. [He hands me a different truck to play with and adds my old truck to his personal “stash.” I play with my new truck for about 5 seconds and then he takes it back.]

Me: You took my truck again. What am I going to play with now?

Shep: You play THIS truck. [He hands me yet another tuck to play with and adds my second truck to his stash. I play with my new truck for about 5 seconds and then – you guessed it – he takes it back and adds it to his stash.]

Me: Shepherd, do you want mommy to play trucks with you or not?

Shep: Yes. You play trucks wit me.

Me: Okay, then you need to give me a truck and let me keep it.

Shep: No, these my trucks, mom.

[Insert “the importance of sharing” lecture here.]

As Shepherd took the fourth or fifth truck from me the other day, I was struck by the fact that the scene being played out between me and my three year old is the same scene that plays out between me and the Lord on a regular basis.

I want Jesus to draw near to me. I want Him to interact with me. I want to feel His presence. I want to hear His voice. More than anything, I want to experience the abiding joy of walking with Him day by day.  To put it in the language of my three year old, I want Jesus to “come play trucks.”  There’s just nothing quite like the King of Kings and Lord of Lords stooping down into my little world and showing me glimpses of His glory in the various facets of my incredibly mundane life.  To me, that’s the substance of biblical joy. I crave it. I pray for it. I read books on how to get more of it.

And yet I’m torn.

You see, in order to “play trucks” with Jesus, you have to hand Him your stuff. In order to experience the fullness of His presence and drink deeply of His joy, you have to surrender what you treasure. In order to get those much-needed glimpses of His glory in the everyday “stuff” of life, you have to let go and give Him total control of what you hold dear.

You have to be able to say, “Whatever things were gain me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord” (Phil. 3:7, 8).

Jesus put it this way: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple . . . None of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his possessions” (Luke 14:26, 27, 33).

In these verses Jesus employs the method of exaggeration to make a really important point. He isn’t commanding us to feel hatred toward our family members and ourselves or to live on the streets without a dime to spare. What He’s saying is that our love for anything or anyone in this life ought to pale in comparison with our love for Him. Our love and commitment to Christ is to be so intense and all-consuming that every other affection in our hearts looks like hatred in comparison. Whoa.

Over and over again the gospels show us that when Jesus comes to “play”, He does so on His terms. And His terms include total, unconditional surrender of all that we are and all that we have to His Lordship. In keeping with our metaphor, He gets all the trucks. And even though I know in my head that His hands are the very best place for my “trucks” to be, it sure is hard sometimes to loosen my grip.

Every time Shep asks me to play, he has to decide what he values most: The pleasure of maintaining possession of his stuff, or the even greater pleasure of playing with mom. The reality is, he wants both. But he can’t have both. He has to choose.

And so do we.

The indescribable, life-changing joy that comes from experiencing sweet fellowship with our Savior is a gift for those with open hands, willing hearts, and contrite spirits.

Selfishness is the death of that joy. It cannot live in a stingy heart. It cannot flow through an unrelinquished life.

The bigger your “stash,” the smaller your joy.

So let me ask you, what are you going to do with your trucks?

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