@robertkwendt || lead pastor
Have you ever been afraid of something? I think it's safe to say you have been. I'm not just talking about monsters under the bed as a kid, but deep rooted, life-altering fears.
Close to a year ago, I sat down and worked through some struggles I had been battling with in my life. In doing so, I had to list several inventories of things I had done or experienced in life. One such inventory included reflecting upon and listing my fears. I was shocked at what I discovered.
I have a fear of something happening to my wife and family. I have a fear of the universe (how big and vast it is in comparison to me). I have a fear of heights and even a fear of being stung by a bee. While these fears differ in intensity, they each impact my life. In fact, when I grow anxious, it's probably in some regard related to a fear I have.
Here's a definition we can consider for anxiety — "Anxiety comes from an uneasiness about a situation, fear of what is to come, or feeling of little to no control." Our anxiety can be triggered by fear.
Yet God tells us to "fear not" all throughout the Bible. In Isaiah 41:10 (NASB) he says,
"Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
We can read this verse, believe this verse—but how do we actually live it? If we're to be honest with ourselves, we are filled with fear. We do grow anxious. We do not always lean on God for His strength.
Here are four steps to help us conquer our fears.
1. recognize our control problem.
Let me be completely blunt. We struggle with control. As a child, we have very little of it. Our parents fed us, bathed us, took us where they needed to go. We were a part of their agenda, and we had very little control over our lives. In fact, we were born to be dependent upon them.
Then we grew older. As we did so, we started seeking to have more and more control over our lives. We wanted to control who we married, our kids, work settings, finances, neighborhoods, political influences, and the list can go on and on. On a more individual basis, we probably got even more picky when it came to personal preferences and what we wanted (from food to paint colors).
Yet, it is the very act of trying to control things that often causes us to have greater anxiety. It's no wonder a toddler is happy with the simple things compared to us complicated adults.
Proverbs 3:19-20 says,
"The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew."
Think about it. God created the earth because God wanted to. The weather, oceans, and scientific measurements we have discovered are in such a way because God desired it to be that way. He has always been in control since the beginning and is still in control today. So why do we so often try to interfere and do His job?
I would argue it's because our vision is poorly focused.
2. refocus our vision.
Have you ever been to the eye doctor? I never thought I had a vision problem until the doctor told me I did. With a little correction, I could all of a sudden see crisper, had less headaches, and experienced a much more enjoyable life.
This isn't only a reality of our physical vision, but also our spiritual vision.
We often are so focused internally that we lose perspective eternally. We become so caught up in our plans that we aren't even focused on God's plan.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord.
'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"
One of the reasons we often may doubt God's presence amidst our fears is because we are focused on our own story rather than God's story for us. Over and over again, God has revealed to me His goodness and love. When faced with adversity, God may seem absent. However, when the storm passes and the sun comes out, I always look back and see just how great of a plan God had for me.
Without pain, suffering, loss, and constant perseverance, I would not be where I am today. A little adjustment in our vision can go a long way.
3. refine our sphere of influence.
What you consume influences how you think, act, behave, and even look at life.
I used to be a news junky. I loved to know what was going on in the world around me and would spend hours consuming it. However, I came to a point where I realized that it was draining me. It constantly beat me up and made me feel as if the world was a hopeless place.
Murders, ruthless crimes, dishonesty, and shame seemed to fill the airwaves. I would feel bogged down and wonder how it could all be so bad. And then, I stopped watching it. I then stopped even reading it. Now I stay up to speed with the news by simply reading it from the financial spin. While it still has negative things to say, it's not the same.
In the car I began to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Rather than listening to whatever was on the airwaves, I began to spend that time being influenced by what would build me up, make me a better follower of Jesus, husband, father, and leader.
Romans 12:2 says,
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
When we focus on God and let Him influence our thinking, things change. We no longer fear a world that is broken, but get excited about the opportunity to show the world God's love.
4. remind ourselves of what is promised.
In the book of Revelation, Peter encounters Jesus and is told, "Fear not, for I am the first and the last" (Revelation 1:17 ESV). God has been in control since the beginning and promises to be in control for eternity. When we truly embrace the reality that Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that we may have life forever, our perspective changes. We no longer have to worry about what is to be gained in this world, but we can rest in the promise of eternal hope.
In our day-to-day lives, we'll always be filled with opportunities to let fear in. In fact, we'll even be challenged to want to control our own environments and surroundings. But here's the thing...we worry less when we try to control less.
If you want less worry in your life, then stop trying to control so much.
|| challenge ||
What is one thing you've been worried about that you don't have control over? How can you eliminate that worry in your life?