Recently I’ve been dealing with a 4-year-old daughter who has developed a certain fear. This fear is keeping her awake nightly until at least my bedtime. That fear? Bugs. Not just any bugs though. Scary bugs. Bugs that sting and hide, waiting to ambush unsuspecting victims. So, I did what any father would do. I gave her reasons not to be afraid. I reasoned with her the small chances of actually being stung or bitten. I helped her look around for bugs, of course finding none. When my efforts still failed, I reminded her that God is watching out for her and doesn’t want her to be afraid. How do I know that? Well, it’s in the Bible, right?
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God – Phil 4:23
I picked the above verse simply because it is one I have heard often and memorized it, but there is no shortage of Biblical evidence inviting us not to be anxious. Chances are you could open any book in the Bible and find the words, “fear not” in its pages. It seems that from the beginning to the end, God is continually reminding us not to be afraid. Yet almost 2000 years after the last book was written, we appear to be in a most fearful age. For example, heard anything about the Mayans lately? Of course you have. According to some, their ancient calendar predicts the world will end this year (so why are you sitting here reading this!!??). Both a movie and SNL sketch revolved around it, so you know it’s important and something worth looking into. “I don’t believe that stuff,” you say. Well, if its not ancient prophecies you’re into fearing, how about the IRS or the Fed or Obama or Bush or traffic or illness or guns, or hurricanes, or climate change? The list could go on to fill the internet, but the point is this: We worry.
And it’s not just those outside of the church, but Christians as well. While I was trying to help my daughter, it’s funny that the last thing I did, after exhausting reason and efforts to minimize her fear, was to seek God with the situation. Amazingly, it was the only effective act.
God reminds us not to fear throughout scripture, yet for many of us, fear and anxiety are constant companions. While there is no one right way to deal with anxiety, here are some helpful suggestions:
Seek God – ask for God to show you the truth in your situations. Fear is sometimes justified and motivating to move us out of self-reliance to God-reliance. However, some anxiety is overwhelming and paralyzing, keeping us from seeking God. It is helpful to know the difference.
Seek Evidence – Read scripture dealing with fear and anxiety and see why God asks us not to fear. What is he offering as the alternative? What does He promise instead of fear? Fear can result from our lack of understanding of God’s character. If I don’t think God cares for me, it leads to fear of what will happen. Look for past evidence that God has your best in mind and use it as antidote against fear. Brennan Manning addresses this in his classic book The Ragamuffin Gospel. We often see Jesus as loving and God the Father as justice. The truth is that God’s sending of Jesus reveals his character. He puts it like this:
“Abba is not our enemy. If we think that, we are wrong.
Abba is not intent on trying and tempting and testing us. If we think that, we are wrong.
Abba does not prefer to promote suffering and pain. If we think that, we are wrong.” –p.76 The Ragamuffin Gospel
The way we view our relationship with God can influence greatly our trust in Him. If I believe God loves me, I am much more willing to trust His methods.
Seek Help – If you are seeking God, but still have trouble seeing the reality of your situation and are mired in anxiety, ask for help. Whether you seek a mentor for a fresh perspective or professional counseling, it is always a good idea to look outside of yourself. The truth of life is that we have a tendency to be blinded in our view of our situations. Every one of us has a skewed version of what is really going on and that is one very important reason to seek guidance.
We might be fearful because we’re placing our trust in ourselves or our abilities instead of in God. In these instances, God is giving us an opportunity to re-order our priorities and let go of things He wants to control. I believe the main reason we are reminded not to fear is this; God understands how we work and knows our tendency to worry. His words encourage us to remember we are not alone. It is finished, not because we took care of things, but because He did.