“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Imagine someone with control issues trying to plan their way up a mountain, where thick fog is obscuring the way forward. As a controlling planner myself, let me share with you what the potential thought process might be for our adventurer as they consider the daunting task ahead.
Who knows how long this will take? Will I get there before dark? If this takes longer than I’m expecting, I’ll definitely be late/frustrated/anxious. What if I get lost? How will I shout out for help? Would I go back down? Or keep climbing up? What if this view isn’t worth it?
My friends and the youth from our church did a hike the other day that literally embodied this foggy mountain climb that I’ve been imagining. (Shout out to my friends Mary Gin and Becky for sharing their foggy pictures to help tell my story). Confession: this control freak would have been a bit anxious on that particular hike.
I often claim to believe and trust that God is in control. But let me be honest; my life has often looked a lot more like a tug of war with God. A power struggle that I’m bound to lose, but I fight tooth and nail to win anyway. Sometimes, this is a very subconscious process. But regardless, I admit that I have control issues. I fear letting go, and I definitely fear trusting anyone other than myself to lead the way… even God.
During one of the hardest seasons of my life, I grew paralyzed by a tough decision that I knew was ahead of me. The overwhelm swallowed me up and I was completely unsure of which way to turn, what the future held, what God wanted for me.
As a type-A perfectionist and a big-time dreamer, I typically try to imagine life 10 years down the road. Then I come up with specific goals and a plan of action to get there. I like to have a plan A, along with back-up plans for my back-up plans. I think through the ripple effects of decisions and anticipate how I will handle the reactions/results that will “surely” come if I do x, y, or z. There is something terrifying about letting go of that level of detailed planning (control) and entrusting it to someone else.
That hard season, I couldn’t even picture 2 months down the road. I truly needed God’s guiding for His will for me. Sometimes, though, when we pray for His will, we wait, and wait, and wait. We are looking for big neon signs flashing towards the path to take, or a mountain-shaking, booming voice of wisdom to point us in the right direction.
“But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” He said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Do you ever feel like Peter, calling out to Jesus to make sure He’s really with you on your journey? When we lock eyes with Him and follow His steady voice calling out to us to Trust, we are carried forward, one step at a time. But when we start getting wrapped up in the wind and the waves around us, we sink.
In the hard season, I learned to pray to surrender to God in smaller ways, and knew that eventually He would reveal a path. I had to slow myself down and stop running ahead. I wasn’t asking for a big reveal of where He would take me long-term, I learned how to ask for Him to show me just one day at a time how to move forward, how to walk with Him. I learned how to press into His Word and focus on His strength instead of my own, waiting for His voice to show me the way forward.
The answers were usually very quiet, so I had to sit in stillness and wait, something I’m not naturally inclined to do. But they did come. He walked me through it. And I learned to trust Him more with each step.
If you imagine that foggy hike again, and apply this one-step-at-a-time approach, it changes the whole adventure. You can begin to enter into a slow but steady pace (not rushing anxiously). You get a chance to connect with others on the trail and take each step with intention. You carefully climb over a big tree root instead of tripping over it and falling. You look up through the mist and take in the birds in the trees and sky overhead, instead of laser focusing on the mission to get to the top. You breathe in the air of a nearby stream and realize how sweet it is to be here, on this very journey.
A PRAYER FOR YOU:
If you’re struggling with fear of the unknowns in the future, or trusting that God has you in His hands, I’d love to encourage you with this prayer today:
To the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End… Lord, You know it all, and I am thankful for Your gentle care and Your sovereign knowledge of my life and circumstances. You are trustworthy. I ask that you go before me. Still my heart. Quiet the overwhelm. Help me to honor You as I learn to wait for Your guiding.
I know that You honor obedience, so please bridle my heart in my desire for control as I learn to obey You instead of running ahead. I lay my plans down at the altar, and pray boldly (faithfully), “Not my will but YOURS be done.” If I try to pick up that control again tomorrow, please forgive me, and gently remind me to lay it down at Your feet again.
When I can’t see the whole path, cast Your light on just enough for me to trust you and take one step. Help me relinquish control, my will, my plans, and trust You one step at a time. I commit this (decision, situation, relationship) into Your hands. Show me the next right thing; I pray that my life and my growing faithfulness will honor You.
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears has not been made perfect in love.” -1 John 4:18
FROM FEAR TO PEACE SERIES:
A few weeks ago I wrote about my own struggles with fear, anxiety, and insecurity, and I heard from several people that this topic resonated at a deep level. I recently read that “fear not” is the most repeated command in the Bible. It’s almost as if God knew we would need daily reminders to trust Him and not live in fear. Over the next few posts I will be digging into this topic further; I will be sharing thoughts about fear in a few different areas– insecurities, lack of control/awareness of the plan for the future, worry about daily needs being met, rational/irrational fear, and anxiety. Each post, I’ll share a little bit about my own journey, some practical tips and spiritual tools I’ve found for facing that arena of fear, and a prayer for you.
When I read over the story of Adam and Eve I think of how long the problem of insecurity has been a part of humanity. In Genesis 2:25, it is written that “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” They were living in the garden, unhidden, fully themselves as God created, but unashamed. They had the perfect love of God and had all they could ever need. Yet, in Genesis 3 an enemy came along in the form of a serpent, whispering lies in their ears that who God created them to be just wasn’t enough. When the lies grew greater than the Truth and they began to doubt God’s perfect love, they fell. They stepped into shame, fear, and hiding.
Recently, my friend Hope introduced my to a song called “Fear is a Liar” that includes the lyrics:
Fear, he is a liar. He will take your breath, stop you in your steps. Fear, he is a liar. He will rob your rest, steal your happiness. Cast your fear in the fire, cause fear, he is a liar.
Somewhere along the way, lies crept into my mind and heart like ivy–a few insecurities were planted through various situations and relationships that started overtaking Truth. I somehow grew convinced that I had to prove myself to be loved or worthy. I worried about whether I was capable or deserving of the friendships/jobs/relationships/leadership roles I desired. I feared that the people I loved would leave or reject me if I was honest about who I was. I fixated on my perceived imperfections and tried to remove them at all costs. I wore a mask to show others that I was okay and had it all together. I hid in shame when I made mistakes. And I started to rely far too heavily on my own strivings for perfection instead of resting in the knowledge that I was perfectly loved by my Creator and Father.
Over the years, that ivy has choked life out of my spirit– all I could hear was “unworthy,” “too much,” “not enough,” “too different,” “unattractive,” “unlovable.” And the lies starting influencing my decisions. The apples I’ve bitten have gotten me no closer to my ideals of perfection, but just pushed me further from the garden.
I’m not sure what your insecurity is related to, but I want to share with you where MY hope and healing have been found in this area of fear. When I feel alone and fearful about authentically connecting with others for fear of rejection, when I worry that I am not lovable, when I question my worth, I go step 1 on this list over and over again, but I’m also including a few others suggestions that I’ve found helpful over the years:
1. SOAK IN TRUTH (Romans 12:2- be transformed by the renewing of your mind)- Read about who GOD is, and who He says you are! It’s time to get rid of the ivy and stop it from choking the life out of you. The best way I have found to fight lies and insecurities is to memorize and KNOW the Words that God says are true. In Truth, we find light and life… in lies, we get tangled in darkness and death. The more I’ve written God’s Truth on my heart, the more my heart and mind have shifted away from anxiety and fear. Here are some of my favorite verses that remind me of my identity in Him. I write these on my bathroom mirror, sticky notes on my desk at work, in my journal, and I memorize them so that when lies start to creep in I have an immediate response to combat untruth:
- Psalm 139 (THE WHOLE PSALM)
- “But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’” –Isaiah 43:1
- “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” -1 Peter 2:9
- “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” -1 John 3:1
- “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:16-19
2. LOVE NOTES– Write yourself a love note! When I realized that I would never talk to another person the way I talked to myself, I knew I needed to work on my self-talk. As though you were writing to a best friend, kindly tell yourself some of your favorite things about who you are as a person (remember- you were fearfully and wonderfully made!). If you are compassionate, creative, generous, trustworthy, loyal, funny, servant-hearted, tell yourself why you’re proud to be that person! If a love note is too daunting, just make a list of 3-5 of your favorite qualities that make you YOU! Start to see yourself with realistic eyes- the way God and others who love you see you.
3. COMMUNITY– In insecurity, we sometimes tend to isolate. Fight the urge to let the lies take over, and open up to other safe people in your life. Surround yourself with people you love. Make a coffee date with that friend who you always feel refreshed after seeing. Pick up the phone and call your grandmother (I guarantee you she’ll love it too). My mom has always said to us, “you have to be a friend to have a friend.” Make a list of 2-3 people you want to get to know better and reach out to plan a coffee or lunch within the next week or two (it will give you something to look forward to).
4. SERVICE– Sometimes stepping out of my comfort zone and thinking about how I can love others around me is just the cure to momentarily lift my eyes from my own struggles and insecurities. Next time you are at the library or grocery store, look up from your phone, and smile at the person you see who looks like they could use some sunshine. Buy a coffee for the next person in line. Get connected to a local ministry or service project you feel passionate about, and commit to serving at regular intervals (to build longer term relationships). Make a meal for the friend or family member who might need a little extra support in their current season. As people come to your mind or your heart, shoot them a little text or note to just let them know you are thinking of them
A PRAYER FOR YOU:
Lord, thank You for creating this world and Your children in perfect love. Even though we walk away from Your love at times, I pray that You would continue to draw us back to You. Father, open my eyes to see myself in light of Your love and grace. Cast out fear, and help me to shed darkness and old lies by putting on the belt of Truth– fight these battles with me. Transform my thoughts to remember that You created me in Your own perfect image, that You will never leave or forsake me, that You call me precious, spotless, cleansed.
Thank you for sending Your own son to die for me, for calling my sin “finished,” so that I can walk in light, freedom, and hope. Lord, guide my thoughts away from my insecurities, and allow your Truth to trickle down from head knowledge to heart knowledge. Prune the dead, old human lies I’ve allowed to inform my identity, and plant your Truth deep in my heart so that I can bear Your fruit. Today, I rest in the fullness of Your perfect love, and I accept the words You call me– beloved, chosen, worthy, child of God, redeemed. Help this change the way I love You and serve others. In Your precious name, Amen.
**Important: Please note–I have spent many years with professional counselors and in recovery programs/support groups, but I am not a licensed therapist or counselor. If you struggle with fear that is interfering with your life, I encourage you to talk to someone about it (a counselor, pastor, mentor, trusted friend, support group). Sometimes saying it out loud makes it a little less daunting, or can help you find ways to root yourself in the present moment and release your fear.