I used to wake up each morning and immediately tune into a Christian radio station to start my day off on a positive, peaceful note. That is until September 11th, 2001.
That morning I happened to turn the tv on to a morning news program and my perception of the world shifted like everyone else's. Since that day, that has become my routine. I want to know what is happening so that I can be on guard, as if I can somehow protect myself from it.
But, the past couple of months, being exposed to news events has not led me to a feeling of power but of intense fear and anxiety. Exposure to shootings, bombings, alligator attacks, fires, floods, possible economic collapse, disease from mosquitos, etc. can lead us into thinking that everything is spinning out of control.
As I watch the “unthinkable” happen to so many through a screen, I am reminded about how vulnerable I am as well. I, like many of you, have had terrible, traumatic things happen to me personally. Things that I didn’t see coming. Things like betrayal by someone I trusted, abandonment by someone I thought I could count on, a personal realization that there are real people who want to hurt me, the loss of someone I love or threat of loss, and numerous financial stresses.
There are actually a lot of things to be afraid of. It’s not easy to not let it to us. But all throughout Scripture, God assures us that He doesn’t want us to live in this constant state of fear. He wants us to trust Him to take care of things, even when we start to think that even He is out of control.
In Isaiah, He says “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
In Philippians 4:6-7 God speaks through Paul telling us not to “be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
John 14:27 says “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”
So, it seems that it comes down to a choice. We either trust God or we don’t. We either give into the mentality that we can protect ourselves or we can turn to God. It’s a obvious choice but a difficult one. It honestly seems a bit risky.
We have fallen for the same trick satan used on Eve. We have become convinced that God can’t be trusted and that we need to take things into our own hands. That’s what worry is all about.
Rick Warren says that “Worry is playing God. It's assuming responsibility for something that God has said He will take care of.” Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”.
I know that I am not very equipped to be God, yet I sure do try to a lot of the time. I’m thinking that the more we practice letting God be God, the more we will see that He is worthy of our trust and worry will lessen.
Here are some ideas that I am trying to work on myself:
1. We would be less fearful if we would guard what comes into our minds so we don’t get swept away by the effects of fear.
In an article in Psychology Today, Deborah Serani Psy. D. writes, “News programming uses a hierarchy if it bleeds, it leads. Fear-based news programming has two aims. The first is to grab the viewer's attention. In the news media, this is called the teaser. The second aim is to persuade the viewer that the solution for reducing the identified fear will be in the news story. If a teaser asks, "What's in your tap water that YOU need to know about?" a viewer will likely tune in to get the up-to-date information to ensure safety. The success of fear-based news relies on presenting dramatic anecdotes in place of scientific evidence, promoting isolated events as trends, depicting categories of people as dangerous and replacing optimism with fatalistic thinking. News conglomerates who want to achieve this use media logic, by tweaking the rhythm, grammar, and presentation format of news stories to elicit the greatest impact.”
Limiting our exposure to these kind of news broadcasts can help. Constant news streams and social media keeps our anxiety levels high. Our world has always been chaotic and because of sin there have always been people who choose to do bad things. We just live in an age where we can see it as it happens and we have access to it 24-7. It doesn’t serve us well.
We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend problems don’t exist but we can’t be surprised that things are spiraling downward either. Revelation told us clearly what is to come. If we are trusting in God and His plan, we can live with the hope that Jesus is coming back to make all things right again. We need to be ready and willing to share that message and to live like we actually believe it.
2. We would be less fearful if we wouldn’t allow it to control us.
Fear has been a major problem all throughout my life. Mostly I have struggled with a fear of people and that I wouldn’t measure up to their expectations. I have also had a fear of being controlled, manipulated and taken advantage of.
Psychological journals are full of lists of things people can be afraid of. We think that if we can avoid them or do whatever we can to guard ourselves from their threat, that we will be okay. The problem is that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. In the end, the thing we think we are controlling is actually controlling us.
Often our fear keeps us isolated or hyper-vigilant, constantly in a fight or flight mode so we won’t fall prey. This positioning causes high levels of stress and anxiety that can lead ultimately to depression. Our culture especially is experiencing toxic levels of these consequences.
It’s a hard balance between being prepared and being consumed. We need to figure out how we can take common sense precautions and then leave the rest up to God. I can live in panic about a looming financial crisis, or I can take strategic steps to invest and then rest. I can live in panic about someone betraying me or I can set good boundaries, make good relationship decisions and then rest. I can panic about the outcome of the upcoming election or I can be aware of the issues, vote and then rest.
3. We would be less fearful if we could really believe that God is in control.
We can rest if we really do know that God’s got this. We can do what we can do and then let God take care of the rest. Yes we will have troubles and yes we will have trauma. Yes there are always things lurking just below the surface. But whatever ends up happening, He will tweak it so it serves it’s best purpose.
We need to realize that worrying and living afraid doesn’t help. It only hurts us.
God reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-11,
“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. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
We don’t always understand His ways but we would do well to practice trusting them. It seems risky, but it really isn’t. I can either trust in God or myself. That seems pretty obvious to me. How about you?