Don’t Let Your Fears Take Control

Generalized-Anxiety-DisorderOver and over the Bible says, “Do not be afraid.”  

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.  (Isa. 41:10)

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Ex. 20:20)

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. (Isa. 43:1)

Are you like me in that you know fear?  

I suspect I have overreacted in a number of situations with my children through the years because of my fear.  I also suspect this has caused me on occasion to be self-protective with my wife.  Fear has been a part of my ministry at times.  There have been times when my view of God was rather small compared to what I was fearing.  Fear has its way.

Fear can have its way when we consider our future.  Some people may allow their fear to cause them to seek perfectionism.  Nothing in their eyes is ever quite good enough.  They may obsess about the smallest details of most anything.  Such people may believe that they really can’t begin a project until everything is near perfect.  Still others allow their fear to lead them to procrastinate.  Out of their fear they put off starting what they could have actually finished months ago. 

Choose to Move Away From Anxiety Producers

Some people seem to specialize in passing on their anxiety to others.    worry2.jpg

Years ago, my dad had a heart attack and was admitted to Baylor Hospital in Dallas. His doctor did a coronary angioplasty on his heart, which is a procedure used to open blocked coronary (heart) arteries. The procedure greatly improves blood flow to the heart. The procedure had been done that morning. That evening, about 6 pm, a friend of his came into the hospital room. My mom and I were in the room. This friend was from their church and evidently had come by to encourage my dad.

The friend leaned up against the wall. He was talking to my dad, who looked rather weak after having had surgery that morning. The guy then said, “Oh I see you had the balloon surgery. Well I sure hope yours goes better than my brother-in-law’s did.” My dad said, “What happened to him?” The friend replied, “Oh his procedure didn’t hold. He’s DEAD!” My dad looked pale as he lay in the bed. At that point, the guy said, “Well I had better go.” He then left the room.

What a visit!

Encouragement? Not really. In fact, this friend dumped a load of anxiety in that hospital room and then walked away. Some people are like that. They have a way of leaving their anxiety behind.

  • Perhaps it is the minister who is always upset about something in the church. Yet this minister never goes to the person involved in order to deal with these issues. The minister typically goes to the office and bad mouths the church member.
  • Perhaps it is the mother who is always complaining to her best friend about her teenage daughter’s behavior. Yet, she never deals directly with this daughter.
  • Maybe it is the husband who is frustrated with his wife over her spending habits. Yet, he never deals with his wife. Instead, he constantly and anxiously talks to anyone who will listen about how little money they have.

Meanwhile, some people dump a load of their anxiety on those nearby, other people have a way of magnifying even the smallest anxiety. Perhaps you know these people. Maybe there is a discussion in a group or in a meeting. They have a way of magnifying and exaggerating the smallest anxiety, until it becomes huge. Consequently, they typically bring anxiety to a group instead of calmness.

The following has helped me with these kinds of people (those who pass on the anxiety and those who magnify it):

1. I have chosen to limit time with those who regularly want to dump their anxiety as well as those who seem to magnify and exaggerate anxiety. It just wears me out to hear someone go on and on about some person (not present in the room) and then gripe for a while about someone else. I can’t spend a lot of time with someone who has a way of blowing up the smallest anxiety into something large and overwhelming. Suppose someone makes a comment in a meeting. Later, a person who was in that meeting begins to rant and rave about how stupid the remark was. He tells the story again and again. Every time he tells the story, you can just see the anxiety in the faces of others.

I choose to limit my time with such a person. Yes, I want to love the individual and will spend some time with that person. However, I choose to not spend an extended amount of time with someone like this. When I have been around this kind of person too much, I become anxious and begin to process life through the same kind of filter as that person.

2. I have chosen to focus on managing myself. I want to bring to any group a sense of calmness and focus. For me, this means that I try to prepare myself early in the morning (See “Learning to Dodge the Anxiety Traps.“) This calmness is important in one-to-one conversations, meetings, and even in preaching. A long time preacher heard a person preach on the grace of God one evening. He said that by the time the sermon was over, he was a nervous wreck. Why? The preacher’s manner was so anxious. In fact, my friend said that he felt as if the preacher was looking for a fight. Yet, he was preaching on the grace of God.

I can’t overstate the importance of managing myself because to not do so, impacts not only myself but others as well.


Do you have someone in your life who tends to dump their anxiety? Do you know someone who magnifies their anxiety? What helps you in dealing with such people?

When You Feel Anxious

worry.jpgWhat do you worry about?

•    School – Where will I go to college/grad school?
•    Tests – Will I pass the test?
•    Job – Will I get the job?
•    Relationships – Is he the right person to marry?
•    Parents – What will my parents think?
•    College – How will I pay for this?
•    Money – How will I/we make it this month?
•    Future – What will I do?
•    Marriage – Whom will I marry?
•    Wedding – How will I get all of the preparation done?
•    Bills – Why did I buy this car?  How will I ever pay for it?
•    Decisions – Which job should I take?
•    Children – What is my child doing?
•    Your health – What if I have cancer?
•    Your future – What is going to happen to me?
•    A combination of a number of the above!

Worry is something that I know how to do.  I suspect that when I worry I am primarily thinking about my own need to "fix" something and my utter inadequacy to do so.  There are some things that you just can’t fix.

I can recall nights when I have lain in bed and imagined.  Sometimes I relived the past (accompanied by some worry).  I thought about a conversation or a meeting that took place and worried about the implications of it.  At times I relived the past by imagining having made a different decision and then thinking about what might have been.  At times I have worried about failures from the past.

At other times I have worried about the future.  What is going to happen?  Where will we live one day?  What will we do?

I read again this week the familiar Scripture in Matthew 6:25-27.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

1.  God invites us to trust in him regardless.  I have a friend who inspects homes for a living.  The other day I heard him say that when he pulls his truck in front of a house, he always prays before going to the front door.  He prays for these people and prays that he will do a good job with this inspection.  My friend understands that we are called to live in daily dependence upon the Lord.

2.  God invites us to live in daily dependence even in the midst of a struggling economy.  This is an opportunity for so many of us to learn a new kind of dependence on God.

3.  God invites us to bring our anxiety before him in the context of faith.  This is not a call to some sort of indifference to what is happening in our world, economy, culture, etc.  The key to dealing with anxiety and worry is not indifference but faith in God.  This allows us to stare reality in the face and deal with the hard, cold facts of life.   

Perhaps those of us who are church leaders/pastors/ministers/etc. would do well to follow Hezekiah’s example in II Kings 19:14ff when he faced an impossible situation with Sennacherib, king of Assyria.  He prayed, "…Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God."  Some things just can’t be fixed and simply need to be given over to God.

The good news is that you cannot fix so many things that are broken in your life or ministry.  Yet, we are not called to be a people who have a fix for whatever might be broken.  Rather, we are a people who hand it over to God.    


Are You Worried?

WORRY.JPGSometimes I worry.


I don’t think that I live each day in worry.    But — I do know how to worry.  Sometimes I notice that these worries seem to stand in line waiting for me to examine each one.  One by one they parade in front of me, each one of them demanding time, space, and energy.  Each one seems to be clamoring for my attention.  I think about one of these and plan to move on to something else when another worry pops up demanding its own place in my mind.  


Does this sound familiar to you?  I suspect it does, at least to some of you.    

I decided one day to write down every worry that I saw in the parade.  I’ve got a list of them.  In front of me at this moment is a "worry list" written in my journal.  My worry list was not difficult to write.  I encourage you to do this sometime.  Just list everything that you see in your parade of worries.

  • Worries related to your children.
  • Worries related to your marriage or other significant relationships.
  • Worries related to your health or the health of people who really matter to you.
  • Worries related to your work.
  • Worries related to your church or your personal ministry.
  • Worries related to your finances.

Now maybe some of these are not in your parade, but I suspect that many of them are.  Write down your worries.  Be brief but specific.


The other day I was with a good friend at lunch and he said, "You know fear and faith always point to the future."  He went on to say, "Fear anticipates the future.  So does faith."  Hmmm.  In other words both of these are connected in some way to our view of the future.


Then I read Psalm 33.  The author praises God for who he is.  In particular, I like these lines:


4 For the word of the LORD is right and true;
       he is faithful in all he does.

5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
       the earth is full of his unfailing love.


Faithful.  The Lord is faithful.  When everything around me is uncertain, unpredictable, changing, and unstable, God is faithful.  He is like the house in the middle of the hurricane that stands firm while everything else is blown away.  He is like the mighty oak tree.  He is stable, secure, and solid.


If I am living in him and he is living in me, my life takes on his stability and security.  I become more and more solid.  All of this is happening because I am holding on to God who is stable, secure, and solid.  My life begins to take on more and more of his character. 


Consequently, when my parade of worries begins, I want to focus on the one who is faithful instead of watching the parade.  I want to place my life in his hands.  If I focus on my parade of worries, fear will rule me.  Fear will always paint a bleak picture of the future.  I want to instead put my faith in the faithful one.  I want to put my faith in the Lord who will never leave me or forsake me.  


Maybe this will help you today.  Maybe you too have a parade of worries that is demanding your attention.  Keep your eyes focused on the one who is faithful.  Hold on to the one who is your help, shield, and hope. 


Psalm 33 closes with these words:


20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
       he is our help and our shield.

 21 In him our hearts rejoice,
       for we trust in his holy name.

 22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
       even as we put our hope in you.

Question: What About the Future? Nervous, Excited, or Both?

question.jpgAre you a college student?  Are you a single parent?  Perhaps you are married with young children.  Or, perhaps you are in your middle years.  Regardless of where you are in life, what enters your mind as you think about the new year or the future in general?


As you think about the future, what makes you feel either concerned, nervous or anxious?  Maybe you are concerned for your children.  You may feel nervous as you think about the economy.  You may be experiencing some health issues and you wonder how these concerns will be resolved.  You may wonder whom you might marry. 


As you think about the future, what is there that causes you to feel excited?  Maybe you are starting a new job.  It could be that you are starting graduate school, and you look forward to that experience.  Perhaps there is something in your ministry that you look forward to.  Maybe the thought of a new year, new start, etc. is exciting to you.

I am thinking about the new year and am wondering how you and others might respond to these questions.  I really appreciate your response.