Fear

by Stephany on April 25, 2012

It happened on a Tuesday night, during Bible study. It was after we had discussed our homework for the week, after watching the weekly video, slipped in during the last bits of conversation.

And it was exactly what I have been searching for.

As anyone who has been reading my blog for any manner of time knows, I have struggled with fear and anxiety for the majority of my life. I just didn’t have a name for this constant state of worry until the early part of last year. I thought it was just a part of who I am; it didn’t occur to me it was something I could control.

And then I started getting panic attacks. Late in the night, waking me up from a deep sleep with ragged breaths, chest pain, and a feeling that something was terribly wrong.

“Jesus, I need you to help me breathe. Jesus, I need you to help me breathe,” was the only thought racing through my brain.

That isn’t normal. Constant worry isn’t normal. It was anxiety.

I talked to a friend about it. I brought it up to my mom. I discussed it with my grandma (who has dealt with debilitating anxiety attacks). They all concurred with what I thought. Anxiety.

Right now, my women’s Bible study group is going through the study Stuck by Jennie Allen. I was incredibly excited about this series, dealing about all the places we feel stuck in our relationship with God. Jennie is an amazing speaker and writer and with each new chapter, I’m smacked in the face with a new way of looking at my relationship with God.

I’ll be honest: I had a bit of a faith crisis last year. It wasn’t that I had stopped believing in God, but I came to a fork in the road and I didn’t have the right tools to take me on the path I needed to be on. I was focused on what other people around me were doing, comparing my life to theirs, trying to make sure it measured up to the standard they seemed to want it at. I was trying to understand God and frankly, sometimes His ways are hard to understand.

Luckily, with a new year came a new attitude about my faith – as well as a new women’s Bible study. I have never felt more welcome or accepted at a church than I am at Bible study. (I’ve been to youth groups and young adult groups at church where I feel completely unwelcome and out of place. It’s hard being an introvert at church!) Our first study was a Beth Moore one and you better believe it was a good one. Is it possible for Beth Moore to write a bad study? I think not.

And then came Stuck. The weekly homework isn’t as involved as Beth Moore’s was, but Jennie finds a way to pack a punch in the short few pages she gives us. We’ve dealt with brokenness, discontentment, anger, and last week: fear. I was excited to dig in and discover what Jennie had to say about fear and just like the other weeks, it was eye-opening.

I’ve never looked at my fear and anxiety in the way Jennie described it: as a sin*. A sin. I’m telling God that I don’t trust Him, that He is not in control. I’m telling Him that what other people think about me is more important than what He thinks. I am so concerned by how people perceive me that I have anxiety attacks for what people will think of me if this happens or that happens.

Every time I start worrying and panicking, I’m telling God, “I don’t trust You to know what’s good for me. I don’t trust You to take care of the people around me. I don’t trust You to be there when my world shatters.”

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Luke 12:4-5

That verse took my breath away. Fear God. All of my other fears and anxiety get me nowhere. Sure, I can worry that something bad might happen to someone I love. I can worry about how others perceive me. I can worry about getting a terrible diagnosis. I can worry about losing my job, my apartment burning down, not having enough money to eat. But honestly, where does all that worry get me? Does it help me in any way? The only thing worry gives us is control. If I have something to worry about, maybe the worst won’t happen. By placing all my worries into God’s capable hands, I am giving up control.

For someone who is a worrywart, it’s hard to give up that control. To say, I won’t worry about worst-case scenarios anymore. If they happen, they happen. I firmly believe in the saying, everything happens for a reason. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe in that reason. It’s hard to understand why my grandma was given a cancer diagnosis three times. Or to reason my mom getting hit by a car. To believe my father leaving me was for my good. Bad things happen and bad things will always happen. (Until we’re in heaven, that is!) But to worry about the possibility of them happening? To let myself get wrapped up in my fear?

It’s killing my spirit.

What if I just stopped? What if, every time a worrisome thought crossed my thoughts, I gave it directly to God? What if I fully gave Him control over my life? What if I trusted Him to know what’s best for me? Trusted Him to know what’s best for my loved ones?

It would be hard. Worry is such an integral part of me that to not worry? That feels weird. I feel out of control and reckless.

But it could also be the most freeing thing I could do to myself.

*I want to clarify that Jennie does not, in any way, think there is anything wrong with having an anxiety disorder. She fully understands that some people need therapy and/or medication to control their anxiety. But before she went that route, she wanted to see what the Bible had to say about dealing with fear/anxiety. I still intend on seeking out therapy about my anxiety, but my eyes have been opened to a new way of approaching my fears.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa of Lisa's Yarns April 25, 2012 at 7:48 am

I have struggled with worrying on some level most of my life, even from a young age. I never worried about big things like medical diagnoses or losing a parent or the house burning down – instead it was about little small things. I felt like worrying kept them in my control – or prepared me for worst case scenarios that could occur. I read a quote that said something like, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” And I have really focused on that. I’ve even taped that to my computer screen at work at certain times when I find worries taking over. And I also reflect on that “I know the plans I have for you” verse from Jeremiah. And I think of the “my ways are not your ways” verse as well – because while my life is turning out way different than I had imagined, I know it’s all for the better as I really do think I am living out God’s will…

Sounds like this will be a great bible study for you!

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Stephany April 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm

That quote is so perfect! Thanks for sharing it.

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite verses and it’s something I constantly remind myself when things aren’t happening the way I planned them. My plans? Pale in comparison to the plans God has for me. They don’t even compare.

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Ashley K. April 25, 2012 at 8:25 am

Oh my gosh, do I know how you feel! I dealt with anxiety to a small degree for a long time, but then once bad things actually started happening (in the last year, my house was broken into, there was a gang shooting outside my house two weeks later, and the house we moved into later burned down), that my anxiety really ramped up. I realized that it had EVERYTHING to do with not trusting God for my safety and security. I’ve posted about my journey here on my blog a little bit, and I can assure you that if you can learn to trust God now, it’ll make all the bigger, scarier things in your life–marriage, babies, illness, disasters, etc–much easier in the future. Although going through all the things we went through last year were AWFUL, now we’re pregnant, and knowing we can trust God for ANYTHING has made being pregnant SO much easier!

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Stephany April 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Wow, you had a hard year last year! But look how you came through it. God is amazing. And I think that’s what we have to learn: bad things ARE going to happen. It’s just a fact of this life. But really good things will also happen. And worrying about those bad things happening? It’s not helping us in the long run.

I’m so glad to see how you’ve come out on top after a terrible year. So exciting!

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Megan April 25, 2012 at 8:35 am

Such a great post. You’re right, though–it’ll be difficult, as a human being, to give everything to God. I’ve found that when I do, though, my eyes are opened to the beauty in life.

When I am feeling a bit anxious or worried, my favorite verse to come back to is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Well, Psalm 46:1-11 is a great reminder of what God can do for us.

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Stephany April 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I love that verse as well. It’s one of those simple reminders of what happens happens but God is still there, solid and never failing.

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Amber April 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I used to be really bad about getting worked up/worrying about things that hadn’t even happened yet and might not happen – little scenario’s I’d created in my head. It was very hard on my relationship for awhile actually. My mom would say to me, “Why are you worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet?” I’ve gotten WAY better over the years and nowadays I tend to have a more “what will be, will be” type of attitude, and once something bad HAS happened I just tell myself it’s too late to change anything that’s already happened and all I can do is make the best of things moving forward.

It’s definitely a work-in process though! I think a regular yoga and meditation practice has really helped me get to this place!

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Stephany April 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm

I’m really trying to get to that place. Worrying doesn’t help in any way, it just increases our anxiety! I’m getting better as I consciously let go of the anxiety and release it. I’m gradually learning the freedom in not being an intense worrywart and that worrying about future events won’t keep bad things from happening OR making the pain lessen.

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E April 25, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I’m glad you had a breakthrough this week. Hopefully that knowledge will help you as you continue to move forward in dealing with your anxiety.

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Stephany May 1, 2012 at 8:26 am

It was just the breakthrough I have been seeking. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt in control of this worrying. It’s a conscious process, but it’s working and that makes me happy.

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Lauren Michelle April 26, 2012 at 11:54 am

You’ve written an amazing and eye-opening post, yourself. Thank you for sharing Jennie’s perception of fear and what it does to us. I’ve never thought of it as an outright sin, just that it was wrong because it proved a lack of trust in God. Also the passage from Luke brings its own eye-opening results. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have issues with worrying, too, although they were so much worse a few years ago than they are now. I’ve gotten better about not worrying, but sometimes it sneaks up on me and I have a bout of anxiety over it. I hope with this new insight you’re able to deal with worry and anxiety better. I know how difficult it is not to worry about things, but I have faith you can beat it. I’ll be praying for you! :)

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Stephany May 1, 2012 at 9:56 am

Thanks so much, Lauren. I honestly never considered that worrying could be a sin! But it makes total & complete sense and it’s not the way God has called us to live. I see myself doing better, laying it all in God’s hands when it gets to be too much, but also resting in the notion that God is in control and He has my best interests at heart.

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