I’ve gone through seasons of my life paralyzed by fear–mainly from the uncertainty of my diseases, or fearing death itself. However, four weeks ago as I was preparing to speak to a group of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) on this very topic, I found myself slinking back into anxiety’s grip.
My downward spiral started with the demise of our AC unit.
Four weeks ago a repair tech inspected our home AC system. He shared that cloth air ducts (most likely installed in the 50s) still lined our attic floor. Some of them were tattered with holes that the previous owners simply wrapped with tape; And one of the ducts leading to my oldest daughter’s room had collapsed completely.
My husband is super handy (praise Jesus), and God has provided every bit of what we’ve needed along our home repair journey since buying our 1950s fixer-upper three years ago.
That is, after I’ve hyperventilated and prayed and festered over the “what ifs” of our circumstances.
I can be very human this way.
I’m not sure if you have priced AC units lately, but they’re not giving those puppies out for free.
To add that little extra challenge to our already crazy years of repairs, we promised when we moved to never, ever, ever use credit cards again, thanks to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course we had taken four times.
You know what happens when you promise to never ever use something again, especially your trusty financial back-up plan?
Bumps—that’s what happens.
Someday soon I’ll blog about how we’ve paid off oodles of medical/credit card/student loan debt and how God showed up along the way, but for now…you just need to know that worry and anxiety and the “what ifs” have followed me a good portion of my life.
I got pretty sick and tired of being sick and tired over the unexpected things.
That’s why for the next few posts I’ll be blogging on this topic. Mainly as a reminder for me so I’m 1) not surprised when debilitating fear rises from within, and 2) I’ll remember what to do to calm my heart.
So back to the MOPS story I started with.
The week leading up to my presentation was a hard week.
A stressful week.
A week that was so unbelievably ridiculous, you’d almost think someone was trying to trip me up, catch me off-guard, or give me extra material for my talk.
I finally pulled my husband aside and told him I was having a mini-meltdown and asked if we could talk.
With my speech more discombobulated than usual, I released the thoughts swirling in my mind. I sputtered about the unforeseen AC/duct work debacle, and then questioned his solution to pay for said problem.
Red Jeep Wagoneer
(This included selling his perfectly reliable truck so that half of the funds could pay for the new unit, the other half to renovate an old, barely running, red rusted-out 1980 Jeep Wagoneer that has been in our family for years. But my husband’s idea of refurbishing the Jeep was to buy a second Jeep so he could swap parts. Only, when he brought home this second Jeep, it arrived on the back of someone’s trailer, due to the fact that it didn’t run. So we had two old Jeeps sitting in our front lawn. I don’t know about you, but the math doesn’t add up in my mind. I looked at our budget and thought, Why not just buy a car that already works instead of two that only half work? Lord, help me.)
I told my husband that I feared we were getting into another fixer-upper money pit, like we did when we bought our house. Not only that, I reminded him of a certain child who is going through a phase…a phase I thought we would have grown out of by now. It’s the questioning phase…and this child tends to ask a lot of them…so much so that this week I had to give this one a question limit. Not only are they questioning, they are now challenging the answers I’m offering. I feared they will never grow out of this stage and I wondered if I had done a horrible job with raising this child.
After a brief pause, I shared how I was probably just over tired because my sister had just come into town, and the day before I picked her up the kids and I scrubbed the house, making sure it was super clean–complete with matching bath towels, so she thinks it’s always this way. And I really hadn’t had a quiet moment to prepare for my speech that was coming up in two days.
Throat-tightening anxious, I couldn’t believe how I’d let myself get so worked up when I knew full well how to handle such things.
I hadn’t worried like this in two years, back when we were evicting tenants and refurbishing the rental right smack in the middle of my manuscript deadline.
My husband laughed.
Okay, it was more like a smirky-smile, and he said, “You did say your topic you’re speaking on this Monday is worry, right?”
I gave him a good long look then proceeded to tell him, “I don’t think I want to talk about worry Monday morning. Maybe I should speak on God’s many blessings?”
Let me stop right here and clarify that God worked everything out beautifully, but in the meantime, why? Why in the world do I fret over such silliness? You’d think by now I’d know how to handle the uncertainties with great finesse, especially these petty ones.
But I’m still a work in progress.
Nothing brings me more comfort than to read in Philippians 4:12 that the Apostle Paul said he had to learn the secret of being content.
Photo Credit: Camdiluv via Flickr, creative commons
I love this wording.
This means that contentment/happiness/a calm spirit did not come naturally to him. He had to learn a thing or two before he grasped the concept.
I’m allowed to be a student, but at some point I want to pass that test and know the secret. And friends, I believe I’ve stumbled upon just that.
For this reason, I’m creating an outline of what to do the next time that flood of fear infiltrates my heart.
We’ll never be able to completely avoid stressful situations, but we can be armed with what to do when those, “uh-oh” moments arise.
The first thing I do when stuff starts hitting the fan is: 1) Come to Jesus
Christ said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Jesus said, “Remain in me and I will remain in you” (John 15:4).
You have Christ inside of you. If He is in you, that means His power resides in you. Stop there and reread that last sentence three times.
Don’t listen to the lies murmuring away in your ear. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. But first, you have to rest in Him. This may not mean that God answers your prayer the way you want him to (like when you pray for your husband to purchase the right vehicle, and he chooses his version of the right vehicle). But rest assured, God works all things out for good.
My very first weapon when fear creeps in is to turn to Jesus and read, meditate, and repeat His Word. I may not have all the answers, but He does.
This helps me rewire my thoughts. And as soon as I get some Bible reading in, that’s when the Lord infuses us with His peace.
I love what the New Century Version of James 1:25 says:
“Truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law (Bible) that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy.”
Scripture goes on and on about what happens when we seek Him:
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalms 34:4).
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalms 34:7).
Jesus said, “Do not worry…(instead), seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).
And in case you need more reasons to cling to the Word, read these words of wisdom:
“God’s Word generates life, creates faith, produces change, frightens the Devil, causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character, transforms circumstances, imparts joy, overcomes adversity, defeats temptation, infuses hope, releases power, cleanses our minds, brings things into being, and guarantees our future forever!” (Purpose Driven Life ~ Rick Warren pg. 186)
Well, friends, that’s one outline point down, four more to go.
Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll share how Facebook, email, and ________ have transformed my fight when the enemy’s oppression weighs me down. (And for those of you concerned that I’ve thrown my handsome hubby under the Wagoneer with this message, rest assured my favorite man ended up playing a major role in my learning process. I can’t give away the secret just yet, but in the end of this series you’ll see just how God used his wisdom.)