Saturday, November 5, 2011

When I Am Afraid

"When I am afraid, 
I put my trust in You.
In God, whose Word I praise,
In God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
You have kept count of my tossings [wanderings];
put my tears in a bottle.  
Are they not in Your book?"
Psalm 56:3-4, 8

I remember, when I was little, singing a song based on this verse.
"When I am afraid, I will trust in you, I will trust in you, I will trust in you.  When I am afraid, I will trust in you, In God whose Word I praise."  Back then, I never thought I'd have such paralyzing fears.  Maybe little ones, like spiders and the dark and getting a spanking, but not ones that would inhibit my spiritual growth.   

Through high school, and even more recently, verse 8 has come to mean more to me than I ever thought it would.  Meditating on it, I began to gleam the message between the lines.  God knows all the struggles I've been through.  He knows all the tears I've shed...ever.  Not only that, but He has collected them, stored away and recorded.  He loves me so much that not a single tear has slipped past Him.  He's been there, beside me, catching them off my cheek and dropping them into the bottle with every last one I've ever cried.  He knows how many there are, which ones were cried for which occasion, and how many more I've yet to cry.  All because of love.        

All through August, I began to realize that I was struggling with several big fears - fears that were crippling my relationship with God and others and making it difficult for me to sleep and have joy.  I didn't feel close to God.  I desired to be near Him, but I didn't know what to do.  

At the beginning of September, my care group leader sent out an email about a fear study that was being hosted by a few of the ladies in my church.  I immediately signed up for the class and - I have to say - it was the best decision I could've made.

We went through "When I Am Afraid" by Edward T. Welch, kept personal fear journals, meditated on relevant scriptures, completed the 3 Trees for our different fears and met each week to encourage and hear from one another.

The fears I recognized in myself:
Fear of Man
Fear of Financial Ruin

I'm sure I've lived with both fears for pretty much all of my life.  I've always been shy, quiet, and reserved.  I'm an introvert.  I spend a lot of time self-analyzing, thinking and dwelling on whatever I deem important, whether it's positive or negative.  I've almost always felt self-conscious, unsure of myself, timid and afraid of ridicule and rejection when faced with voicing my opinions.   

As for fear of financial ruin, my family has never been rich, never made much money.  They even had to declare bankruptcy at one point.  Being on my own now, I am keenly aware of how much money everything costs and how much money I don't have.  Although I don't buy a lot of luxuries (really, I only get the bare necessities), I still find myself cringing at the cost of living in this area.  I have become a penny pincher, to some degree.  "Every penny counts," they say.  After all, 1 cent is the difference between $0.99 and $1.00.

But God.
It's so amazing that I can see how His hand was orchestrating all of this - and even what's happening now, after the class is over.  
  • That I would realize I was fearful and desired to fight my fears but didn't know how.
  •  That the fear study was organized and held when I needed it.
  • That my care group leader alerted me to the class.
  • That I learned to identify and combat the fears I faced with Scripture.
  • That I made new friends, who encouraged me to continue with my writing, and that a few of my poems from high school touched and blessed the group (years after they'd been written, no less) by speaking to the problems we all had.
  • That I stepped out of my comfort zone and read my poems out loud, despite my nervousness (and there was no ridicule, only praise and encouragement).
He opened my eyes to the false prophecies I’d been telling myself, the control I’d been giving other people over my life, the unfailing promises of good and prosperity He has made to me, and the lack of trust I’d been giving Him in return.  That lack of trust stemmed from a lack of love. 

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
1 John 4:18 

No wonder I didn't feel close to Him.  I was fearful, and the opposite of love is fear.  I wasn't loving Him, so I wasn't trusting Him.  After all, when you love someone, you trust them, don't you?  You trust them with your hopes and dreams, your affections and emotions, your secrets and desires.  You trust that they'll trust you in return.  

I was living like an orphan, believing it was all up to me to fight my fears.  

But God.  

My Father was right there, holding my hand, waiting for me to let Him fight them for me.

"God is our refuge and strength, 
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, 
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 
though its waters roar and foam, 
though the mountains tremble at its swelling." 
Psalm 46:1-3