Nothing can cripple our spiritual walk like a fear of the future. Worrying about what will happen, what will not happen, what might happen....it's not only crippling, but it can paralyze us with fear and even be physically hurtful.
When my youngest daughter was two years old, she was playing in my purse and found a pill box that had some of her brother's autism meds in it. I carried this particular medication in my purse because we would often be out of the house when it was time for his noon-time pill, so I kept a small supply on me. As I was cooking dinner, Laura opened the pill box and swallowed an unknown amount. I walked around the countertop to where she was and screamed when I saw what she was holding. A mad and frightening rush to the hospital yielded her being intubated and given IV meds that would counteract the Clonidine. As my husband, oldest daughter and I kept vigil at her hospital bedside that long night, we were filled with dread about what the immediate and long-term futures might hold: would Laura die? Would she be permanently affected if she didn't? We could not imagine a life without our sweet and precocious little girl.
She didn't die. She woke up, finally, and cried for her Mommy to hold her, which I joyfully did, tears flowing down my face. Even though we were filled with dread that past night, and fought worry, we remembered that God had brought us through many terrible things before. We reminded ourselves that The Lord God, who knows the plans He has for us, was with us in the past and would be with us still, even as we prayed and reminded God (really, ourselves) about the times He had been with us.
When anyone talks about the future, Jeremiah 29:11 is used to bring comfort and hope: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." While this is true and applicable, there are other verses too that point out that worry is not a good thing.
“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 than food, and the body more 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? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" [Matthew 6:25-34]. Jesus tells us in His Word that God will take care of us. We should not worry -- it doesn't add anything to our lives.
Right after my first back surgery, my abusive ex-husband and I separated. The abuse caused the herniated disc in my back but it did not stop even after I when I was recuperating from the major back surgery. So, nine days after surgery, I told him to leave, and he did. During that time, when I could not drive because of the surgery, I was running very low on food and did not have anything to make for dinner for me and my boys. After a friend picked them up to take them to school, I laid down to rest and pray. I prayed that God would provide our daily bread. I prayed to Him, saying that I remember how He had provided in the past and I was claiming His promise to provide. I fell asleep.
When I awoke, I looked out the living room window and saw the postman at our street-side mailbox. When I opened the front door to go out, my mouth flew open: on my front porch were five full bags of groceries. With tears streaming down my face, I praised God out loud, thanking Him for His provision and faithfulness.
That was a hard time in my life, but it taught me so much about relying on God and remembering His faithfulness. Here are three lessons I have learned about facing fears of the future:
Worrying about the future steals the present from you and clouds the past
Worrying about finances, about health, about anything steals any joy or thoughts about the present time. It clouds what God did in the past and makes it hard for us to remember. Worrying focuses us on our problems instead of God.
When Peter saw Jesus walking toward the boat on which he was on with the other disciples, he asked Jesus if he could come to him. Jesus said yes, and Peter swung his legs over until his feet touched the raging waters. Peter walked on the water as he made eye contact with Jesus. But then, Peter looked down, his eyes moved from Jesus, and he noticed the swirling waters. His feet immediately lost their footing and he dropped like a rock, right into the lake. He yelled out for Christ and immediately (I love that!) Jesus reached down and pulled him up.
Notice that Christ did not dive in after Peter, but waited until Peter screamed to Him for help. Notice that Peter only fell into the waters when he took his eyes off Jesus. We too will falter when we look at the piles of bills around us, the illness that we or someone we love face, or the troubles we are having in relationships when we allow worry to rob us of the time we spend in the Word, in prayer, and at church. If we take our eyes off Jesus we too will be swallowed up by the churning waters of worry. Like Peter, we must cry out to Jesus for help; we cannot manage life without Him.
Remind God (and yourself) about His past faithfulness
Carrying a large mortgage as a single mom and handling all the other bills took its toll on my paychecks. I got behind on the mortgage and the bank sent me a certified letter, saying if I didn't get caught up, I would lose the house. That was enough to send me over the edge, but, on my knees I prayed, and reminded God of His faithfulness and provision in the past. I told Him about my reliance on Him: I could not do this without Him.
Many times in Jesus' ministry people came to Him, talking of their servant or child being sick or at death's door, and asking Jesus to come heal their loved one. The people knew they could not heal the sick themselves, but knew Who could. Asking for help is probably the thing that hurts the most. We are by nature prideful people, but pride gets in the way of a true relationship with Christ. I told my fiance about the letter, and after he prayed on it as well, he was led by God to help me. We married a short time later.
Reminding God of His past faithfulness really reminds us of that very thing too. God does not forget unless He chooses to forget, like our sins when we accept Christ as Savior. But when we pray and remind God of what He had done, we remember and have faith that He will help us.
Refuse to Worry
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own," said Jesus in Matthew 6:34. If we refuse to worry, we eliminate the foothold satan is trying to obtain in our lives.
Worry makes it nearly impossible to have an abiding, trusting faith in God. Worry says that our problems are bigger than our God. Nothing is farther from the truth! Faith says that nothing is bigger than our God and He will provide for us...it may not be exactly what we want, but it is exactly what God knows we need.
Some people worry because they feel out of control. Even though it won't change a thing, worrying only makes it worse. Writing a list of what you're worrying about, and making a list of actions to do about the things you're worrying about, will help get it off your mind and into a form in which you can begin to address those issues. Pray over this list, give it to God -- and ask what His will is for the issues and what to do.
Believing God's promise that He will always be with us and provide for us means trusting Him -- and refusing to worry.
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