By: Cheri Fuller
"The Bible is true—and it is true!
Fear, worrying, and anxiety actually question the trustworthiness of God."
Corrie ten Boom
Has anyone ever said to you, “You look worried!” or “Why do you seem so anxious?” Maybe you’ve tried to look really calm, or said, “Oh, I’m just concerned.” However, there are telltale clues—can you relate to any of these?
You know you’re experiencing worry or anxiety when. . .
· The hand rest on the passenger side has permanent imprints from your fingers gripping it for dear life while your teen or spouse drives.
· Your dentist suggests you wear a mouth guard while you sleep because your teeth are grinding down.
· You’re giving a speech but can’t tell whether the sound you hear is the audience applauding or your knees knocking.
· The words your kids hear most from you when they go out the door is, “Be careful!”
· You have a tape playing over and over in your mind rehearsing all the “what-ifs.”
· You discover your nightgown’s on backward and your fingernails have become your favorite bedtime snack.
Perhaps you’re not wearing a mouth guard yet, but have you ever been so worried you couldn’t sleep? Or in the face of a difficult or scary situation, your hands have trembled or you’ve become nauseous? Maybe, like me, you’ve even struggled with chronic worry, anxiety, or fear since childhood.
We live in an uncertain time where headlines can bring us to a state of mild worry or sheer panic. Terrorist attacks, the epidemic of school shootings, natural disasters like tornados and hurricanes, child kidnappings, and the financial crash of 2007 and 2008 that rippled throughout the United States and globally have caused worry and anxiety to escalate: Will my child be abducted like all the other children I’ve read about in the news? Is her school safe? Will I lose my home in a tornado or my job in the next economic recession?
Even the mention of the words anxiety, fear, and worry have increased in the news, tripling in the early twenty-first-century years. And all the way back to September 11, 2001, Americans have been under a blanket of insecurity. Though the magnitude of anxiety began to dissipate with time, many months after the tragedy, thousands reported still having trouble sleeping and making decisions, and pharmacists reported increased demand for anti-anxiety drugs. Ten percent of travelers either canceled or considered canceling air travel (which may sound small but represents nineteen million airline passengers), and 37 percent at one time or another say they are worried about a biological or chemical attack. Not in a long time have we had so much to be worried or fearful about.
I am no stranger to the worry trap. I know what it’s like for my heart to experience terror when I began hemorrhaging in the sixth month of pregnancy or when we rushed our wheezing little son to the emergency room when he couldn’t breathe, when four houses in our neighborhood were robbed in one week and I was all alone until my husband returned from military training, and when a loved one got a diagnosis of cancer and a sentence of only a few months to live. But being a worrier didn’t start in adulthood.
I came into this world preprogrammed for fretting, and the circumstances of life reinforced it. I was a happy, active, talkative child who loved people, loved to have fun and be outside. But I became more and more cautious as I grew. My dear, protective, and fearful mom tried to keep six children well and safe (one of her sources of pride was getting us all through childhood with no broken bones):
“Don’t climb that tree; you might fall!”
“I can’t take you kids to the zoo; you might get eaten by one of the animals.”
“Don’t swim in the deep part of the pool [after we’d had swimming lessons]; you might drown!”
Then a series of devastating losses reinforced that the world was indeed a very scary, out-of-control place: when I was eight years old, my father had his first major heart attack and two more in the next two years. Nine months later, my grandfather died of cancer. When I was ten, my aunt drowned in a tragic accident. And when I was eleven, we woke up one morning to hear that Papa had died in the middle of the night, leaving my mom a thirty-six-year-old grieving, very anxious single parent with six children to raise.
And then less than two years later, after we had moved and I’d started a new school, made friends, and things had begun to re-stabilize in our family, one of my best friends, just my age of thirteen, died in a hunting accident at his grandpa’s farm.
Any vestige of trust or faith I had was blown out of my life with that blast. By my teen years I was afraid of driving on rainy or icy streets and afraid of flying. I worried about change and especially about losing someone I loved. However, since opposites do attract, I married a man who wasn’t afraid of much of anything and thrived on adventure. He chose jumping out of airplanes and then tending to the wounded as his number one choice of service in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, which gave me something new to worry about.
I don’t know what you do when you’re afraid, but one of my coping mechanisms is staying very busy, unconsciously trying to not to think about what awful things might happen. Sometimes we can seem to avoid our fears by keeping a frantic pace—being a supermom, wife, soccer mom or dad, or being driven to achieve in our business. Yet underneath we begin to feel more distant from God and see Him as a taskmaster instead of a loving Father.
Scores of people deal with fear by denying it, by sinking into depression and withdrawing from everyone, by abusing alcohol or trying to control things. None of these strategies truly helps us overcome our fears or brings freedom. Instead we can take a close look at what pushes our panic buttons, face our worries, look to God and what He has to show us about what to do when we feel overwhelmed, and find a new freedom and joy in living.
My prayer is that, God will bring you from worry to wonder, and from anxiety to peace. That you’ll realize more and more how much God loves you and experience a more joyful relationship with Him.
© 2015 by Back to the Bible.
“From Replacing Worry for Wonder, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.”