93 – Dealing with Anxiety, Worry, and Fear
This is for all who know sleepless nights, anxious days, looming bills, payroll just ahead, strain at home, feelings of self-pity, waves of fatigue, nightmares, pressure, dread, terror and, well…you get the picture.
We’ve all been there, and some of us are there right now. Biblically, we already know how we are supposed to deal with anxiety, worry, and fear.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
And when we remember to pray, this usually works. But sometimes, even when we pray, we still feel a sense of desperation-even panic.
The first quarter of 2002 roughed me up pretty good. Recession had knocked a number of our major donors to their knees. As our primary fundraiser, I was working twice as hard with half the results. Several major projects I was working on had to be postponed-no time. We furloughed several part-timers. Sometimes you just do what you have to do.
When summer began I was thin-thin on patience, thin on energy, thin on faith. We were also thin on cash. On top of that, we expect income at Man in the Mirror to drop off during the summer months.
Personally, I was doing all my regular spiritual disciplines. I felt closer than ever to Jesus. As an eternal optimist, I even had faith things would work out. I also felt desperate. I hated that I felt that way, but I did. Here is an entry from my journal in mid-May…
May, 2002-Just because I feel desperate doesn’t mean I am. What do feelings have to do with anything? Have they ever been correct in the past, except by accident?
The message is simple: Don’t deny feelings, but don’t automatically accept the information they give you.
Don’t stuff your feelings because you think it is not “Christian” to feel that way. Instead, ask, “What is the information this emotion is giving me?” Then go from there.
But don’t necessarily trust what you “hear.” As I have said elsewhere, it is easy to look at the data and come to the wrong conclusion.
GOD, I DON’T NEED THIS
Two and a half years ago I was sitting in my backyard before dawn. God had poured one blessing after another on my relationship with Jesus, family, friendships, ministry, finances, and health. I looked up into the starry night, praised God, and said in a moment of exuberance, “God, I don’t need any of this. All I need is you. You are all I need.” And I really meant it.
The problem with making statements to God that we really mean is that He will make us mean them. What followed was a six month long test of excruciating proportion. He mugged me.
Recently, near the end of May, I thought back to that day 2 ½ years earlier. I remembered what I had said about all those blessings. Then I thought about the current slough of troubles. I laughed out loud and said of my problems, “Lord, I don’t need any of this. All I need is you. You are all I need.” Here’s the way I put it in my journal…
May 29, 2002-Today is tough-financially tough. I was reminded of that day (when? 2.5 years ago?) when feeling so blessed I prayed, “Lord, I don’t need any of this. All I need is you. You are all I need.” Then, He crushed me with the brutality of His grace, because when we make statements to God that we really mean, He will make us mean them. Then, this morning, facing a tough time, I prayed again, “Lord, I don’t need any of this. All I need is you. You are all I need.” Why should I only tell God that I don’t need His blessings to be happy? Why not also tell Him that I don’t need His testing to yet trust Him completely?
The message is simple: He is all we need. All we need is Him.
FEELING GOD HAS FAILED ME
By the end of May I could not see any way to make payroll on Monday, June 3. Our twenty staff, each of whom I deeply love, “need” their pay-it is no mere “want.” They have rent payments, mortgage payments, groceries, child care, gasoline, car payments, insurance, and doctor bills to pay. I was clinging to Christ and His Word…
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:31-33)
By God’s grace, we had a regularly scheduled Board of Directors meeting at the end of May. They encouraged me. They also told us we could temporarily transfer funds from our internal Project Father’s Day book account to cover payroll. (These were not designated funds – it was simply income we knew we would need in coming months.) While that relieved some pressure, it also made me angry and sad. Not once during my twenty years in real estate did I ever co-mingle funds between any of our 50 plus companies and partnerships-never once.
To be completely transparent, we needed $35,000 in two business days, and I felt like God had failed me. I went home and wrote this in my journal the next morning…
May 31, 2002-Yesterday, Board authorized “borrowing” funds from PFD balance to make payroll and pay bills, which feels like a violation of all my principles. Father, even though I ‘feel’ like you have failed me (though I don’t ‘believe’ you have), I am not going to fail you. I will not teach my experience. I will teach your Word. I will not believe the perception of my experience. I will believe your Word.
I asked Him, “God, why are you breaking my heart?”
Every Monday afternoon around 4:00 P. M. Betty, our Administrator, gives me a weekly financial status report. At the bottom of the report are a set of numbers that are, for me, the bottom line. On June 3 the report came and showed the balance in the account for payroll and bills at -$2,309. What Betty, our Administrator, didn’t know, however, was that at my writing office I had received a check for $5,000 so our balance was actually plus $2,691. Once again God had shown himself faithful to His promises. The cloud began to lift and, even though we are still in the middle of all this, my joy has returned.
The message is simple: It’s okay to “feel” like God has failed you. It’s okay-even important-to tell God how you feel. It’s not okay to stuff your feelings and pretend they don’t exist. Process them. Tell God how you really feel. He’s big enough to handle it. Let’s get honest with Him, and then let the Holy Spirit work it out for us.
FAITH OVER FEELINGS
Bill Bright says, “Faith is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the bigger it gets.” My faith has grown through troubles in ways it would never have grown through blessings.
Sometimes when we are lazy, God must force a faith workout. The core idea: It is through faith that we conquer anxiety, fear, and worry. I’m sleeping better. Prayer once again takes away anxiety. I wish you could see the new bulges in my faith muscles.
1. Where you are being tempted to be anxious and not trust God?
2. What is one practical step you can take to increase your faith next week?
3. How do you usually process your emotions? What are they telling you?
4. Consider memorizing one of the verses from this article and asking God to make it true in your heart and mind.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
©2002. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved. This may be reproduced with proper attribution for non-commercial purposes.