I heard an illustration recently from a pastor of a church where I attend a youth ministry. He was describing a situation when an individual came to him who was suffering from extreme anxiety attacks. He couldn’t even come to meet the pastor on his own because he was too scared to drive for the fear of being in an accident. He couldn’t live a normal life to the slightest. He wasn’t able to hold a job for a long period of time because of his fear of the worst things that could possibly happen to him while working. He couldn’t be in any type of friendship or relationship because of his fear of being hurt by that other person. He couldn’t go out places, enjoy friendship or companionship, or even find a purpose to life just due to shear fear of what could happen. The pastor asked him what he was so afraid of. His response was that if something ever happens to him, that’s it! That is the end! He would no longer be in existence and his life would have served no purpose. Everyone thought he was insane, but the pastor completely agreed with him. Considering that he was an unbeliever, the pastor said he was the only sane atheist to have fear of all those things. If life is just meant to be lived and then we die, then what is the purpose of existence in the first place? He was living his life without hope and that is why he was so fearful!
We may all be able to understand that story from the perspective of a believer and, if needed, give some encouraging words from scripture and share the gospel with that person. We would probably urge him to put his faith in the Lord, and tell him that the fears he is currently facing would be resolved. But one thing we often overlook when hearing about cases like this is the fear WE face THOUGH we are believers. That’s a truly confounding thought to think about! We ARE believers and we HAVE put our faith in an almighty and all-powerful God, yet we live our lives in fear of the most trivial things sometimes. I am one of the most paranoid people when it comes to that. I remember different instances in my life when I faced what seemed like major fears but in the end turned out to be minor difficulties. In high school, I had the fear of failing one class in my final semester that would’ve set me back a full year. In university, I had the fear of flunking out or expulsion because I was struggling with my major for over two years and wasn’t associating with the right people. In my career I had the fear of being laid off because my company was going under and they completely cut my entire team. In my personal life I had the fear of brokenness, depression, and backsliding because I didn’t know how I would recover from the heartbreak I went through. Amidst all these fears at different points in my life, one of the verses that brought me encouragement and hope was this one –
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. | John 14:27
This is such a simple verse, yet it has so much meaning. These are the words of Christ towards his disciples after he tells them that he would be leaving them to go to his heavenly father. What would your reaction be if the God of the universe told you that he would be leaving you? Mine would be complete fear! That is probably what was running through the disciples mind when Jesus told them this! But before they could dwell on their fear, he reassures them by stating that he would be leaving them with the Holy Spirit, which would live in AND through them to give consolation and guidance in the greatest times of need. After Christ promises the comforter, he goes on to offer these words of encouragement through the perfect peace that he would provide them. Think about it, what does it mean to have the peace of God within you? If we look at the life of Christ while on this earth, there is never an instance where we see Jesus being worried, anxious, concerned, or even slightly fearful of what could/would happen to him. That is the peace of God! Compared to even our most significant struggles in life it will never match up to the pain, agony, and distress that Christ had to go through when he suffered for us on the cross of Calvary! The peace that he had when he was being tortured to death is the same peace that he leaves with us! We have absolutely nothing to be scared of because having the peace of God with us means that we have a piece of God within us! When I was going through the most painful of those anxieties in life, these were the verses that I found encouragement in-
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. | Jeremiah 29:11-13
When I first read these verses, my first thought was that I’ve heard this a million times and seen it on countless Facebook statuses, Instagram posts, and people’s bios. I always stopped with verse 11. If you read forward to verse 12 and 13, it really changes the meaning and the responsibility we have towards achieving that perfect peace. I thought to myself, I know that the Lord has plans for me, I know I am a believer and the Lord will give me a future and a hope, but WHEN though? The answer lies in those following verses. Only when I took the time to truly call on the Lord, seek Him, and search Him out with ALL of my heart is when I really found peace!
That is what is often lacking in our spiritual walk! We have no doubt that we are believers, we have faith in God, we make our best attempt to live lives that are pleasing to him but sometimes we tend to get overconfident. We let this thought creep into our mind unknowingly that we are capable of living our life without him. We would never admit it to ourselves but our actions do most of the talking. How is your spiritual walk? Are you constantly and consistently spending time in prayer, reading, and fellowshipping with your local church? I know I don’t. Those instances in life when we think we are in control, God is quick to remind us how out of control things can be without him. He wants us always to depend and rely on him all the time, not only when we have doubts and fears.
In those instances in life when I was facing anxiety God was quick to give me answers when I turned to Him and truly sought after Him. In high school when I thought I was about to fail the semester and repeat a year, I received just enough of a grade in order to pass and graduate. In university when I thought I was going to be expelled or flunk out of my major, God gave me the opportunity to change majors and seek an honest education with the right group of friends. When I thought I would be out of a job because of massive layoffs and my company losing business, I was able to keep my job and even get a promotion when I least expected it. When I thought I had lost everything including my testimony and was completely heartbroken, God showed me that he had even greater plans for me to serve Him through my life. In no way am I saying that everything will work out just as YOU plan when you turn to God, but rather God will fulfill his perfect plan THROUGH you when you seek Him! I still don’t know where the state of my career lies right now; I may be out of a job any minute, but it’s not my occupation, education, or social status that defines me. It’s only dependent on if I am fulfilling God will through my life! Whenever I face discouraging situations or am let down because of things that are going on in life, these are some verses have constantly given me reassurance-
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. | Isaiah 40:28-31
What are you struggling with in your life right now? What‘s causing you anxiety and fear? Cast all your cares on the Lord, wait on him, and seek him. He will give you the perfect peace that passes all understanding and will use you to glorify Him!