When I Am Afraid
When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.
It’s no secret that I read quite a bit. It wasn’t always this way. I remember my mother letting me colour on my Bible just to get me to read it. She told me it was a Bible colouring book, and that I could colour the chapter I read. That Bible would be a mix of childish colouring and drool from when even the novelty of drawing would ware off and I would use the Good Book as a pillow. It would not be until many years later that I would enjoy reading the Bible. For most of my childhood and adulthood, other than the action stories, particularly those of King David, having to read it was a pretty boring idea that I knew shouldn’t be boring because I was told it was important.
Fast-forward many years later to today, and it’s a source of sustenance. It’s not proof of my being good. If anything, seeing the standard of the Bible reminds me how far I am from the ideal. It’s not an insurance against hardship, or pain, or inconvenience, or disappointment, or mistakes. None of those have diminished. And while it has many great principles, I can’t say it’s truly been a guide I have followed completely, mostly because of my inability and, admittedly, my immature selfish lack of desire to obey.
But now, after year after year of humbling, I know that I need help. I need a lot of help. Despite my responsibility and relative achievement, in me lies the same emptiness that lies in all of us that needs filling. Like everyone else, I also seek significance and recognition, and feel bad when it is denied. Like everyone else, I also seek the intimacy of true friendships, not just the expectations of a part to play. Like everyone else, I’m trying to find a way from who I am and who I know I should be, a distance that seems to grow as I assess myself more honestly. More and more I realize how true and vast and deep my needs are, and how incapable I am of meeting them.
This realization of needing to be filled and not having the ability to satisfy these needs lead to a feeling we’re all familiar with: fear. We become afraid when we have sense of possible danger, possible pain, of possible loss. We all have some form of fear. To think that we do not fear or to forget that others fear just like us is to be so ignorant of human nature.
I myself have been afraid of many things throughout my life. My eternal salvation, the safety and growth of my loved ones, the funding my businesses, affording my bills, growing as a person, paying debt, returning shareholder investment, not hurting my parents’ ministry or the whole church for that matter with my mistakes and character flaws, various health issues, relationship issues (yes, I’ve had relationships), and personal insecurities are just some of the things I have lost peace over and I’m sure there’s more. Your list probably includes some of mine and some uniquely yours. The point is, we all face fear. And like anything we face, how we respond will dictate our path.
I’ve found that my responses usually are one of these three:
1. Pride – “I am greater than what I am facing” – I draw up from my reserves of energy, of inspiration (from books, experiences, and even Twitter), I block out the negativity – including negative people, and I convince myself that I am strong, that I can handle this, that I cannot fail, that I will not fail. I motivate myself with the pressure of everyone leaning on my success, with the consequences of failure, and with the promise of accomplishment. Admittedly, this is my default response. It is something I need to correct. But it sounds effective right? Well, it is. It’s effective for overcoming on my own strength, until I run into something so much greater than me and beyond my control and out comes my second response:
2. Cowardice – “What I am facing is greater than me” – When the challenge is really frustrating, I want to back off. I want a safe place. I retreat to my comfort zone. This is when I say, “If this is going to be this crazy, I don’t want it. I give up.” People who know me, who have worked with me, know that giving up isn’t something I’m known for, and that it has been determination and relentlessness that have identified my career, but in other areas, particularly relational areas, I tend to respond in cowardice. Instead of facing things, I tell myself, “You want to be that way? Be that way. It’s a free world. I am also free not to inconvenience myself with you.” The fear of being hurt or disappointed overcame me, and my response is to step back.
With Pride “I” win. With Cowardice “I” lose. Whether the “I” wins or the “I” loses, the road of “I” of self-centred living of seeing the world from how “I” am affected is a lonely way.
There’s a better way, a way that is quite new to me. It’s a path I must be deliberate about walking or I’ll fall back to pride and cowardice. It’s the way of humility.
3. Humility – “Jesus, You are greater than what I am facing. I need You.”
“I NEED YOU.” Three very simple yet life-changing words. Words that humbly admit “I can’t do this without You. I’ve tried and I’ve failed. I need You to rescue me. I need You to teach me. I need You to show me. I need You to fill me. I need You to love me.” These are difficult statements to say, especially for someone like me that enjoys the idea of not needing anyone because my experience is, like pretty much everyone else I know, needing someone means getting disappointed and hurt.
So we take the other 2 roads, either pride or cowardice, and realise the proud and the cowards are walking on the same path towards the same end: loneliness and isolation. The very thing we tried to avoid we hastened towards because we let our fear win.
Instead, I need to remind myself daily and confess, “I need You.” Just like King David, a warrior, a poet, a ruler, yet in his high position humbly admitted, “I do get afraid.”
“But when I am afraid, I put my trust in You.”