Fear takes many forms.
For me lately it’s been in the form of anxiety and depression. A few things have to do with this, there’s a significant degree of change going on in my home. My wife is 30 weeks pregnant with our third child. It’s winter time, which means the days are shorter, and it’s cold. Our time outside is minimal. Bills are piling up, and while we’re able to eek by, the prenatal care is no small ticket. And my insurance sucks.
I believe I have what’s referred to as “Seasonal Affect Disorder”, which is surprisingly common, but I also have some physical manifestations of this.
I have a pain in my side. Literally.
I have a pain in my right side…it’s dull and annoying, but it never progresses past that. I went to a doctor about it 4 years ago when I was dealing with this same thing, I had a CT scan which produced no results and only cost me a lot. The trouble with the pain in my side is not the physical discomfort, because that is at a minimum. It’s that it causes me a lot of worry. And the not knowing causes me to immediately catastrophize the situation. My mind goes to the worst case scenario almost instantly. Which causes me a great deal of anxiety, which I believe contributes to the pain.
In an attempt to minimize the anxiety, I immediately begin trying to take control. I should see a doctor, I should research these symptoms on the internet (don’t do that by the way…it never looks good from there), I should eat better, exercise more etc. I end up trying to busy myself with things that will keep my mind off of it. While all the while the anxiety, the fear, the depression are gaining steam. Next thing I know I’ve lost my appetite, am feeling very lethargic, and have an overall desperate outlook.
Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?
Over the past few weeks, my outlook has changed. Instead of immediately trying to fix my problems, I’ve seen this anxiety and pain as a way to practice trusting in God through this process. My anxiety is a symptom of a greater problem. If I say I trust my God, but when the going gets tough, I don’t rely on him and his care through it, do I really have faith?
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
~ Matthew 8
In the story above, Jesus’ disciples feared for their lives. Their mortality was realized, their deaths seemed imminent. They woke him up, to get a hand helping, in Mark 4:39, the story is retold having them say “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?“. Implying that they didn’t wake him so he could calm the waves, they woke him so hey could help. At the forefront of their minds was their mortality. “Don’t you care?!”
They were trying to control the situation, to right the ship, to save their own lives.
When they awoke Him, he calmly asked them, “Where is your faith?”, and calmed the storm. This passage is different from any other in the new testament because the disciples immediately recognized that Jesus was God’s son.
Note that they had lived with him, spent every day together, seen him heal countless people, perform many very impressive miracles, but it was when he calmed the storm that they believed.
What does that mean for me?
I’m not trying to immediately control this situation, I’m using my control as a symptom of a problem. I’m trusting God to guide me through this process. If there’s something wrong with me, I’m asking him to confirm it so that I will see a physician.
How has this changed my outlook?
I now see the pain in my side, and my anxiety in general, as an opportunity, even a blessing. It’s a reminder for me to turn to him, a reminder that God is not the author of fear. Apart from him, the world is a very scary place, but Jesus is in the boat, and he’s asleep. He’s not worried, he’s still in control, and I find great comfort in that.
I don’t know what’s going on with me, why I’m experiencing this stuff…but I’m not living in fear, I’m learning how to live in peace in spite of fear.
This morning, in streams in the desert, I read something I’d like to share with anyone who might be struggling with a similar fear:
He will silently plan for you,
His object of omniscient care;
God Himself undertakes to be
Your Pilot through each subtle snare.
He WILL silently plan for you,
So certainly, He cannot fail!
Rest on the faithfulness of God,
In Him you will surely prevail.
He will SILENTLY plan for you
Some wonderful surprise of love.
No eye has seen, nor ear has heard,
But it is kept for you above.
He will silently PLAN for you,
His purposes will all unfold;
Your tangled life will shine at last,
A masterpiece of skill untold.
He will silently plan FOR YOU,
Happy child of a Father’s care,
As if no other claimed His love,
But you alone to Him were dear.
~ E. Mary Grimes