I always have been. When I was a little girl, I would look under the bed and in my closet every night before I’d be brave enough to crawl under the covers.
I had a night light by my bedside. I even made sure my pillow was fluffed up high enough so that I could see if a terrifying monster or scary bad guy suddenly burst from the closet (the one I had just determined to be empty not two minutes before).
I never claimed I was rational.
Just how would a 10-year-old in a pink Barbie nightgown defend herself? I’m not sure, but at least I wouldn’t be taken by surprise.
I’ve taken the same approach to life over the years — approaching the unknown fearfully, carefully, cautiously. Trying to anticipate and prepare for the future. If I just knew what was coming, maybe I could avoid the pitfalls and eliminate all the risks.
Maybe I could prevent bad things from happening. Maybe I could be in control.
And yet bad things still happened. I had no warning when I was confronted with chronic illness. I was blindsided by parenting challenges. I was caught off guard by out-of-the-blue financial setbacks.
See… the “bad guy” I feared really was there! This validated my anxiety and made me even more determined to do everything I could to insulate myself from more pain and surprises.
It’s been a miserable way to live. It has robbed me of peace and joy. I’ve struggled to enjoy the present.
Over this last year particularly, God has helped me to realize how little control I actually have over anything or anyone — my adult (and almost adult) children, my health, my ministry and this crazy world in general.
On my own power and wisdom, I’m just as defenseless as my 10-year-old nightlight-havin’, closet-checkin’, Barbie-nightgown-wearin’ self.
My only hope — my only salvation — is trusting in a God who is in control. One who really does know the future — and has a plan for mine.
But let’s be honest. Knowing something and acting on it are two entirely different things. I’m still learning, but God has taught me some lessons that are helping me to conquer fear of the unknown:
It’s not what you know. It’s Who You know.
Over the last couple of months, I have been leading a study called I Know His Name by Wendy Blight. I’ve dug deeply into learning more about the God who sees me (El Roi) and heals me (Jehovah Rapha).
But it’s more than just head knowledge.
As I’ve reached out to Him in pure desperation, particularly over this last year, He has assured me over and over again — through complete strangers at times — that He loves me and sees me in my pain.
Has He healed me? Physically, no. His healing has gone much deeper. He’s healed me of the lie that if He truly loved me, He would relieve my pain. He’s healing my fractured heart and damaged emotions.
In her book, Blight says this: “Friend, we only trust those we know, and we can’t trust God if we don’t know God … Knowing Him intimately means we know and understand the breadth of His healing power … He takes us to deep places that otherwise we could not go because we are desperate. Deep faith, abiding faith carries us through these most difficult and confusing times.”
Panic paralyzes. Prayer energizes.
Panic has usually been my “go to” place. Panic about what might happen. Panic about what is happening. This is what my second teacher wrote in the comments of my report card: “Melinda gets upset over any new direction, no matter how simple.”
Yep, it started early.
I’ve finally realized something profoundly obvious: Panic does me absolutely no good. None. In fact, it usually prompts me to react in foolish and irrational ways.
Rewiring our natural instinct to worry and panic is like learning any new habit. It takes time. And it’s a choice. An act of the will.
As we pray, it sets the stage for the Holy Spirit to give us supernatural peace in the midst of uncertainty and stressful circumstances:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.” Phil. 4:6-7
He will give us peace and protect our thoughts and emotions. He will keep anxiety and panic from festering in our hearts.
Pain can be a gift (even though we’d like to return it).
I recently read an article about a new Tylenol study. Researchers found that those who took the drug had a reduced ability to empathize with other people’s pain — compared with those who had taken placebo.
Our struggles, our difficulties — in parenting, with anxiety, with chronic pain — give us this holy, unique privilege to relate, encourage and minister to others in pain.
There’s just no other way to receive that honor. Sigh.
Pain drives us to cling to Jesus and know Him more deeply than we ever could have if everything was smooth sailing.
These are gifts, friends. We wouldn’t ever ask for them. I know I wouldn’t have. But (most days), I am grateful to the Giver.
Past performance IS a good indicator of future results.
I remember one time in my 20’s when God had answered an big prayer for me regarding an important work situation. I remember telling Him, “God, I will never doubt you again!” Ha! He must have had a good laugh over that one.
I can so quickly forget how He’s provided for me as I face a fresh challenge that seems insurmountable! I often journal my prayers. I can look back and remember how God has cared for me — sometimes by granting my requests and sometimes by not granting them.
Although I have rarely been “rescued” in the way I’ve envisioned, I have never been alone.
He has a perfect track record of always meeting my needs. Nothing in my future will change that. He promises: “(I) will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)
Recently, I was having a long conversation with a friend about life. She looked at me for a moment and said thoughtfully, “You seem happy.”
I am. But it goes deeper than that — I have joy. I feel peace. Not all the time, but a lot more often than I used to.
Neither are dependent on people or circumstances. They aren’t acquired by knowing and controlling the future.
I haven’t completely won the battle. The “bad guys” still scare me sometimes.
But, day by day, I’m learning to more fully trust the One who knows what’s in the closet.