Fear, worry, and stress!

Yes, I know all the passages. Philippians 4:6-8

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is [c]near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all [d]comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [e]lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [f]dwell on these things.

Yes, I know worry is a lack of faith. Matthew 6:25-34

25 “For this reason I say to you, [n]do not be worried about your [o]life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the [p]air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single [q]hour to his [r]life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But [s]seek first [t]His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be [u]added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will [v]care for itself. [w]Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Yes, I know Peter tells us to “cast all anxiety on Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6). I know I should just turn it over to the Lord. I know Jesus said, “fear not little flock” (Luke 12:32). But that is just hard for some of us to do. Worrying is our thorn in the flesh. Maybe a parent constantly made us afraid of what might happen, of real or perceived danger, of “what if”, etc. Maybe it could be genetic in our personality. But fear is a crippling emotion. Fear can be good. The Bible even says “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”. Fear is natural. I have a fear of heights, but someone should be afraid to climb carelessly hundreds of feet up on a building ledge. But most fear is not healthy. The 10 spies were afraid of the giants they saw in the Promised Land and their fear caused them to rebel against God. We should never make decisions based on fear not faith. David was not afraid of Goliath because he had faith in God who had helped him kill the bear and the lion while shepherding the sheep. We can’t let our fear paralyze us into refusing to obey God or into not stepping out in faith even if we are afraid. My daughter was going to backpack across South America for 6 months. A missionary friend told me that if she did that she would be robbed several times and her money and passport taken, leaving her in dire straits. I begged my daughter not to go, but she said, “I refuse to not do something just because I am afraid. Please don’t discourage me with your fear”. She went and had a great trip, passing through 6 different countries in South America, going all the way south to Usula, the southern most city in South America, just across from the South Pole. She walked with penguins, climbed the mountains in Peru with the native Peruvians, and spent 3 days in the Amazon with a little native guide (that one almost gave me a nervous breakdown). Could something bad have happened? Absolutely. But her faith overcame her fear, and that is the point.

I love the story of Daniel’s 3 friends. Their reply to the king when threatened with the furnace of fire: Daniel 3:16-18 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 [o]If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; [p]and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Faith does not mean that we believe God will never allow something bad or tragic to happen to us or to our loved ones. The 3 friends knew they might die in the fire, but they were not afraid even if that happened. They were not afraid to die. Shakespeare: “Cowards die many times before their death. The valiant never taste of death but once” (Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene II). Or as paraphrased centuries later by Ernest Hemingway: “A coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave man dies but once” (A Farewell to Arms).

I know all that about fear, but I still react as Esther did when Mordecai asked her to go before the king to change Haman’s edict to have all the Jews killed. She was afraid. Even the queen did not just go to the king without being called for. She could face death if she did that. Mordecai told her that if she refused to go to the king that God would find someone else to do His will and she would perish anyway. He added that maybe God had put her in the position as queen just for that occasion to save her people the Jews. She overcame her fear and went in to the king. She said, “If I perish, I perish”. We know God was with her and her courage saved the Jews. I guess there have been times when I did what I thought God wanted me to do even though I was afraid, like when we did mission work for 5 years. But too often I don’t step out in faith because of my fear.

The doctors tell us us that stress is a killer, and it is. Of course, we will have our things we are “concerned” about. Even Paul said that he had intense concerns. 28 Apart from such[m]external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is [n]led into sin [o]without my intense concern? 2 Cor 11:28,29. A parent can’t help but be concerned about the health and safety of his/her children. I know my wife and I are concerned about the health of her aging parents and their care as they are in their 90’s, and her dad has alzheimer’s. That will produice stress. Our jobs produce stress. Paul did not sin by being concerned over the spiritual welfare of his converts. I guess you could say he was stressed out over that. But I am confident that he turned that concern over to God in prayer, like he did everything else. He prayed 3 times for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” but God would not. God simply told him:Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast [c]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with [d]insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:8-10

So, how do I deal with my fear, worry, and stress? I wish I could tell you that I have overcome by the power of God and of the Holy Spirit, but I haven’t. I had one issue I was worried about and I think it put me in afib. Another issue is just hanging over my head like a raincloud and threatens to make my mind stressed out for many months. I really do try to turn it over to the Lord, but it is hard. My wife gives me good advice (unlike Job’s wife), but it doesn’t seem to help a lot (her support and just being there does help a lot). I tell myself how stupid it is to worry yourself sick, as they say, but I still do it!

If you are reading this blog, can you relate to all this? I guess we worriers just have to keep trying to allow the Spirit of God to overcome our fleshly nature. I have so much to be thankful for. I have been so blessed with my family and friends. I am usually worrying and afraid of “what if” instead of something that has actually happened. That’s really dumb. I have the joy of salvation. I can be at peace no matter what happens. I need to try to enjoy my salvation every moment no matter what the circumstances, good or bad. I need tro pray more.

I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will [b]tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23:4. This was a promise of God to the remnant of the Jews who would believe in Jesus as the Messiah when he would come centuries later. Sheep are notoriously fearful animals. God is promising his sheep that they will not longer be afraid or terrified any longer because God and Jesus will be our shepherds, and He will even raise up human shepherds to take care of the flock. We are the flock of God. I will try to see myself as a sheep in the care of Jesus the good shepherd (John 10). He will care for me no matter what happens. I will try to be at peace as I listen to His voice leading me to green pastures and away from danger.

I am a control freak. I try to control things, and actually am pretty good at it most of the times. I relate to Jacob in the Old Testament. He always “wrestled with God” all his life, conniving, getting Esua’s birthright and blessing by his own cunning. He matched wits with Laban for 20 years, and actually came out ahead, but only because God was blessing him. But he was scared to death when he had to face Esau on his way back to Bethel. That’s when he wrestled with the man, probably the angel of Jehovah. The man changed Jacob’s name to “Israel” (he who wrestles with God”). He continued to try to control everything through different events, many of them bad: the rape of Dinah, trying to keep Benjamin instead of allowing him to be taken to Egypt by his brothers. After Joseph brought Jacob’s whole family to Egypt, Jacob told Pharoah, “Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life”. He had actually lived 130 years, but he looked back on them as few and unpleasant because he had always wrestled with God, trying to control circumstances, operating out of his fears. However, he did tell Joseph before he died, “God has been my shepherd all the days of my life”. He finally realized that God had been shepherding him through all the tough and dangerous times. His life could have been much more pleasant if he had just trusted in God as his shepherd. As I get older, I hope I can finally relax and be at peace, resting in the arms of God and Jesus, my shepherds.

I hope this blog article will help me, but I hope it will help you also. I hope 2019 will be a different year, freer of the worry, stress, and fear that I can’t seem to shake. I pray the the Holy Spirit will help me be at peace and help me release all the stress. May God bless all us worriers in 2019! He wants us just to relax and enjoy our salvation and all the good things He has given us.

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